CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – “Not a good day at the office.”
Those were the first 6 words to come out of Browns head coach Hue Jackson’s mouth as he began his postgame press conference following a 27-10 drubbing courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens.
He would say many, many more as he tried to explain the 14th loss of the season, which concluded the second winless regular season at home in team history and made the Browns the first team in league history to be 0-14 in consecutive seasons.
“I apologize to our fans that we were not able to do that – to get them a victory in our stadium,” Jackson said. “Hopefully, this is the end of all that. I hope it is. I am not going to make any guarantees that it is because you never know – you never know what happens year to year – but at the same time, it can’t get much worse than this, true?
“It can’t. Let’s just be honest. It can’t get much worse than what it is.”
You coach the Browns and it can always get worse. Under his watch, it has, which he acknowledged Sunday.
“Obviously, it is not as good as when I found it,” Jackson said. “At that time, that was a 3-13 football team when I signed up. That is not where we are right now. We are not where we need to be. I see some things that we can build on, but I see some things that we have to really fix as we continue to move forward.”
So what now?
Owner Jimmy Haslam has declared multiple times that Jackson will be the coach in 2018. But how do you bring back an at-best 3-29 or at worst 1-31 head coach for a third season? Haslam’s problem is self created. By firing Pat Shurmur, then Rob Chudzinski and then Mike Pettine – all since January, 2013 – he’s painted himself into a corner.
It was just 23 months ago that Jackson walked into the Browns’ facility all but riding on a white stallion and here we are asking legitimate questions about whether or not he should stay – or will stay.
The losses, which are piling up in historic fashion, are starting to take their toll on Jackson.
“I am not going to lie to you. I am not coping with this very well,” Jackson said. “I haven’t for 2 years. I haven’t been in this situation. I am just being honest with you. It is not something I want to deal with. It is not something that I think is fair to anybody, not just myself but the coaching staff, the players, our fans, everybody. We have to fix this.”
Because of Jackson’s existing relationships with the Bengals organization, he has been tied to Cincinnati as a potential replacement for Marvin Lewis from the day he took the Browns job. With the news that Lewis would step away after this season breaking Sunday morning, Jackson was asked about those rumors and whether or not he’d entertain the thought of bailing on the Browns.
“I have kind of known about Marvin,” Jackson said. “Obviously, we all know that Marvin is a close friend, but trust me, I’m not running from this. I have never gone any place and left it worse than when I found it. I’m not going to run from this. I’m going to be here and I need to get this fixed as fast as I can because I think it is important. It is important to me to help these players, help this organization and this city become what I believe we can become. I have too many things going on here. I can’t worry about what is happening in Cincinnati.”
A strong statement from Jackson but let’s not be fooled.
At 1-29 and questions about whether or not new GM John Dorsey even wants to entertain the thought of bringing Jackson back for a third year despite statements made by Haslam, the Bengals could provide the best escape route for everyone involved.
“This doesn’t define me,” Jackson said of his record. “I get all this. ‘Hue, this is your record. This is how it works.’ I got that, but this will not define me as a football coach. I know what is here. I know how we got here. I see it. We all do. What we have to do is fix it. Talking about it is not going to do anything. The record is what it is.”