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Jimmy Haslam reaffirms Hue Jackson will be back and hasn't 'lost his magic on how to coach'

By Mary Kay Cabot • Updated Jan 1, 2018 at 12:19 AM

PITTSBURGH -- Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has heard all of the criticism about bringing coach Hue Jackson back with a 1-31 record in his two seasons.

"I'll say what I always say: we have the best fans in the NFL and when we win, Hue Jackson will be their hero,'' said Haslam. "I'm convinced of that. It's all about winning and losing, and until we start winning we're going to catch a lot of grief and we deserve it.''

Haslam made his remarks in the hallway outside the locker room here after the Browns lost 28-24 to the Steelers to fall to 0-16.

"I don't think there's a lot to say,'' he said. "I remember standing approximately here last year and apologizing to our fans for the poor job we have done as owners, and I would just reiterate that again. Our record is unacceptable, and we accept full responsibility for that.

"I don't think that I need to say it, but the way the world works today, I want to say this: Hue Jackson will be back as our coach next year in 2018. He and John (Dorsey) are already off to a good start and working well together. There weren't a lot of positives today, except we also secured the No. 4 draft pick, so we're excited to see what John can do with the draft picks we've accumulated as well as what we do in free agency.

"I heard Hue's remarks. I don't know that I have a lot to say to that. So we've got a long way to go, a lot of work to do and anxious to get after it."

He declined to specifically answer what might happen if the Bengals call about Jackson in the event Marvin Lewis leaves, which is expected to happen.

"We're delighted to have Hue Jackson as our head coach,'' said Haslam.

Does he believe Jackson can take them to the playoffs?

"I do. Absolutely,'' he said.

The Browns' owner has gotten a ton of pushback from fans and media for keeping a coach off to the worst start in NFL history. The Browns also became only the second team in NFL history along with the 2008 Lions to go 0-16.

But he's not wavering, and firmly believes Jackson is the man to turn it around.

"If you go back two years ago, I think Hue was one of the hottest assistant coaches out there, right?'' he said. "And I don't think Hue's lost his magic on how to call plays or how to run an offense or how to coach a team. And I think it's our job -- John and his group -- to get him the players to do so. OK? And I'm not saying this is going to be easy, but I'm confident we'll do this.

"Some of you don't know us that well. We do not give up easily. We're not going to give up. Is it disappointing? Hell yeah, it's disappointing. Is it discouraging? To a certain point. But we're going to get this done."

He said the fight in his team is proof that Jackson can right the ship. The Browns tied the game at 21 with 10:54 left, and failed to pull it out when receiver Corey Coleman dropped a pass a the Steelers' 11 with 1:46 remaining.

"You could say a lot of things about us this year, but down to the last minute or two minutes, our guys played hard,'' he said. "I think the primary thing an NFL coach has to do is provide leadership. I think Hue has provided great leadership."

He acknowledged that there has been little progress in these dark two years but attributes it to his failed attempt at an analytics-based front office without a football guy picking players.

"I don't think anybody predicted 0-16, so that was disappointing,'' he said. "I think we've got the ability or the opportunity to move substantially forward in this offseason for next year, and that's what we've got to do. Talk's cheap. So it's one thing for me to say it. We've got to go do it."

He confirmed reports that Dorsey and Jackson were eager to work together during the six weeks they were talking to Dorsey, and that they had a comfort level with each other.

"John had a lot of respect for Hue. The two did not really know each other. But John had a lot of respect for Hue. Hue had a lot of respect for John. And John understood Hue was going to be our head coach."

He said Dorsey never had a chance to say whether or not he wanted to hire his own man.

"The conversation was never that way,'' he said. "I told him that Hue was going to be our head coach. There was not a lot of debate going back and forth."

He said he's already seen evident they're getting along well.

"Well, I work with them every day,'' he said. "I mean, I sit with them every day. I see them going back and forth, I see them talking, I know they're in each other's offices constantly. I'm in two meetings a week with them where I can tell you there is one goal and one goal only, and that's to turn the franchise around.

"So they're working extremely well together. Now, there'll be give and take as we approach the draft, as there always is, but they're two football guys, they've got good football knowledge with top football background. They're off to a good start.''

As for reports that Jackson will hire an offensive coordinator, Haslam indicated it's not a mandate from him.

"That's Hue's call,'' he said.

Haslam has come to the conclusion that Jackson couldn't win with the quarterbacks he's had, especially this year when he went into the season without one who had ever won an NFL game as a starter. The Browns now have the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the draft, and will likely take a quarterback at No. 1.

"It's tough to win with this many young players,'' he said. "It is so ... particularly in the quarterback room,'' he said.

He wouldn't attribute it solely to personnel decisions, but it's clear he believes that's what's been the major problem.

"I think it's all of the above, ownership, personnel, coaching,'' he said. "We can all do better, OK? And I don't think there's anybody that would tell you any differently. I know I could do a helluva lot better.''

As for trying to go out of the box with Sashi Brown, he said, "I'm not going to get into that. I'm excited about having John Dorsey here, John Dorsey lead our team. and I'm excited to see he and Hue work together."

He also reaffirmed that Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta will be back.

"I think Paul and John are off to a good start, and as I said on Dec. 8, we look forward to Paul being a part of our organization going forward.''

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