Did the Browns send a message this week about the future of Hue Jackson? Or was it just another indication of that franchise's ineptitude?
Here's what we know about the whereabouts of A.J. McCarron at this hour: He's living within the legal limits of Paul Brown Stadium and has told his real estate agent in Cleveland, "Nevermind."
We're told a paperwork snafu scuttled McCarron's trade to the Browns. When the Browns are involved in anything, you can bet on a SNAFU. As you actively check on the street meaning of that acronym, let's review what we know about the deal gone south.
The Bengals and Browns discussed a potential trade of McCarron to the Browns several times on Wednesday, the NFL trade deadline. The Browns thought the Bengals' asking price for their well-rested backup quarterback was too steep until a half-hour before the 4 p.m. deadline, when it suddenly wasn't.
So the Browns and Bengals allegedly agreed on a deal that would reunite McCarron wih his former offensive coordinator in Cleveland. In return, Hue Jackson and the Browns would send two draft picks from their arsenal of 2018 selections, a second- a third rounder, to the Bengals. Now comes the "he said-he said" part.
The Browns maintain they sent a signed copy of the trade agreement to the Bengals to sign and send in to the NFL office. That was thoughtful of them.
But the Browns never sent the trade agreement to Roger Goodell Central.
The Bengals say they sent a signed agreement to the NFL office without the Browns' signature, which it turns out wasn't needed.
All you have to do in the NFL to complete a trade is for each side to alert the league office, in writing, that the trade has been negotiated. Language in each notice has to be specific with regard as to whom is coming and going. The fact that the Browns didn't alert the NFL and instead sent the trade agreement to the Bengals past the 4 p.m. deadline suggests either incompetence or something more conspiratorial.
It's been reported that there was a rift between the front office staff in Cleveland and the Browns coaching staff. It's also been reported that the coaching staff really wanted to get AJ McCarron. Hue Jackson knows McCarron, has coached McCarron and hasn't had a legitimate quarterback since becoming the Browns' head coach.
While the Browns' front office has been busy trading down to get future draft picks, the product that franchise has been putting on the field has been at an odiferous level.
Here's NFL 101: If you don't have a quarterback to build your team around, you have nothing. The Browns passed on Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and DeShaun Watson in the last two drafts. Any of those three would have been a marked upgrade over some of the cadavers the Browns have been running out at quarterback.
Oh, and by the way, Jackson has suffered because of that. He's 1-23 in his time in Cleveland. People will point out that Jackson has a five-year contract. That only highlights the fine line between security and career-ending mortality.
The Browns had a chance to get a quarterback that Jackson needs. They have an abundance of 2018 draft picks -- five in the first two rounds. The Bengals were willing to take a second- and a third-round pick. The Browns couldn't get the deal done, because of a paperwork snafu. No quarterbacks drafted, no trade for McCarron. Makes you wonder -- are the Browns thinking about moving on from Jackson?
That franchise has been nothing except change. Twenty-eight starting quarterbacks and counting since 1999, nine head coaches since 1999 and eight general managers since 1999. So why should we believe that things are now stable?
The reports of a rift between the Browns front office and Jackson are interesting, too. The former Bengals offensive coordinator was a head coach for one season in Oakland. He led the Raiders to an 8-8 season, losing four of his final five games. After that, Jackson didn't have a whole lot of good to say about the structure of his franchise. The Raiders hired a new general manager and Jackson was fired minutes later.
A rift can be formed by one party. When two parties are involved, it's a chasm. That's what Cleveland sounds like these days.
I don't know if AJ McCarron would have made the Browns a better team this season. Chances are, he wouldn't. There isn't a lot to like about the Browns roster, so maybe, from a health standpoint, this wasn't such a bad non-deal for McCarron.
Maybe this is a price of running a football business like a baseball team. The Browns surprised a lot of people in 2016 when they hired former Oakland A's front office executive, Paul DePodesta, to be their second in command. How many Scott Hattebergs does it take to make up a bad football team? Thanks to the Browns, we're finding out.
Now, to some random thoughts on this random Thursday.
Anyone who claims the Browns know what they're doing during this "rebuild" process should check out who the NFC and AFC offensive players for October are. Hint, two quarterbacks the Browns passed on in the last two drafts.
Congratulations to the Houston Astros. Their climb back from the abyss of baseball is a pretty good blueprint for the Cincinnati Reds, who still haven't reached the depths the Astros did. The Astros cratered in 2011, lost 106 or more games for three straight seasons, remained patient and made the playoffs in 2015. Now, look at them.
My latest Broo View Podcast is right here. I'm talking baseball restructuring and expansion with baseballprospectus.com's Rob Mains.
Let's all wish a happy 65th birthday today to one of the queens of disco, Maxine Nightengale. Her biggest hit was this piece of music, written by Pierre Tubbs and J. Vincent Edwards. Tubbs also co-wrote J.J. Jackson's one big hit, "But It's Alright".
Maxine was born in England, daughter of a comedian. She eventually became a stage actress, starring in a London production of "Hair," where she met Tubbs.
She had a couple of minor hits after this song, but Maxine Nightengale will always have a place in cult-movie aficionados' hearts. This song was featured in the 1977 classic "Slap Shot."
Anytime you can get a song into the soundtrack of a Paul Newman movie, you were doing OK.