Upon the end of a 1-15 season in 2016, Browns coach Hue Jackson spoke of a bigger picture and brighter days. Almost a year later, Cleveland finds itself in a similarly painful situation as it once again tries to fend off a winless season and the infamy that comes with it.
Sunday's 27-10 loss to the Ravens marked the low point in a season full of them as the Browns were unable to deliver a win at home, going 0-7 at FirstEnergy Stadium. Instead, they were overpowered by Baltimore in a game they wanted to win for a fan base that has supported them over a span that's watched them fall in 29 of the past 30 games.
"I apologize to our fans that we weren't able to do that, to get them a victory in our stadium. I said that to our players. Hopefully, this is the end of all that. I hope it is," coach Hue Jackson said.
"I'm not going to make any guarantees because you never know – you never know what happens year to year – but at the same time, it can't get much worse than this, true? It can't. Let's just be honest. It can't get much worse than what it is. We have to find a way to get on the other side, get on the other side and keep working."
With just two opportunities to punch their first win of 2017, the Browns understand they face the possibility of going winless but maintain they won't let that kind of negative thinking affect their preparation.
"You can't look at that. You have to have short-term memory in these games. You can't dwell on the past, can't dwell on the last game," linebacker and captain Christian Kirksey said. "You have to wipe it away and move forward and try to win the next game ahead."
"This is the hardest league to win in. Anybody can get beat on any given Sunday, but you have got to come ready to play," rookie safety Jabrill Peppers added. "No one's just going to go out there and give you a W. We didn't execute the way we would like to, but we just have to get back to the drawing board and find a way to win."
While Cleveland trailed 17-10 at halftime, it turned the ball over four times and managed 97 yards of offense in the second half. In the process, they fell to 0-14 for their second straight season.
"We do have talented players here. We play hard, we practice hard, we have good coaches," offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler said. "Things just haven't gone our way, but we have two weeks left and we have to keep going."
The Browns staved off a winless season last year, defeating the Chargers on Christmas Eve in Week 16. They hope they'll have similar fortune in either Chicago or Pittsburgh but understand they'll need to play better.
"It's definitely tough, but this is a game we grew up loving and still love so we're not going to just come out here and roll out and just lay down," Peppers said.
"We're going to come out there and fight game in and game out. We don't care about the record, but it's been tough. At the end of the day, that's all on us. We have to go out here and execute."