Browns fall to 0-14 as Jackson’s future grows cloudier
CLEVELAND (AP) — Before the Browns’ home finale, a couple exchanged wedding vows in the stadium’s Dawg Pound bleachers.
The intimate ceremony went off without a hitch.
The reception was another sloppy mess.
Doomed by turnovers, questionable play calling and more disturbing throws by rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, the Browns lost their 14th straight game this season. They fell to 1-29 in two years under coach Hue Jackson with a 27-10 loss on Sunday to the Baltimore Ravens, who moved closer to a playoff berth.
The Browns stepped toward unwanted history.
“It is what it is — and it sucks,” said guard Kevin Zeitler. “We do have talent. We play hard. We practice hard, and we have good coaches. It’s just execution.”
On another gray, gloomy day along Lake Erie, the Browns, now two losses from an imperfect 0-16 season, showed why they’ve become the NFL’s longest-running joke. They failed to gain an offensive yard in the first quarter, committed four turnovers — Kizer threw two interceptions and lost a fumble — and lost their 16th straight game inside the AFC North.
As if the losing wasn’t enough, there’s renewed speculation about Jackson’s future amid reports that he could leave for a job in Cincinnati where Marvin Lewis is reportedly on his way out with the Bengals after 15 seasons.
Unless they can win one of their last two road games — at Chicago next week or in Pittsburgh to end the season — the Browns will join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams not to win in a 16-game season.
The losing has taken its toll on Jackson.
“I am not going to lie to you. I am not coping with this very well,” he said. “I haven’t for two years. I haven’t been in this situation. I am just being honest with you. It is not something I want to deal with. It is not something that I think is fair to anybody, not just myself but the coaching staff, the players, our fans, everybody. We have to fix this.”
Owner Jimmy Haslam has said Jackson will return in 2018. But that hasn’t stopped conjecture about Jackson’s status, which became more tenuous earlier this week when new general manager John Dorsey dodged a question about whether he would guarantee his coach would return.
Jackson has done everything in his power to stay positive amid the losing, but it’s getting more and more difficult.
“I told you guys three or four weeks ago that this doesn’t define me,” he said. “I get all this. ‘Hue, this is your record. This is how it works.’ I got that, but this will not define me as a football coach.
“I know what is here. I know how we got here. I see it. We all do. What we have to do is fix it. Talking about it is not going to do anything. The record is what it is. We are in the situation we are in, and we have work to do.”
Jackson has long been viewed as the next in line for Cincinnati’s job when Lewis leaves. Jackson spent seven seasons with the Bengals, serving as their offensive coordinator before he was hired in Cleveland.
There’s a natural connection, but Jackson said his sole focus is on the Browns.
“We all know that Marvin is a close friend, but trust me, I’m not running from this,” he said. “I have never gone any place and left it worse than when I found it. I’m not going to run from this. I’m going to be here and I need to get this fixed as fast as I can because I think it is important.”
One of Jackson’s goals this season was to develop Kizer, but the 21-year-old isn’t showing the progress anyone hoped for.
He threw his second interception — and league-leading 19th this season — into a crowd. Kizer was strip-sacked for a TD when Jackson called a pass play with the Browns backed up at their end zone and no one in the backfield to block for his QB.
“We have to get our quarterback who is playing for us to quit turning the ball over,” Jackson said. “It is just that simple.”
If only everything else was for the Browns.