Browns’ Jackson vows: ‘We are not going 1-15 next year’

Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson during a press conference following an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Pittsburgh . Pittsburgh won 27-24.(AP Photo/Don Wright)

BEREA, Ohio (AP) – Hue Jackson’s eyes were bloodshot, the result of little sleep.

Poor guy’s worn out. Coaching the Browns has been physically and mentally draining, tougher than ever.

Jackson, though, will finally get a break and should be able to get some needed rest now that the nightmarish 1-15 season has ended.

A day after Cleveland completed an awful and appalling 16-game run with an overtime loss at Pittsburgh, Jackson vowed there would never be another one like it. Not on his watch.

“We are not going 1-15,” Jackson said. “No, or I will be swimming in the lake over there somewhere. That is not happening. I just know me too well. I know me and I know these guys too well. We are not going 1-15 next year, OK? You can write it if you like. Hue Jackson said it. We are not.”

“Amen,” said Browns vice president of football operations Sashi Brown.

The Browns knew rebuilding would be painful, but they never expected to go through what they did in 2016, when inexperience combined with injuries and ineptitude resulted in one of the worst seasons the NFL has ever seen.

On Monday, Jackson, Brown and strategy director Paul DePodesta spent 35 minutes doing their autopsy on a season they can’t wait to forget. The Browns lost their first 14 games before beating San Diego to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions in the exclusive 0-16 club.

There were a few bright spots, but not enough of them as Cleveland’s first season under a new coach and front office produced just one win.

Cleveland was at or near the bottom in virtually every meaningful statistical category, and finished last – again – in the AFC North. The climb to the top appears as steep as ever.

“We do have pieces,” Jackson said. “We do have guys that can play in the AFC North. We just need more of them to get to where we want to be.”

On the positive side, the Browns will have the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, another opportunity to perhaps find a franchise quarterback. Cleveland elected not to go after one last year, trading the No. 2 overall selection to Philadelphia for another first-rounder in 2017 and a second-rounder in 2018.

This year, the plan was to see if Robert Griffin III could be the long-term answer, but the season ended without any resolution after RG3 was limited to five games because of injury.

Jackson has been a strong supporter of Griffin’s, but he was noncommittal when asked if the Browns had found their quarterback. Jackson wanted to watch more game film on Griffin, who signed a two-year deal in March. The Browns have to decide whether to pay him a $750,000 roster bonus in March or let him leave as a free agent.

Jackson, who was forced to make six changes at starting quarterback this season because of injuries, said Griffin made some progress but the Browns need more from their quarterbacks.

The search continues.

“We are going to find a quarterback that is going to come here and play winning, championship football, but I think it is too early to talk about ‘Do you have him yet?’ Do you not have him yet?'” Jackson said. “Here comes the draft. Here comes other opportunities to add more players to our team. My job and our job is to make sure we have them here. Obviously, we are 1-15.

“Everything would say maybe we don’t, but I think you also have to put it all into the pot.”

NOTES: Brown said the team has no plans to add a football executive to its analytics-based personnel department. He did say the front office will lean heavily on Jackson in finding a QB. … The Browns plan to be aggressive in free agency and have made re-signing free agent wide receiver Terrelle Pryor and linebacker Jamie Collins a priority. Brown said the team would prefer not to use franchise tags on either player. … Jackson did not rule out changes to his coaching staff. … Pryor will undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right hand on Wednesday. … Brown said it’s “too early” to discuss what the Browns might do with the No. 1 pick. Cleveland last had the top selection in 2000 and 1999 – the first season the franchise returned to the NFL. It took DE Courtney Brown in 2000, one year after selecting QB Tim Couch. … DePodesta said the team’s rookies combined to play more than 25 percent of the overall snaps.

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