Hue Jackson: a Huge Acquisition


Hue Jackson, formerly the Cincinnati Bengals’ Wide Receivers coach, is showing his stripes once more. Not too many articles are written about a teams “Assistant Defensive Backs Coach/Assistant Special Teams Coordinator”, which is the position the Bengals asked Jackson to fill on their coaching staff. I believe it will serve as more of a formal title than a job description for him. The team obviously wanted to retain offensive coaches that already held positions Jackson was familiar with such as Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden, Wide Receivers coach James Urban, longtime QB coach Ken Zampese, and let’s be honest, after 28 years with the team Running Backs coach Jim Anderson isn’t going anywhere.

What does Hue Jackson bring to the table? What makes him a significant acquisition? This explanation might prove why he may be the Bengals’ most important off-season acquisition this year:

Hue Jackson, it would appear, has been showered with blessings by the gods of success and prosperity. Like many coaches he has a wide range of positions in which he has tutored young minds, but few have had as great a direct impact on the success of his players. Jacksons coaching timeline goes back to the late 80s. He spun through the Pacific coast with stops at Arizona State, Cal and USC. He served as the Trojans Offensive Coordinator from 1997-2000 where he had his first of three collaborations with QB Carson Palmer.

In 2001 Jackson got his first NFL experience with the Washington Redskins under Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer (2001) and Steve Spurrier (2002-2003). Initially serving as the Running Backs coach in 01-02 Jackson helped RB Stephen Davis have his best statical year to that point with 1,432 yards, which at the time was a franchise record for Washington. In 2003 he was promoted to Offensive Coordinator making him the only other coach to call offensive plays under Spurrier.

In  2004 Jackson was named the Cincinnati Bengals’ Wide Receivers coach. From 04-06 he helped Chad Ochocino reach the Pro Bowl each of those 3 years, and formulated the Bengals first season in which a pair of receivers eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. With T.J. Houshmanzadeh as the #2 WR to Ochocinco the duo never had under 900 yards individually or 2,200 yards combined. In his rookie year (2005) the late WR Chris Henry had 6 TDs on 422 yards which he overshadowed with a 9 TD-605 yard performance his sophomore season. After Jackson left Henry never had over 21 catches and 2 TDs. Additionally, Jackson was given much credit for QB Carson Palmers success.

2007 was a breakout year for now All-Pro wide receiver Roddy White. After his first 2 seasons in Atlanta many were ready to give the former 1st-round pick the “bust” label. White’s previous career best numbers were 30 catches for 506 yards. It wasn’t until Hue Jackson showed up in the A that Roddy finally broke free with 82 receptions for 1,202 yards and doubled his previous career high in TDs with 6. Another former 1st-round pick WR Michael Jenkins had his career best number at the time and Laurent Robinson who had 11 TDs last season had a decent rookie season in which he didn’t match until last year.

The Baltimore Ravens hired Jackson as Quarterbacks Coach to help develop rookie QB Joe Flacco in 2008. Flacco became the first rookie in NFL history to win 2 playoff games on his way to the AFC Championship game. Since Jackson departed in 2009 Flaccos completion percentage has dropped each year from 63.1% to 62.6% to 57.6%.

Hue Jacksons most recent stop before being reunited the Bengals came with the Oakland Raiders. Originally hired as the Offensive Coordinator Jackson helped the Raiders to a 4th ranked scoring offense–6th in the NFL. Jackson was named Oaklands official Head Coach in 2011 after the firing of Tom Cable. Four different notable players showed significant improvement under Jacksons guidance. Running backs Darren MacFadden and Michael Bush had their best two seasons statistically with Jackson at the helm while previously unknown rookie WR Denarius Moore made a name for himself with a 618 yard 5 TD performance before being derailed by injuries. Perhaps of most significance was the way Jackson justified the late Al Davis’ selection of wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey in the 1st round of the 2009 draft. Scouts, draft analysts and Raiders fans alike were ready to crucify Davis for what appeared to be another inexplicably obscure draft pick. Heyward-Bey didn’t do much in his first two years to put the critics to rest as he failed to produce more than 26 catches and 1 TD. Jackson wasn’t ready to give up on the young speedster and, under Jackson’s education, Heyward-Bey finally silenced the nay-sayers with a 64 catch, 975 yard season in which he quadrupled his TD total.

Hue Jackson may be listed as the Bengals’ Assistant Defensive Backs/Assistant Special Teams coach, but he will likely make his biggest impact with the teams newest crop of talent on the offensive side of the ball. The Bengals will be depending heavily on one of their young wide receivers to step up in a tremendous way to take some of the coverage away from A.J. Green. Wide receivers Mohamed Sanu, Jordan Shipley, and even Green could benefit greatly from Jacksons arrival. As we’ve seen, Jacksons success at every stop has been well-documented and his trickle-down talent-optimizing coaching gifts could help this already bunch of potentially prolific players break through to an even higher level.