Hue Jackson was none too pleased following an overtime loss to the Steelers that put to rest a 1-15 season. The Browns coach said he'll waste little time diving into the offseason and hoped players return for offseason workouts with a "fire in their bellies to change it."
"I know that's what I'm going to do," Jackson said Sunday postgame. "I'm sure that's what they all want to do."
Before that, though, there was a brief time to reflect in the bowels of Heinz Field and on Monday morning, as players and coaches met for exit interviews. Through it all, Jackson described his team as a group of fighters — a dynamic that was perhaps best evident in Pittsburgh this past weekend.
"As you can see, this team will fight. They fight hard," Jackson said. "We don't fight smart all the time, but we fight hard. We give ourselves a chance. It's unfortunate because of how hard they do fight. It looks like we have chances to win games, and we don't finish them."
Indeed, the Browns struggled to put together complete games throughout the season and this past weekend was no different. Cleveland mounted an early lead and dominated the Steelers throughout periods of the game, but four turnovers ultimately proved to be its undoing.
But there was neither a shortage of effort in that display nor a shortage of optimism with an eye toward the future. That the Browns fought to the end of an otherwise trying season, players said, spoke volumes about where the team is and where it's heading.
"As you saw, we're never going to quit or give up," tight end Gary Barnidge said. "We were in games the whole year and it's just going to improve. We're never going to deal with this type of season ever again."
With Jackson, executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and the rest of Cleveland's leadership, there's real hope that'll be the case.
"I think the track that we are on, the trajectory is a good one," left tackle Joe Thomas said.
"I think starting with keeping the staff in place, keeping the management team in place, I think the stated goal this offseason is to bring in some free agents, re-sign some of our young quality players that we have here.
"Obviously everybody knows about the number of draft picks we have. So the path we are on is great. I think we have the right head coach and we have the right management team. I think definitely things are looking up for the Cleveland Browns."