Hue Jackson’s contract with the browns had an addendum that included bonus incentives that didn’t explicitly require losing games, but seemed to incentivize losing, according to documents obtained by Sports Illustratedby Gary Gramling and Conor Orr.
Jackson, who coached in Cleveland from 2016 to 2018, claimed in February that the team gave him incentives to lose games between the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The league opened an investigation into the allegations in April and announced Monday that it could not substantiate his claims. .
In internal documents obtained by SI, Jackson would receive a bonus after meeting specific incentives outlined in “a separate internal Browns document titled ‘The Four-Year Plan.'” In Article 3 of his contract, the part that describes his compensation, Cleveland included a line that read: “In addition to salary, the Employee will be eligible for bonus compensation in accordance with the criteria amounts described in Exhibit A”.
Exhibit A is a table in the contract that has an asterisk that refers to a “FOUR-YEAR PLAN BONUS” and an asterisk indicates that, “The Four-Year Plan and goals will be developed with Employee input and will be subject to final approval of Owner. ” It would pay Jackson “up to $750,000” per season.
SI obtained a table from the Browns’ Four-Year Plan that lists the bonus percentages Jackson could have earned, including salary cap and draft pick transfer incentives that would pay him about $100,000 annually in his first two years if is reached. A draft capital bonus could be achieved if Cleveland made at least 11 picks in the 2016 NFL draft, with five of those picks having to come from the first three rounds, according to the document. That same year, Jackson could reach the salary-cap bonus if the team ranked “in the bottom quarter for cash spending” in 2016 and “transferred at least 15% of the league cap” the following year.
The parameters of those incentives changed over the next three years, but everything seemed to incentivize fewer wins through more early-round draft picks and less money spent on the roster, which apparently motivated Jackson to tank through his two seasons and average with Cleveland.
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“If they sent me that (Four Year Plan), my first thought would be ‘Holy crap, this is like a tank bonus,'” a veteran training agent told Gramling and Orr.
When the NFL closed its investigation into the Browns’ collapse claims, Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in his letter to Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam that investigators found “Coach Jackson himself reviewed the Plan and suggested changes to the metrics.” of incentive compensation of the Plan, which were accepted. However, Jackson first informed the NFL of his concerns about the Four-Year Plan in November 2016, based on Jackson’s unfiled request to vacate the arbitration.
Jackson says the plan violated a part of the NFL Constitution and bylaws that does not allow any team member to “unlawfully influence the outcome of the game.” [team] or cease to immediately suspend any official or player or other employee of the [team] who will be found guilty of offering, agreeing to, conspiring with, or attempting to influence the outcome of any game[…].” The NFL generally reviews all coaching contracts, but it’s unclear if the league reviewed the incentives included in the Four-Year Plan. The NFL did not provide a comment to SI on the salary cap and draft capital bonus incentives.
The 56-year-old is currently in his first year as head coach at Grambling State. With the Browns he went 3-36-1.
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