Former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson, shown Sept. 30, 2018, served as coach of the team for parts of three seasons before being fired in 2018. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson said Wednesday that the franchise had a "four-year plan" that incentivized losing during the first two years of his tenure, which led to his 1-31 combined record over the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Jackson's accusation against the Browns comes on the heels of former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores' lawsuit against the NFL and three teams -- the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Dolphins -- alleging discrimination regarding his head-coaching interview processes with the Giants and Broncos and his firing last month by the Dolphins.
In the suit, Flores alleged that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross tried to incentivize him to intentionally lose games shortly after he was hired in 2019. Ross allegedly offered Flores $100,000 for every loss that season.
In response to Flores' public allegations, Jackson appeared on ESPN's SportsCenter and revealed a similar pay-to-lose scheme in Cleveland. He alleged that bonus money was available if certain milestones were met -- such as aggregate rankings, being the league's youngest team and having a large number of draft picks.
"Teams that win are just not the youngest team, not that the youngest teams can't win, so I didn't understand the process," Jackson said. "I didn't understand what the plan was; I asked for clarity because it did not talk about winning and losing until Year 3 and 4.
"So that told you right there that something wasn't correct, but I still couldn't understand it until I had the team that I had."
Jackson said he informed Browns owner Jimmy Haslam that he was uninterested in the bonus money and instead wanted those funds to be used to improve the team.
"And I remember very candidly saying to Jimmy, 'I'm not interested in bonus money,' because I've never known that to be a bonus," Jackson said. "I was interested in taking whatever that money was and putting it toward getting more players on our football team, because I didn't think we were very talented at all.
"I know what good football teams look like, play like, what they act like, and we didn't have a lot of talented players on the team at that time."
Jackson later added in the interview that, "I do know that no head coach is going to survive if you lose a lot of games."
Jackson and Kimberly Diemert, the executive director of the Hue Jackson Foundation, wrote on social media that "we have records that will help" Flores' case against the NFL. The pair also noted that NFL officials, including commissioner Roger Goodell, are aware of the Browns' tanking plan, "so this is not new."
A spokesperson for the Browns called Jackson's allegation "completely fabricated" and said that "any accusation that any member of our organization was incentivized to deliberately lose games is categorically false."
The Browns posted a 1-15 record in 2016, followed by a 0-16 mark in the 2017 campaign. Cleveland received the No. 1 draft pick in back-to-back years, selecting defensive end Myles Garrett in 2017 and quarterback Baker Mayfield in 2018.
Jackson was fired halfway through the 2018 season. He was hired to be Grambling State's new head coach in December.