PITTSBURGH — Hue Jackson took little solace in a narrow loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that saw the Browns fall in overtime to the champions of the AFC North. The first-year coach might rest even less with the offseason officially underway.
"I want to dive in as fast as I can," Jackson said, referencing a 1-15 season that came to an end following a 27-24 overtime loss Sunday at Heinz Field.
"I don't like to be associated with that. I'm the head of it, so we have to fix it as fast as we can."
On this particular afternoon, the Browns were ultimately undone by four turnovers despite stretches in which they dominated a shorthanded Steelers team that elected to rest their three offensive stars: quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell ahead of the postseason.
Cleveland rolled up a season-high 467 yards, held Pittsburgh to 3-of-14 on third downs and forced eight punts on 13 possessions in regulation. In the end, it still wasn't enough to overcome self-inflicted wounds and some untimely lapses late in the game.
"This team will fight, they fight hard," Jackson said. "We don't fight smart all the time, but we fight hard."
That dynamic has been a recurring theme for a youth-laden roster still learning the ins and outs of professional football. "In a nutshell, the way this game went is kind of how our season went," quarterback Robert Griffin III said. "The ball just didn't bounce our way a couple of times."
Indeed, in a season of highs, lows, injuries and just plain bad luck, the Browns led 14-0 and fought their way back into the game after surrendering 21 unanswered points. With a chance at the go-ahead touchdown, running back Isaiah Crowell fumbled on the 2-yard line with 54 seconds to play.
After a 17-play drive in overtime to go up 24-21, Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones tossed the game-winning score, a 26-yard touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton with 2:57 to go in the extra period.
"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," Jackson said. "That's part of growing. That's part of playing with a bunch of young guys that need to continue to grow and get better."
Now, the Browns will work toward turning work ethic into results. "We've lost more than our fair share of games. It's not where we want to be," he said.
"I appreciate the fight in the player, but this is about winning and losing. I think we all know that. I think that's what our guys are going to be motivated to do when we get back."
Jackson, with an eye toward the future, also expressed optimism going forward and empathized with fans who would point to this year's struggles as the continuation of the "status quo."
"I get that. I respect that. 1-15 doesn't say you're heading in the right direction," he said, "but I would hope that our fans would hang with us. I think that if people would look at our team, they'd see a young team that fights hard and some veterans that play hard, and a team that's together."
The Browns regroup Monday morning for the last time before offseason workouts. In the meantime, Jackson — who declined to "sugarcoat" the record — said he wants to see a turnaround in 2017.
"We're 1-15. I never would have thought that in a million years, but we are. We can't run from that," he said.
"Hopefully everyone has a fire in their bellies to change it because I know that's what I'm going to do. I'm sure that's what they all want to do."
The Browns play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17.