CLEVELAND (AP) — Moments after losing for the 20th time in 21 games as Cleveland’s coach, Hue Jackson began the long, cruel walk toward the locker room.
As he headed for the tunnel, Jackson was already pondering his postgame speech and an explanation on his decision to bench rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer at halftime.
But before leaving the field, Jackson was chased down. Josh McCown threw an arm around his former coach.
“I just let him know that I’m thinking about him, that I loved him and to hang in there,” McCown said after leading the New York Jets to a 17-14 win. “I know he’s fighting a fight. I believe in him.”
Jackson may need more than McCown’s support.
The Browns (0-5) are again headed down a painful path led by Jackson, who didn’t do himself any favors with a very questionable choice not to kick a potential game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland was down 10-7 and facing a fourth-and-2 at New York’s four with 13:03 left. Jackson initially sent rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez and the field-goal unit onto the field, but called a timeout and changed his mind, partially influenced by two missed kicks in in the first half.
Jackson dialed up a running play, but the Jets stuffed Isaiah Crowell after a 1-yard gain, giving the ball back to McCown, who then engineered a 97-yard touchdown drive that put New York ahead by 10.
Jackson’s gamble backfired, giving his detractors more ammunition to question whether he’s the right coach to guide Cleveland through a rebuilding project showing minimal progress.
The Jets (3-2) were supposed to be tanking and are winning. The Browns, who blew four scoring chances in the first half, are just losing.
Jackson, though, doesn’t see any signs of his team quitting.
“They are good,” he said of his player’s mood. “To a man, they all know they fight and they fight hard. They want to win worse than anybody, and I want to win for them. I want to help them win, but at the same time, this is where we are. We are 0-5, and we have to go find a way to win a game.”
Jackson believes he still has the full backing of owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam.
“There is no wavering support,” he said. “I have never felt that at all. They are no different than anybody else. The human side of this, you want to win. You have a chance to win, you want to win. It is unfortunate, but we had our chances. It would be different if this team just beat us 30-whatever. If we don’t turn the ball over and we make field goals, this is a different football game. That is something to build on.”
Here are some takeaways after the Jets dropped the Browns to 2-30 in their last 32 games:
GREAT GARRETT: One game, two sacks. Welcome to the NFL, Myles Garrett.
After missing four games with a sprained right ankle, the top overall pick recorded a sack on his first play and brought down McCown again.
Garrett was limited to just 18 plays, but made the most of every one.
“I always want more,” he said. “I always want to make more plays, have more effect on the outcome of the game, but as many as they give me I’ll take and I’m just going to try to do my best to make plays out there.”
QB SWAP: Jackson pulled Kizer after he threw a costly pick and Cleveland’s offense sputtered.
Kevin Hogan came in and completed 16 of 19 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson would not commit to a starter for next week’s game at Houston, but hinted he could be leaning toward Hogan to give Kizer a chance to regroup.
“He will rally from this,” Jackson said. “He will get better. He will grow from it. He has to. That is the only way he is going to get better. There is no other way to do this.”
New York’s first three-game winning streak since 2015 has the Jets flying high.
Beating the Browns is one thing — everyone does it — so for them to be viewed as a contender, the Jets need a quality one. They host the New England Patriots next week.
“We will have to be at our best,” said McCown, who went 23 of 30 for 194 yards. “They have been great for a long time. You cannot ask for anything else than to be 3-2 and to go against 3-2 New England in a head-to-head matchup. This is what it’s about. This is why you play the game. We look forward to playing them.”