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Cleveland Browns Did Not Tank in 2016-17, NFL Investigation Finds

Acting on allegations from former coach Hue Jackson, the NFL investigated and on Monday found the Cleveland Browns did not, in fact, lose on purpose during a multi-season span in which they were nonetheless a terrible team.

Following a 60-day independent review into comments made by Jackson that the Browns incentivized losing games during the 2016-17 seasons when he was the head coach, former U.S. Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White and a team of lawyers from the Debevoise firm determined that none of the allegations could be substantiated.

Of course they couldn’t because the chief accusations were made by Jackson and he refused to speak with the investigators.

So the investigation found no evidence to suggest that the Browns’ Four-Year Plan or the club’s ownership or football personnel sought to lose or incentivized losses and made no decisions deliberately to weaken the team to secure a more favorable draft position.

The review included what the NFL states is “the full cooperation of the Browns and interviews with Jimmy Haslam and current and former members of the organization.”

Jackson initially agreed to meet with the investigators but ultimately did not do so.

Although unable to speak directly to Jackson, the Debevoise team had access to his public statements and to his filings and testimony in a prior arbitration proceeding.

The Browns had a 1-15 record in 2016 and was 0-16 in 2017.

The club in its defense against the allegations produced “thousands of pages of documents, including emails, texts, internal memos and presentation decks as well as other material relating to club operations and the filings and testimony in the arbitration proceeding between the club and Jackson,” per the NFL.

This investigation ends as the investigation of the Miami Dolphins continues.

White is similarly leading an investigation made primarily by former coach Brian Flores, who claims the Dolphins planned to lose games on purpose in 2019 and owner Stephen Ross offered him (Flores) $100,000 per game if he’d lose them on purpose.

Flores alleges his refusal to “tank” ultimately led to his ouster in Miami.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero  

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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