Browns hire Hue Jackson as head coach

The Cleveland Browns have hired former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson as their new head coach and will introduce him at a press conference tonight.

Jackson, who also interviewed with San Francisco, was schedule to fly to New York today to meet with the Giants for their vacancy, but the Browns were able to strike a deal with him before he got on the plane.

“What a tremendous honor and privilege to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns and a part of the Dawg Pound,” Jackson said in a statement. “I’m so looking forward to it and have so many people to thank.”

The Bengals expected Jackson to leave for one of the head coach vacancies around the league. Veteran leader and left tackle Andrew Whitworth talked about it Monday while cleaning out his locker.

“It would be another hurt to our season to lose him, but the reality is he’s an exceptional coach,” Whitworth said. “He’s one of those guys that if he’s not up for one of those head coach openings, then there’s a lot of people out there who don’t know what they’re looking for. He’s a tremendous teacher, a tremendous man. He’s going to raise guys to play the game a certain way and to act a certain way off of it. I think anyone who knows him knows he’ll be highly successful.”

Jackson will become the Browns’ fourth head coach since 2011.

On Jan. 3, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam fired head coach Mike Pettine after he went 10-22 in two seasons. That was one day after Haslam hired Sashi Brown to become vice president of football operations. Haslam also fired general manager Ray Farmer the same day as Pettine, and two days later hired Paul DePodesta, a former New York Mets executive, to oversee Brown.

“Hue Jackson will be a tremendous leader for our football team,” Brown said. “He has vast knowledge and expertise, invaluable head coaching experience, and his players have thrived under his tutelage. His track record of relating to players as people off the field while also getting the most out of them on the field will help us establish a culture of accountability and the expectation of winning. Hue understands and embraces the collaborative work that needs to be done to positively impact our results on the field.”

The 50-year-old Jackson spent the last two seasons as Bengals offensive coordinator.

The Bengals went from 15th in scoring offense in 2014 to seventh this season thanks largely to the improved quarterback play of Andy Dalton, who set a career high and franchise record with a 106.3 rating, which led the AFC and was second in the NFL.

After losing Dalton to injury in Week 14, Jackson guided quarterback AJ McCarron to a 2-1 record in the final three games of the season, as the Bengals clinched the AFC North title, their second of the past three seasons.

“I’m a very enthusiastic person. I exert a lot of energy in coaching,” Jackson said. “I love coaching all aspects of it: offense, defense and special teams. I’ve had an opportunity to be involved in all of it. At the end of the day, we’re going to do a great job of hiring a great staff.

“I think what our fans will be proud of and excited about is we’re going to be a football team that’s going to play very excited football. We’re going to be passionate about what we do and we understand there’s a lot of work involved in order to meet our goals.”