CLEVELAND (AP) — Hue Jackson wasn’t going to turn the Browns offense over to just anyone.
Todd Haley met his high standards.
After operating for two seasons as both Cleveland’s coach and offensive coordinator, Jackson hired Haley to take over his offense following the assistant’s six successful seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Haley wasn’t on Jackson’s radar after the Browns went 0-16 this season. But after Haley was fired by the Steelers following an opening-round loss to Jacksonville in the AFC playoffs, Jackson didn’t waste a moment and swooped in to nab the 50-year-old, who previously coached in Kansas City and is regarded as one of the league’s elite coordinators.
“He has been a guy that has adjusted his offense to successfully complement and taken advantage of the skillset of his personnel,” Jackson said.
“I’ve witnessed firsthand how prolific his offenses have been in the AFC North over the last six seasons. If I was going to turn over the play calling duties to someone else, it had to be to someone that was experienced and had a long history of success in this league. We were going to be patient about it because there is always a lot of movement in the early part of the offseason.
“When Todd became available, I jumped at the opportunity to meet with him. Once we sat down and talked, it became quickly evident that Todd would be a great fit.”
The Browns made Haley’s hiring official on Wednesday. The Associated Press and other media outlets reported the move earlier this week.
With Pittsburgh, Haley oversaw the Steelers’ talented offense featuring Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. He won’t have as much to work with in Cleveland, but the Browns are expected to take a quarterback with No. 1 overall draft pick.
“This is a great opportunity,” said Haley, who went 19-26 with the Chiefs and led them to a division title in 2010. “The Browns have a great history, great fans and deserve to have some fun and experience some winning. I want to help be part of that process.
“There is obviously a lot of work to do in order to get there, but I’ve always been excited about facing a challenge. There is no better feeling than when you can be a part of turning an organization around.
“Hue and I have had some good battles in competing against each other as coordinators and even as a head coach.”
The Browns announced the additions of Freddie Kitchens as running backs coach/associate head coach and Amos Jones special teams coordinator. Those moves were also previously reported.
Haley’s arrival is a much-needed infusion for the Browns, who have gone 1-31 in two seasons under Jackson. He knows his way around the league and especially the AFC North after 21 years as a pro coach.
Granted, the Steelers had some elite players, but Haley got the most out of them. With Roethlisberger running the show, Pittsburgh’s offense ranked in the top 10 in scoring and yards in each of the past four seasons.
Brown has developed into perhaps the league’s top playmaker with five straight 100-catch seasons and Bell is a dual threat as runner and receiver.
Jackson was reluctant to give up play-calling duties. He was Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator for two seasons before joining the Browns, and was confident he would continue to have success as the play caller. But Cleveland’s offense has sputtered and finished last in the league in scoring this past season.
Haley knows Jackson’s thirst to succeed.
“He’s so competitive and winning is the only thing that’s important to him,” he said. “You want to work with a coach like that. Hue and I share a lot of similar beliefs on how to be successful on offense. We have to score points, protect the ball, protect the quarterback and develop players. It’s not too complicated, but at the same time, it is a great challenge. We are really looking forward to getting to work on it.”