Browns coach Jackson convinced he’ll be back next season

Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson answers questions during a news conference after the Baltimore Ravens defeated his team in an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Hue Jackson doesn’t think the losing will include his job.

Cleveland’s beleaguered coach, who takes a 0-15 mark this season and 1-30 record over two years into Sunday’s finale at Pittsburgh, said Wednesday he has no doubt owner Jimmy Haslam will keep his word and keep him around in 2018.

When Haslam fired Sashi Brown, the team’s vice president of football operations, on Dec. 8 and replaced him with general manager John Dorsey, he also announced Jackson would return. However, despite Haslam’s support, there remains rampant speculation about Jackson’s future.

With just days left in another lost season, Jackson is confident he’ll be back.

”I unequivocally believe without question that what Jimmy Haslam said is what is going to happen here,” Jackson said as the historically bad Browns readied for the Steelers. ”There is nothing that anybody has said to me to make me feel differently. It is tough. Being in this situation is hard. I’m sure it is hard for them, too, but hopefully, I have shown them through my work ethic, through our coaching staff’s work ethic and how the players have been and how they respond that I am the right guy to help get this organization to where it needs to be.”

Jackson’s second season has been a nightmare. The Browns have shown little progress and are one loss from joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history. If that happens, some Cleveland fans will sarcastically celebrate one of the worst seasons in professional sports with a parade around the Browns’ downtown stadium.

Jackson understands and respects why there is some outcry about Haslam’s decision to keep him.

”I can’t go by what everybody else thinks or what everybody else wants,” he said. ”I can only go by the people who employ me, who believe in what I’m trying to do here and what I believe they are trying to do here. That is all I can go by. I do get when you are a coach of a team that hasn’t won and things don’t go well – trust me, I have made my mistakes, too.

”I will be the first to tell you that, but at the same time, I think if everybody knew the inner workings and how things went and where we are, I think people would understand better, but that is just where we are right now. You can’t sugarcoat it. There is no way around it. The record is what it is. This is where we are so we have to find a way to climb out of this hole as fast as we can and get to where I think we should be.”

Dorsey, who has spent the past few weeks getting to know Jackson and his staff, embarked on a similar rebuilding project with Kansas City. Because of his connections, it was assumed that Dorsey would want to bring in his own coach in Cleveland. Also, Dorsey’s somewhat tepid endorsement of Jackson in some recent interviews fanned conjecture a coaching change was imminent.

However, Jackson, whose relationship with Brown crumbled as the losses piled up, said he and Dorsey are united.

”I have enjoyed our conversations, and I know what our vision is as an organization for our football team,” he said. ”I think we share the same thoughts that way. He is a football guy. We share alike mindedness on what it takes to get this place to where we think it needs to be. Are there more conversations to have? Yes. Are there more vetting out to do through some of our processes? Yes, but thus far, it has been outstanding.”

As for Haslam, Jackson said his support has ”never wavered.” Cleveland’s owner has promised continuity, and perhaps revamping the front office will suffice – for now.

And while there is outrage among some Cleveland fans over Jackson’s apparent survival, his players have been publicly supportive.

”He does a good job of inspiring the guys to play hard, to work hard,” said guard Joel Bitonio. ”For the most part we come out, we compete, we fight to win. He puts us in good positions to make plays and it’s been tough. I think he has probably taken the losing the hardest each week. No one expects to lose the way we’ve lost. And for him to bring the same energy, his same fight, the way he game plans each week, it’s been impressive from that point of view and he keeps the team together.”

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