Browns coach Hue Jackson had a hunch Cleveland was "going to be the place" for him.
That feeling was perhaps at its strongest as Jackson, formerly the Bengals offensive coordinator for two seasons, prepared for his former team's regular-season finale coincidentally against the Browns in early December.
"I always tell this story when people ask me," Jackson said Thursday in an interview with ESPN 850 WKNR at the annual Cleveland Auto Show. "I normally go and I run around the stadium before games."
What happened next left a lasting impression.
As he lapped around First Energy Stadium before kickoff, Jackson said Browns owner Jimmy Haslam approached him.
"Jimmy just kind of stopped me and went, 'Hey, Hue, you're doing a great job. Hope you don't do a great job today, but it's good to see you. You've done a fantastic job, keep doing what you're doing,'" Jackson told the radio station.
"And I was kind of amazed that an owner would take the time and come across the rope and speak to me warming up before I got ready to play his team. It struck me, and it always has. And that stuck with me … I just felt like this was going to be it. There were some signs that happened that told me this was going to be the place for me."
Jackson, who has a combined nine seasons of coaching experience in the AFC North, said he's confident the Browns are on the right path.
"I feel great about the city. I feel great about the fans. The fans are second to none. Are you kidding me? We're talking about the Dawg Pound, we're talking about the Cleveland Browns fans," he told ESPN 850 WKNR.
"And then on top of that, I've been in this division I know what it is. I've been in Cincinnati, I've been in Baltimore. I haven't been in Pittsburgh — I love you Mike Tomlin — but at the same time I understand the lay of the land within this division."
Of the Browns' recent struggles, Jackson added: "This team wasn't as far away as people think it was in my opinion. But at the same time, there are some things we need to be better, to be better at and to fix."
To do so, Jackson reiterated the Browns' intentions to build through the NFL Draft in April.
"I think what's important is that you build a team — a sustainable team — through the draft. You don't do it with just free agency and trying to go find players. You supplement your football team through free agency and I think we all get that for the Cleveland Browns to get to where they need to be, we need to draft our players, we need to coach them, improve them and keep them here for as long as we can. And then we're going to see a huge turnaround, which is what we hope to do."