Jimmy Haslam sees Hue Jackson going from 0-16 goat to future hero

PITTSBURGH -- Hue Jackson's voice cracked briefly as he tried to quantify the unquantifiable.

The Cleveland Browns did not win a game in 2016, joining the Detroit Lions as the only teams to go winless in a 16-game season.

There were many of the same words following this loss that followed the others, and the same laments and promises.

But there was some new emotion as the reality sank in.

"[Jackson] was very ... kind of distraught," guard Joel Bitonio said. "I guess you could say from the loss and just the whole season, I think. It was tough, you know?"

Browns fans who have lived through every loss know it well. A "Perfect Season Parade" is planned for Saturday, with participants marching in a counterclockwise circle around the stadium to form a zero.

"Nobody wants to go 0-16," running back Isaiah Crowell said. "Of course nobody likes it."

"It's going to be tough to swallow," quarterback DeShone Kizer said.

"When this day's over, we'll turn the page on this and move forward," Jackson said. "But today is today. We've earned it."

One play from the game epitomized the Browns' season. They had fought back from a 21-7 deficit and trailed 28-24 with 1:54 left. Kizer -- who accounted for 375 yards in offense in his best game with the Browns -- somehow avoided a Steelers rush on fourth-and-2 at the Steelers 27, moved left and found Corey Coleman wide open at the 11.

It was an excellent play by Kizer, who dropped the ball right to Coleman.

Except Coleman looked at safety Mike Mitchell approaching him, and the ball went through his hands and off his shoulder pads. The Browns' furious effort to somehow get one win in Pittsburgh had ended, and when Coleman fell to the ground, David Njoku and Josh Gordon both put their hands on their heads in disbelief at the drop.

Coleman was distraught on the bench and in the locker room after the game, as he sat with his head in his hands staring straight at his locker for some 40 minutes.

Kizer did everything he could to win the game and complete that pass. But Coleman, a first-round pick in 2016, said the drop "will last forever."

Coleman spoke in the same Steelers locker room where Dennis Northcutt stood and tried to explain a drop in a 2002 playoff game that contributed to the Browns losing their only playoff game since restarting the franchise in 1999. Such are the ways of the Browns.

Before Coleman spoke, owner Jimmy Haslam stood across the hall from the spot where a year ago, after the season finale, he had said 1-15 was unacceptable.

"I would just reiterate that again: Our record is unacceptable, and we accept full responsibility for that," Haslam said.

So, there's that.

The Browns will try to turn this page as fast as possible. They can point to the draft -- where they will have the first and fourth picks in the first round -- and can point to free agency, where they will have more than $100 million in salary-cap room.

They will also go forward with Jackson as coach. Haslam reiterated that he will be the coach and said Jackson had shown "great leadership" despite going 1-31. Haslam also said that he's "delighted" to have Jackson return as coach.

"If you go back two years ago, I think Hue was one of the hottest assistant coaches out there, right?" Haslam said. "I don't think Hue has lost his magic on how to call plays or how to run an offense or how to coach a team."

Haslam also said, again, he is confident that pairing Jackson with new GM John Dorsey will work. He said they've been working well together already. He knows that fans are angry and skeptical, but he's a believer.

"I think we have the best fans in the NFL, and when we win, Hue Jackson will be their hero," Haslam said. "I'm convinced of that."