Hue Jackson is going to miss Andy Dalton, but he'll see him twice a year.
This one last time, former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson didn't want to talk about the Cleveland Browns. He wanted to talk about his old team, the Cincinnati Bengals, and his old bosses, president Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis.
"I can't tell you how much the relationship with the Brown family and Marvin has meant to me and my career," Jackson said the Thursday morning after taking the stage in Cleveland Wednesday night as the Browns head coach.
"And the players. What great players. I can't say enough about the Bengals organization."
It is such a close relationship that they discussed a "coach-in-waiting," scenario in which Jackson would eventually succeed Lewis as head coach. But at age 50 and with one head coaching tenure in Oakland already behind him, the man you can call "Action Jackson," isn't prone to waiting. It is that aggressive, go-get-it mentality that marks his coaching style and pushed the Bengals offense this season to heights it had never seen.
"Tough call," Jackson said. "But at the end I had to do what was best for me and my family. The Browns and Marvin were great."
As in the Brown family.
Jackson worked for Mike Brown for seven years in four different roles and Brown so admires Jackson as a coach that he recommend Al Davis hire him in Oakland and this past weekend he allowed Jackson to interview with the Browns in Paul Brown Stadium.
Now Jackson is coaching the team once coached by and always named for Mike Brown's father. Add another delicious twist to the Cleveland-Paul Brown-Cincinnati saga.
"I'll be reminded every day when I walk through these doors and just what it all means," Jackson said.
Jackson not only brought a dizzying wave of creativity to the Bengals offense not seen since the days of Sam Wyche, but he brought numbers. This past season quarterback Andy Dalton set the Bengals record with a 106.3 passer rating that won the AFC passing title. Working in concert with a defense that set the Bengals single-season scoring record, the offense yielded three players with at least 10 touchdowns for the first time in history.
"That's going to be a thorn in my side," said Jackson of leaving Dalton.
It was Jackson who went to Dalton's home in Dallas about a year ago at this time and challenged him in a variety of ways that translated into an MVP-type season.
"To watch him grow and see the things he's accomplished this season has been great for me to see," Jackson said. "The sky's the limit for Andy Dalton. He means a lot to me personally and professionally. He'll be in good hands with Coach (Ken) Zampese and that staff."
Despite the new job, Jackson is still hurting over last Saturday's gut-wrenching loss to the Steelers in the AFC Wild Card Game, a game the Bengals had won until running back Jeremy Hill fumbled with 1:23 left.
"That's why Marvin brought me there. To help get them over the hump. It didn't happen. It's very disappointing" Jackson said. "Jeremy will recover. He's got to put it behind him. But he's a good back. Yeah, I talked to him. He'll be able to come back."
Jackson took exception to the criticism levelled at Lewis that his team was out of control, resulting in the loss in that last chaotic 1:23 with back-to-back 15-yard penalties on linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Adam Jones.
"Absolutely not accurate. It's wrong," Jackson said. "He doesn't know what those guys are thinking out there on the field at the exact moment. I know both those guys and they're great players and great competitors and I think it was a learning experience."
There is going to be a lot of Lewis in Cleveland.
"If I can bring 50 percent of the consistency that Marvin brings to his job and to his team, the everyday attitude, I think that's going to be big for us," he said.