BEREA, Ohio (AP) —
Hue Jackson apologized. There was nothing else to do after making unwelcome history.
One day after an inconceivable season ended without a win, Cleveland's coach was grateful to still have his job and Jackson took steps to sooth an angry fan base and players who may have doubts about him.
Jackson somehow survived the Browns' 0-16 season, but it will leave scars.
"This is going to be next to my name for the rest of my life," he said Monday. "This is part of my legacy now, some of the players that are here, the coaches that are here, everybody."
For weeks, Jackson, who has managed to stay in the good graces of owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam despite a 1-31 record over two seasons, and the Browns did all they could to reject the possibility of football infamy. But with Sunday's 28-24 loss in Pittsburgh , they joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams in NFL history to lose all 16 games.
It happened. It hurts.
"Hopefully they forget my name as the years go by," Browns cornerback Jason McCourty said. "A terrible thing to be a part of, wish you weren't a part of. We could have won the last game, 1-15 gets you out of the history book, but 1-15 is awful, just as bad. It's tough."
And sadly, the Browns aren't done taking hits. They're an easy target, a punchline, the team to pile on. While their dismal season has mercifully ended, they're going to continue to take blows — until they win.
"It is awful," Jackson said. "We all have to wear it. I don't think anybody wants to be associated with that. No one started the season thinking that this is how it would turn out. I'm sorry and I apologize if people think that we are not distraught about it, but I don't think us talking about it over and over and over again because I think everybody else will."
Jackson's right. The 2017 Browns have joined the unofficial club of notorious losers, lumped in with the worst of the worst from other sports genres.
Cleveland fans are beyond frustrated. Worn down by years of losing, one group has planned a parade around the team's downtown stadium on Saturday to "celebrate" the imperfect season.
Many are enraged that Jackson has returned, and he knows there's only one way to satisfy them.
"Get to winning," he said. "It is not going to be anything I can really say. It is not going to be words; it is going to be actions."
Here are some of Jackson's thoughts from his New Year's Day press conference:
“Obviously an extremely disappointing season for us. Cleary, it was a difficult year for our players and obviously for our fans, as well. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our fans for sticking with us and being in this with us all of the way. I would like to also thank the players in the locker room for everything that they have continued to try to do to get this organization to winning. That is the one thing I came here for and I have not delivered that to this organization or the football team. For that, I apologize. I promise you this, I am going to do everything in my power from this moment on with the help and resources within our organization to get this organization turned to winning. I understand the disappointment that all feel right now because I think we are all working through it, but I know one thing, we are going to do everything we can as an organization to get the Cleveland Browns to where we feel they are a winning football team. We have a lot of work to do. I think the No. 1 thing for us a coaches, personnel and everybody in the building, we all have to go back and look and see and make sure we are doing the right things to get us there. We will do that. I am excited about the opportunity for 2018. I am thankful and grateful for Dee and Jimmy (Haslam) for allowing me to come back and be a leader here. I do get that all of our fans, they truly want results. I understand that and that is something we need to give them, but nothing I say is going to make a difference. I get that. I think the only way we change the things that are said is to get to winning. That is what we have to do.”
On difficulty in explaining to fans why he deserves to return to the Browns next year:
“I get that. I do understand our fans’ thought process that way, and I do understand the tremendous amount of pressure it puts you under trying to answer that. I think Dee and Jimmy answer that best. He made that decision. Like I said, I am just grateful to be given an opportunity to do that.”
On if he ever came close to quitting, given his comment yesterday that other coaches may have said ‘uncle’ at some point during the past two years:
“No, it is not about quitting. I hope people do not take that the wrong way. When I said, ‘I don’t think any other coach would do that job,’ I am not trying to sound arrogant, flippant or anything like that. I just think these situations are hard when you don’t win. When you are doing everything you can to win and it does not happen that way, I think those situations are hard. I don’t think the average person could go through that. That is what I meant by that. I think that is a tough situation to be in. At the same time, I am grateful and thankful that I do have enough strength, courage and fight and have enough support – I think that is the biggest thing to me, and I am being very honest with you, support from fans, support from the people in our building to get through this so we can get on the other side.”
On the Browns’ QB situation:
“We have a young player who has played a lot of people. (QB) DeShone (Kizer) is a young player who we drafted on this team. He started the first game that we played this year. I think DeShone has the necessary tools to be a good player to play in this league. We just have to continue to work with him and get him over this. There are a lot of players before him who are young who have come in this league and played and not had success right away, and then you look up and these guys some of them are Hall of Famers. Not saying that is going to be the process for DeShone, but I just think it is really early to write him off or really early to say he is ‘the guy’ because I think we all know we are going to continue to add good football players to this team. We will look to add people at the quarterback position, as well, just like any other position on our team. At the same time, there is a lot of experience and growth that he had this year because he went through the whole season for the most part that he is going to be able to grow from in the offseason. I think that will be important for him.”
On addressing the history and significance of finishing 0-16 and a perception that members of the Browns aren’t as upset about it as they should be:
“Oh no, it is awful. You said it, we all have to wear it. I don’t think anybody wants to be associated with that. No one started the season thinking that this is how it would turn out. I’m sorry and I apologize if people think that we are not distraught about it, but I don’t think us talking about it over and over and over again because I think everybody else will. I think what it has done is the urgency within the building, within our team, within everybody to get it fixed because if you don’t, this is what things lead to. I think we all get that. It is tough. Like you said, this is going to be next to my name for the rest of my life. This is part of my legacy now, some of the players that are here, the coaches that are here, everybody. There are a lot of coaches in here that have been in Super Bowls and have won Super Bowl games on this staff. That is hard, but at the same time, we can’t just truly make it about that. We have to make it about how do we get this better as fast as we can. That is what we are trying to do.”