When the Giants were seeking their successor to Tom Coughlin this past January, they interviewed a wide array of candidates before hiring their own offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo, for the job.
One candidate on the list was then-Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, a highly respected football man with a history of success. The Giants wanted to speak to Jackson before another team scooped him up.
That didn't happen. Jackson never made his flight to meet with the Giants. The Cleveland Browns had called to say they wanted to hire him. On his conference call Wednesday with the Giants' beat pool, Jackson was asked what exactly caused him to miss that flight.
"Jimmy and Dee Haslam," Jackson said, citing the Browns' owners. "I feel very comfortable about my time here and I think I'm in the right place. Regardless of what the record says, I really feel comfortable where I am. Even knowing that New York would be a tremendous opportunity and the Mara family and everything that was going there. I just felt comfortable being in this division. I know it, I've been through it and I'm still very excited about the opportunity here and I think we're going to get it to where it needs to be."
That record is 0-11 and Jackson has to be thinking what might have been had he made that flight to meet John Mara and Jerry Reese. The Browns are a miserable mess with no direction and a roster that needs a serious injection of talent.
Haslam made the right move by hiring Jackson, but his other moves have the football world scratching their heads. He hired Sashi Brown, the team's general counsel, as the general manager and then brought in baseball executive Paul DePodesta of "Moneyball" fame as a top advisor.
Neither man had ever run an NFL Draft nor had any experience running an NFL team. The results are proving that. The Browns had the second overall pick in April's draft but traded it to the Philadelphia Eagles for two first rounders and two other picks. They then traded away some of those picks away for more picks.
So Jackson, who could have had QB Carson Wentz (who was taken by Philadelphia) under center this season and beyond, has had a revolving door of quarterbacks this season, which has included Robert Griffin III, rookie Cody Kessler and veteran Josh McCown.
Kessler suffered a concussion last week against Pittsburgh after getting sacked four times. He was relieved by McCown, who was also sacked four times. Griffin is practicing this week for the first time since injuring his shoulder in Week 1. McCown is expected to get the start against a Giants pass rush that has been heating up the past few weeks.
"A tremendous challenge," Jackson said of Giants' DEs Jason Pierre-Paul and Oivier Vernon. "They're as good as we've seen and we get that. They're talented, they're both pass rushers and they know to get to the quarterback. They also play the run pretty dang well. So they're complete football players and it is a tremendous challenge."
Getting back to what might have been, Jackson was asked to assess the play of Giants QB Eli Manning, the current NFL iron man at his position and the antithesis of the Browns' unstable quarterback situation.
"I think he's playing extremely well," he said of Manning. "He's one of the reasons that they have the record that they have at 7-3. We're talking about a guy who's a Super Bowl winning quarterback, who's won a lot of games in his career, and as you just mentioned, started a lot of games, so he knows how to play. I think his team also knows how to play with him and I think that's really important."
The losing has to be taking its toll on Jackson, who is five losses shy of what could be a winless season. Things can turn around quickly in the NFL as we're seeing here with the Giants, but this Cleveland team may not be even close to that turning point, yet.
"Well, it's different than what I expected," Jackson said laughingly when asked about the challenge of turning around the franchise. "Let me say that much. Again, every situation is different and it takes on its own life as you get in it. There are other factors that go into it; injuries and things happen and we've had all those things happen to us this year.
"I'm going to take this year and truly understand what it is and deal with it as we have and our team has done a great job of dealing with it. This is a road we're never going to travel down again. We hope to be out of this situation as we move forward and get this organization and this team and our city back to where it rightfully belongs, among the elite teams in the league."