BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Hue Jackson can’t win on Sundays but he’s at least won over Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam despite his 1-30 record.
He’s also won over the locker room, including presumed future Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas.
The long-suffering paying customers however is a completely different story.
Fans have grown tired of Jackson’s act – during the week and on Sundays – which is why when he eventually takes his promised plunge into Lake Erie, some fans might prefer he just swim to Canada.
“It has been painful for all,” Jackson said. “I get it. Our fans, it is tough. I get it. I understand it. I know all of the arrows that come at me. I expected that, but at the same time, I can’t tell them to keep having patience. That is what we have always said.”
Over 19 years all that requested patience has added up to just 88 wins and 215 losses. 75 of those losses have come since the start of the 2012 season and 30 of those since Jackson took the reigns in January 2016 so it’s understandable why FirstEnergy Stadium has turned into a ghost-town and the Browns posted their lowest attendance totals in decades.
Fans now ask, ‘when will it end?’
After firing Mike Pettine as head coach and Ray Farmer as general manager on Jan. 3, 2016, the Browns undertook a multi-year roster gut and rebuild, which has contributed to the worst stretch of professional football in league history.
Thomas explained Thursday why Jackson shouldn’t shoulder the blame fans are placing on him for that.
“I think Hue really has not been given the opportunity yet to prove what kind of coach he is,” Thomas said. “From a wins and losses standpoint obviously, the plan for a few years here was to try to attain the highest draft picks possible which is what we have successfully done. Unfortunately, as that is going on, the coaches have a hard time winning any games because of the depth that they are given to play with. I think what we have seen in this building from Hue is a man who is an excellent leader, a great teacher, a great coach.
“I think he is really excited for us to begin a new era where we are spending money in free agency and using our draft picks to select high players, not saving any assets or money for the future. We are going to basically start going all in like the other 31 NFL teams do every year and give the coaches an opportunity to improve on the win-loss record they have had so far.”
While fans agonize over 1-30 and 4-48, Thomas believes that when all is said and done the pain of losing will turn into the joy of victory sooner rather than later.
“This team is set up right now for a long run of success starting next year,” Thomas said. “That’s why I think fans, players and coaches should be really excited because what we’ve done is we’ve sacrificed 2 years of pain for long-term, multiple years of gains starting next year and the following year because if you look at our salary cap space, if you look at the number of young guys who’ve played and gotten experience and then you look at the number of high draft picks that we have, there’s no reason that we can’t be really really good starting next year and the following year.”
Aside from losing, change is the only thing the Browns do consistently and they did it again this month.
Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam fired Sashi Brown as executive vice president of football operations and hired John Dorsey as general manager on Dec. 7. They also announced that Jackson would return even though he’s led the team to just 1 victory in 2 seasons.
And so while Jackson is confident that the Haslams will remain true to their word no matter the outcome Sunday in Pittsburgh that many expect to result in just the second 0-16 season in NFL history, joining the 2008 Detroit Lions, he’s not inclined to repeat the speech he gave team employees when he walked in the door to a heroes welcome in 2016 anytime soon.
“I think my words don’t have any value now until I can change, until we can change and show change, nobody is going to believe anything we say,” Jackson said. “Whatever I say now really doesn’t hold water. I get that. To talk about it really doesn’t do anything. I think the only thing that is going to change is we need to get to winning as fast as we can. I think that is what we are going to do.”
Believe it or not, Jackson feels the pain because he lives it daily.