By Tom Withers
AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND — There’s a big, fat, ugly, historic zero on the horizon. Browns coach Hue Jackson will do anything he can to elude it.
“Somehow, someway, we are going to find a way not to be 0-16,” Jackson said Tuesday.
They’re more than halfway there.
At 0-9 and the NFL’s only winless team, the Browns have seven more chances to get that first win and avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams in league history to go without a victory in a 16-game season.
After a 35-10 beating on Sunday against Dallas, the Browns have had little time to regroup before playing on Thursday night at Baltimore, where they will look to end their skid and escape becoming the first team in Cleveland’s 66-year history to go 0-10.
As the losses mount, it’s gotten tougher for Jackson to put on a brave front. The losing is tearing him up, but Jackson knew when he took the job there would be tough days ahead.
He just didn’t count on there being so many of them.
“It is about wins and losses,” he said. “We don’t want to be 0-9 right now to be very honest with you. We are going to fight our tails off, and it starts on Thursday night again. Our guys come in here every week with the mindset of, ‘Look, we are going to go back out here, we are going to do it again, we are going to give you everything we have and we are going to go try and change this.’ That is what they have been doing.”
The Browns have lost 12 straight and 19 of 20, a troubling tailspin that has taken its toll on players and coaches who need some reward. Jackson is doing all he can not to let the negativity creep into the locker room.
Now is not the time for defeatist attitudes.
“It is about this team really staying together and fighting together,” Jackson said. “I think you guys know within these walls is a brotherhood here. We all have each other’s back. We understand the situation we are in, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t doing some things better than what we have ever done here. I do believe there are a lot of good things that are going on here. It just hasn’t shown up in the win ledger.
“That is unfortunate because that is why all of us do what we do.”
Unfortunately, the Browns, who have been ravaged by injuries, missed a chance at win no. 1 earlier this season, when they blew a 20-2 lead as the Ravens scored 23 straight points to win on Sept. 18.
That game seems like ages ago, and Jackson acknowledged the Browns are not the same team at 0-2 as they are at 0-9.
“Much different,” he said. “Obviously, we have been through a lot of different highs and lows. We are probably more game-ready to play than what we were in Game 2. I know the results do not say that, but I think we understand and obviously, we have played more games now than we did at that point. We kind of know who we are a little bit more and we know what we need to accomplish to give ourselves the best opportunity to win.
“From that standpoint, we are much further along, but we are not where we want to be and I think we all know that.”