BEREA, Ohio (AP) — There’s one loss Browns coach Hue Jackson doesn’t have to fear this season: his job.
Despite a 0-10 start and the prospect of going winless in his first year with Cleveland, Jackson has the support of owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, who believe they hired the right coach to turn around their floundering franchise.
“We are not focused on 0-16,” said Sashi Brown, the team’s vice president of football operations. “Hue is going to be here as our head coach. We talked about continuity being one of the core premises of what we wanted accomplished going out in January. We know that we have a head coach that can be successful here and lead us to a lot of victories and a lot of winning.”
That appears to be a long way off for the young Browns, whose progress this season has been muted by the worst start in team history and some key injuries.
To his credit, Jackson has kept the Browns playing hard and he feigned some surprise when he was told that Brown had acknowledged he will be back for a second season.
“I never thought I was going anywhere,” he said with a smile. “I know that’s been part of the plan since Day 1, before I took the job. I felt very comfortable. I know there has been a lot of mudslinging going around, but I get it. That’s part of it when you have the record that we do, I expect things to be said. But we are comfortable and we know exactly what we’re trying to do.
“I think it’s a tremendous plan. We all support it. It’s not where we want it to be, but we do have a plan in place that we feel very strongly that we’re going to get things headed in the right direction as soon as we can.”
Brown, whose promotion from team general counsel and salary-cap expert to the top spot in Cleveland’s front office preceded Jackson’s hiring by 10 days, met with media members for the first time this season. Brown understands that Browns fans are frustrated at the lack of significant progress, but said the team has no regrets about any decisions to this point and intends to exercise patience in seeing the plan through.
“It’s hard to look at this other than wins and losses,” he said. “I’m disappointed for our fans and the folks here working in the office. We don’t want to be here. But we also think we’re on the way to a much brighter future.”
There’s no easy fix for the Browns, who host rival Pittsburgh on Sunday, when thousands of noisy Steelers fans will make Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium feel like Heinz Field.
Both Brown and Jackson acknowledged the losing has many in the organization on edge. But they each rejected a report that said the coach’s decision to bench rookie Cody Kessler in the second half of Thursday night’s loss at Baltimore has created tension between the front office and coaching staff.
“I do have a tension headache,” Jackson joked. “My head hurts.
“I don’t know where any of that comes from. I have never felt that, heard that, any of that. Like I said, my head does hurt from time to time when we lose, and that is about it. The things we do here, I am the head coach of the football team and I will make decisions sometimes based on what I think is right. Sometimes, that is just part of it, but I have not heard that, felt that or seen that from anybody in our organization.
“They have been outstanding in their support of me and what we are trying to accomplish here.”
Publicly, at least, Brown said he has no regrets about any decisions. The Browns passed up taking quarterback Carson Wentz in the draft, trading the No. 2 overall pick to Philadelphia for a first-rounder next season. Brown also doesn’t bemoan the choice not to re-sign any free agents, preferring to stay focused on the future, not the past.
And while the poor record shows scant progress, Brown believes the team is on the right path.
“The winning ways are coming,” he said. “We’re confident in that. We just have to stick to the plan and support our fans through that process.”
Notes: Quarterback Robert Griffin III, out with a broken bone in his left shoulder since the opener, could be back before the end of this season. Griffin has been on injured reserve but is now eligible to return. Once he practices, the Browns have 21 days to decide whether to place him on the active roster. “He’s getting closer,” Jackson said. Griffin signed a two-year, $15 million contract with Cleveland in March. He is due a $750,000 roster bonus after this season.
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