CLEVELAND — **Hue Jackson was in a reflective mood Sunday afternoon following a loss to the Giants and, more broadly, an 0-12 season that has challenged the relentlessly positive Browns head coach.
After falling to New York, 27-13, in a game that saw turnovers and inconsistent play dash their late comeback aspirations, the Browns have finally reached a respite via the bye week. It comes after a three-month span of highs, lows, injuries and, sometimes, just plain bad luck.
"I have never been through this. I know you guys always ask me, but as I told you before, I'm not going to fall off a cliff or anything like that," Jackson said postgame.
"These guys, these players, this organization, (Browns owners) Dee and Jimmy (Haslam) and (executive vice president of football operations) Sashi (Brown) mean too much to me for me to ever feel like that.
"Do I ever get disappointed and frustrated? Yes, I don't want you guys to feel like I don't. I don't want you guys to think I don't get mad or sad or disappointed. I go through all of those emotions. But at the same, I know what I signed up for. I know through our injuries and the things we have been through this season, where we are and where we are trying to go," he continued.
"You can either beat yourself up, and I do that enough. Or you can just put your head down and keep fighting and push through this."
And much like Jackson's postgame news conference, next week should give the Browns an extended chance at introspection.
Cleveland will practice Monday and Tuesday and then Jackson will "probably just send them on their way. They need to get a little break," he said. "We need to do some self-scout of ourselves and get a break."
Jackson, who took ownership of the team's shortcomings, will approach that opportunity to recharge a bit differently. "I'm going to be very honest with all of you," he said, "I don't know how to do that yet, because being 0-12 is probably the hardest thing ever."
Against that backdrop, Jackson said he'll spend the next seven days burning the midnight oil in search of a way to help lift the Browns to their first win.
"I have to find a way. I don't want to be down in the scoring zone and can't score," he said, referencing the team's red zone struggles against the Giants. "I haven't had that feeling in a long time."
Jackson also outlined what have been roadblocks of sorts this season when asked whether a largely young and inexperienced roster knows what it takes to win.
"I would never put that on players. It's not that, but you have to do the things that it takes to win," he said. "You can't turn the ball over, you have to make plays at crucial times, you have to make sure their really good players do not win games for them."
That set of dynamics — three turnovers and two touchdown catches by Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — worked to help undo several bright moments for the Browns on Sunday.
"It's a lot of different things that go into that," Jackson said, "so it's critical over these next four weeks that we do come away grasping some of those things, as you're mentioning, as we walk out of here."
After the bye, the Browns will host the Bengals and Chargers and travel to Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Jackson described the next month as four opportunities. He also briefly allowed himself to look toward the future.
"That's why I said if you are going to get us, you better get us now because I'm not feeling like this next year. There's no way. Uh-uh. No," he said. "I'm a fighter, and we have a bunch of fighters in that room, and I don't lose many fights. I have never lost many fights. We're going to keep swinging. I have lost a lot right now — more than I have ever lost in my life fighting — but we're going to keep fighting."
"I don't think we have a guy that isn't fighting, and I think we're fighting our tails off and that's what makes it really hard when you fight so hard and you play as hard as you can and you still come up short," he continued.
"There's an answer in there somewhere that is going to give us what we want, and we just have to keep searching for it."