Chad Johnson lost his wide receivers coach, Alex Wood, to another team after his 2003 breakout season.
The former Pro Bowl wide receiver didn't experience any sort of setback the following year, and Johnson doesn't hesitate to credit the arrival of Hue Jackson as one of the main reasons.
"I can speak from a personal perspective and a player's perspective as well. You get more than just a coach. Hue Jackson is a gem. He was a gem for me and I am speaking a gem, g-e-m," Johnson said Wednesday on Cleveland Browns Daily. "He was a gem for me in really allowing me to see the game of football differently when he was in Cincinnati. Allowing me to flourish as a receiver. I know in Cleveland things didn't go as well as everyone would like. With Hue coming in and coming on board, being able to get the maximum amount of potential out of each player is what I know is going to happen because he was able to do it with me. I am sure he will be able to do it with them."
Jackson, who was named Cleveland's new head coach Wednesday, spent three years with Johnson during his prime. It was Jackson's first stint with the Bengals, a run from 2004 to 2006 in which Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh served as one of the NFL's most formidable receiving duos.
Johnson made the Pro Bowl in all three of Jackson's seasons as wide receivers coach, catching a combined 279 passes for 4,075 yards and 25 touchdowns. Houshmandzadeh went from catching a combined 62 passes in his first three seasons to nabbing 73 for 978 yards and four touchdowns in 2004 and following with stat lines of 78-956-7 and 90-1,081-9 in his next two seasons under Jackson.
"You want a coach that you can relate to. You want to play for a coach that understands being a player and understands both sides of the spectrum," Johnson said. "This is a good example. It is like playing for Rex Ryan. Who wouldn't want to play for Rex Ryan, if you get where I am going? It is the same thing with Hue, without all of the bravado … He has that same feel and aura to him. You want to just run through a wall for him. You just want to. That was the way it was with me."
Johnson said Jackson knew how to keep him motivated and utilized his tactics at the perfect moments. After games in which Johnson didn't play up to the lofty standard he set, Jackson would push Johnson's buttons by talking up the defensive back Johnson would face in the next game.
Johnson described it as "mind games," and the proof lies in the statistics. After catching three passes for 37 yards in a Week 5 loss to Cleveland in 2004, Johnson followed with seven receptions, 149 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Broncos. Later that season, Johnson bounced back from a season-worst two-catch, 10-yard performance with eight catches and two touchdowns the very next week.
It's a main reason why Johnson didn't hesitate to say "the sky is the limit over there in Cleveland" under Jackson.
"That is one of the reasons why I pin all of my success through his tenure with me. It is all due to him," Johnson said. "I can play the game of football because I had the talent. Yes, I had the skills to do it. Having Hue allowed me to see the game differently. He gave me a different vision and that is why I was so successful under him."