I don’t know that there has ever been a more merciful bye week than the one that the Cleveland Browns are at long last now finally settling into. As anybody who follows the AFC North or this blog knows, the Browns have not been good this season. At all. In fact, they lost their 12th game in a row yesterday. In their 12th game of the season.
Actually, they have lost 16 games in a row going back to last season, if you want to be technical, but this is hardly the same team, given how much turnover there has been not only within the front office and the coaching staff, but also on the 53-man roster itself.
Part of that turnover was bringing in new head coach Hue Jackson, who previously—briefly—was the head coach of the Raiders, but most recently spent several years in Cincinnati working his way up to offensive coordinator, where he turned them into one of the best units in the league. And you can see how they have done without him this year.
Jackson still believes that not only the team, but also the front office, and the ownership, is behind him and is supporting him. But that still doesn’t make the weekly losses all that much easier to bear. And he showed that, I think, more than ever during his post-game press conference after taking a beating from the Browns, despite giving every effort.
“I have never been through this”, he said of Cleveland’s dismal season so far this year. “I know you guys always ask me, but as I told you before, I’m not going to fall off a cliff or anything like that”. It’s easier to talk about yourself, and how it affects you. But it was more difficult to talk about what it means for his players.
“These guys, these players, this organization, Dee and Jimmy [Haslam] and Sashi [Brown] mean too much to me for me to ever feel like that”, he said. “I’m going to be very honest with you”, he said later in the press conference. “Being 0-12 is probably the hardest thing ever”.
Reflecting on the opportunity that presents itself heading into the bye week, he said, “I have to find a way. I don’t want to be down in the scoring zone and can’t score. I haven’t had that feeling in a long time”.
Jackson warned opposing teams. “If you are going to get us”, he said, “you better get us now because I’m not feeling like this next year. There’s no way. Uh-uh. No. I’m a fighter, and we have a bunch of fighters in that room, and I don’t lose many fights”.
“I have lost a lot right now—more than I have ever lost in my life fighting—but we’re going to keep fighting”. That is the message he is sending to his team heading into the home stretch, as the springboard for better things to come in the years to come. This strife will sow the seeds of a stronger team down the road. Because they won’t forget what this season felt like.