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 Adidas Steven Stamkos Jersey , 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 Adidas Mitchell Marner Jersey , 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.”
Matt LaFleur knows the Falcons well after spending the previous two seasons as quarterbacks coach in Atlanta before joining the Los Angeles Rams.
But the first-year offensive coordinator can only do so much to help the Rams’ defensive staff ahead of their playoff game against the Falcons on Saturday night. LaFleur has been available to the defensive coaching staff this week, but doesn’t believe he can offer much that cannot be gleaned from the usual film study.
”Sure, there are some things that they ask me about in terms of some of the scheme – I can’t really get into those specific questions – that I’ll share with them, but I kind of leave them alone,” LaFleur said Thursday. ”If they have a question, I’m here for them and I’ll try to do the best I can, but it’s not like I’m sitting there studying their tape.”
Instead, LaFleur’s knowledge of Atlanta’s personnel and scheme have him focused on trying to make sure the Rams (11-5) can match the Falcons (10-6) score for score if it comes to that.
Atlanta averaged 22.1 points per game, down 12 points from last season when they led the NFL in scoring and won the NFC title before losing the Super Bowl to New England in crushing fashion. However, the Falcons are a perfect 10-0 this season when scoring at least 20 points.
The Rams went from last in scoring last season to averaging a league-leading 29.9 points per game while winning their first NFC West title since 2003.
LaFleur sees similarities between the two teams in terms of the quality of the overall offensive personnel.
Both achieve balance between the run and pass.
The Rams ride running back Todd Gurley, while the Falcons share the load on the ground between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Julio Jones had 35 percent of Atlanta’s receiving yards Adidas Auston Matthews Jersey , compared to a Los Angeles passing offense with its top four options all averaging between 39.5 and 65.1 yards receiving per game.
”I feel both of us have two of the more elite groups in this league, so there’s going to be a lot of explosive weaponry on the offensive side of the ball, that’s for sure,” LaFleur said.
The biggest contrast comes in the experience level of the two quarterbacks, LaFleur said. Jared Goff will be making his first postseason start and 23rd overall for the Rams. Falcons stalwart Matt Ryan has 164 career starts between the regular season and playoffs.
Despite working with Goff and Ryan at different points in their careers, LaFleur sees a similar resolve in each.
”Both of them have battled through adversity,” LaFleur said. ”You look at Matt in 2015, some might say he struggled. And then he rebounds and he’s the league MVP. Same goes for Jared. I know his rookie year didn’t go as well for him. And then you look at him this year. I think he has handled himself and has shown improvement on a weekly basis. The mindset, the mentality that those guys have is very similar.”
LaFleur has tried not to think about the friendships and professional relationships he built with the Falcons in 2015-16, but expects that might change once he gets to the Coliseum. He already went through that experience in the regular-season finale against San Francisco, where his brother Mike LaFleur is the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Matt LaFleur also got to catch up with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator when he was in Atlanta.
”You try to get the meet-and-greet out of the way early and then go back into the locker room and just kind of get your mind right for the game,” LaFleur said. ”There’s always time for that stuff postgame. Ultimately, we’re all there to win a football game.”
NOTES: LB Mark Barron (Achilles) practiced in full Thursday and is expected to start after missing the final two regular-season games. . Pro Bowl return specialist Pharoh Cooper (shoulder) practiced after not participating Tuesday and Wednesday.