CLEVELAND -- For the second consecutive year, the Cleveland Browns find themselves at 0-7 and firmly in last place in the AFC North Division through the first seven weeks of the season.
Despite the struggles of the Browns over the past two seasons, Coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings, whom Cleveland faces off against at Twickenham Stadium in London Sunday, feels Hue Jackson is the man who can turn around the fortunes of a franchise with just two winning seasons (2002, 2007) and one playoff appearance (2002) since returning to the National Football League in 1999.
“Hue is a heck of a football coach,” Zimmer said in a conference call with the Cleveland media Wednesday. “He is tough. He is smart. He is a great competitor.”
Including the 0-7 start to the 2017 season, the Browns are 1-22 since Sashi Brown took over as executive vice president of player personnel on January 3, 2016 and Jackson was hired eight days later.
Over the last three years, the Browns have gone 4-35, and the record has not been much better since Dee and Jimmy Haslam officially purchased the team in October of 2012.
In five seasons under Haslam’s majority ownership, the Browns have posted an NFL-worst 15-56 record. Factoring in the remaining games of the 2012 season after the sale was approved at an NFL Owners Meeting in Chicago, Haslam’s Browns have gone 19-61.
“I know that it is taking him a little bit longer than what he has anticipated, but he is going to get that thing turned around,” Zimmer said. “That is the kind of guy he is. He will never stop or relax until he gets it all right. Really, they are not that far away. They are really good on defense, and they just turn the ball over offensively.”
Although Jackson took on added responsibilities as the head coach of the Browns, he remained the play caller for the offense, the same role he filled for the Cincinnati Bengals, where he coached alongside Zimmer, then the defensive coordinator.
Like Jackson does for the Browns’ offense, Zimmer calls Minnesota’s defense because he “felt like it was the best thing for me to do at the time.”
“It is difficult, but lots of people do it,” Zimmer said. “I still do it. (Saints coach) Sean Payton does it. (Packers coach) Mike McCarthy does it. There are tons and tons of guys. (Texans coach) Bill O’Brien does it. There are a lot of guys that do it.”
Former Browns coach Pat Shurmur was of that same mindset of still doing what got him the job in the first place when he took over the team. Since his dismissal from the Browns following the 2012 season, Shurmur has found success as the offensive coordinator of both the Philadelphia Eagles and Vikings.
“Pat is doing a great job,” Zimmer said.
“He has been able to piece together things and continue to make it work and use guys to the best of their ability. I’m sure last year was a tough transition, but the whole offensive staff has done a nice job in the offseason. We have improved with our offensive line, we have improved in the running game and we have been much better, much more effective offensively.”
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