There are no more tortured fans in the NFL than those of the Browns and no franchise that is nearly as embarrassing as Cleveland’s.
It’s been a miserable 17 seasons of football since the franchise returned and the 18th season is promising to be just as awful, if not more, as the team reboots once again under the leadership of head coach Hue Jackson.
But Sunday’s 29-10 loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia hasn’t dissuaded or discouraged Jackson from thinking big.
“Anytime we lose, I’m doing horrible,” Jackson said Wednesday. “I’m the leader of this whole deal. There is nothing else. I can’t judge myself any other way. It’s wins and losses. If I have too many losses at the end I’ll be the first to tell you I didn’t do well enough. And if I have more wins, I’m gonna tell you I’m okay. I don’t know that it’s ever gonna be good enough until you win a Super Bowl, right? I mean that’s what it’s about. It’s not about anything else and that’s what I came here for.”
From the moment Jackson walked in the door on Jan. 13 he promised that the team, which resides in the cellar of the AFC North annually, would chase greatness.
“I came here to help this organization win a championship,” Jackson said. “So, how fast that’s gonna happen, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know if there’s gonna be a ton of struggle before there’s a ton of great times, but I’m not worried about people being unhappy right now.
“I’m gonna do the best job that I can with our staff and these players. And we’re going to keep working at it. My point is, eventually, they will love me because we’re gonna win. And we’re gonna win a championship here for the Cleveland Browns.”
With 17 rookies on the roster including 13 draft picks and already down 1 starting quarterback just 1 game into the season, Jackson has his work cut out for him. He’s already 0-1 and the losses are expected to pile up quickly in 2016.
The Browns are an embarrassing NFL-worst 87-186 in the regular season since 1999 and they have wiped out any and all prestige that had been built up by the original franchise from 1946-1995. Once a bedrock organization, the Browns had amassed a 434-275-13 record including the playoffs before the U-hauls were packed for Baltimore.
They’ve had just 1 playoff appearance and 2 winning seasons since 1999 and 13 seasons that ended with double-digits in the loss column. A loss Sunday to the Ravens would mean that the Browns will have lost 100 more games than they have won since returning and the odds of that happening are pretty strong. Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh is 14-2 and quarterback Joe Flacco is 13-2 all-time against the Browns.
“I can’t worry about what everybody has been through here,” Jackson said. “I’m being very honest. I don’t. I don’t worry about what everybody else has done, been through, what people shouldn’t say, what they should say. I’m going to do the best job that I can do.”
Fans are skeptical at the latest plan to tear down the roster and rebuild through the draft because no team blows first-round picks quite like the Browns do.
No team loses as much or in as heartbreaking and bizarre fashion as they do too.
The decision to sign Robert Griffin III and not draft Carson Wentz only to see Wentz throw for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns in his NFL debut against them while Griffin broke a bone in his shoulder and will miss – at minimum half the season – has sent fans into a furious tizzy this week.
Jackson might be aware but he’s not getting caught up in it.
“The fans might not like me for a while, but they’re going to love me pretty soon,” Jackson said. “Eventually they will love me, I promise you that because I do plan on winning here and I do get it. I know with every loss there’s another dagger that just drags you down another few feet deeper. That’s okay, I’ve been there before. I’m a fighter. We’re going to get back up and we’re going to keep swinging. We’re going to be fine.”
Jackson pledged a championship Wednesday to a fan-base that would consider a .500 season to be an accomplishment. The bar might be pretty low these days in Cleveland when it comes to the Browns but Jackson has set his as high as it can go.