BEREA, Ohio--Sorry draft junkies!
Hue Jackson and the players are not worried about messing up the Browns top spot in next year's NFL Draft.
With just one game to play, the Browns are sitting with the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Browns are assured of having either having the first or second pick in the draft. With a loss to the Steelers, the Browns will retain the top pick. However, but a win by the Browns and a loss by the 49ers to the Seahawks will likely give the top pick to the 49ers by virtue of a strength of schedule tiebreaker. The Browns also have the first-round pick of the Eagles, which currently stands at No. 10.
A big unknown for next week's final game in Pittsburgh is whether the Steelers will rest their starters having already clinched the AFC North. Not having Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown on the offensive side is obviously a game changer.
"(Winning) is a good feeling for us walking into the building today, obviously, a very different from every other Monday this season," Jackson said on a conference call Monday. "This is the way it is supposed to be. Really happy about our players and our coaching staff finally having an opportunity to experience victory. It took entirely too long for us to get one for our fans this year, but we were sure happy that it came. As long as I have been in this league, you come to understand that you can never take winning for granted.
"The players on this team understand how hard it is to win in this league, and obviously, we hope to start and this might become the start of something really good for us," he said. "The hope is to carry some momentum from Saturday into the game this Sunday."
Christian Kirksey agreed.
“Guys are walking around the locker room just waiting for this new week," Kirksey said. "Getting that win was definitely a great feeling. It is definitely a relief, man. We were just waiting on that first win, and we got it this past weekend. Guys are excited, and we are ready to get to work for this big week we have with Pittsburgh.”
Jackson said the win was a huge relief to the entire organization and one win does make a big difference from being winless.
"We have a long way to go,” Jackson said. “It validates the work, all the hard work that these guys put in. You have to give them something back.
“When you work as hard as this group has to try to win a game and you keep fighting through, it says a lot about our team, our coaches," he said. "No one has ever given up. I know sometimes it does not look as good we want to, but we have stuck to it and kept fighting.”
Besides losing 14 straight to open the season--and 17 overall--the Browns had lost six-straight games by double digits until the 20-17 win over San Diego.
Jackson said he knows there needs to be a balance when you've won just one game.
“Well there is a balance, you just said it," he said. "I think we have to respect that. This is about wins and losses, and we were able to do that. That was the game that we had and we were able to win it so I think that was great, but I do recognize where we are. We are nowhere close to where we want to be. We know there is a lot of work ahead of us to [continually] have that feeling that we had this past week. We know out in front of us there is a lot to do on all levels.”
A video of Jackson surrounded by the veterans in the locker room after the win showed he and Joe Thomas very emotional. Jackson said the moment of he and the future Hall of Famer Thomas crying together will be a cherished memory.
“(Thomas) was all in," he said. "He has been all in from the beginning. I cried like a baby with him to be very honest with you. That was probably one of the moments that I will always remember in my coaching career watching a future (Pro Football) Hall of Famer overcome with emotion because he knows how hard he has worked to help this young team and these players get this victory. He was very deserving of it, and he did everything he could in that game to fight to make sure that we have a chance to win.”
Jackson said he understands why the win was so emotional for he and the players.
“Absolutely, I was emotional for our players," he said. "I know how hard this group has worked and I know how hard it has been for these guys to go out every week and give it everything they have and come up short and to be the brunt of jokes and to be talked about and people saying we were going to be 0-16 and there were parades [planned] and this and that.
"I just thought all that emotion just came to a head," he said. "I was happy for them. It was more about them. It is not about me. It is about the players and the work that they put in. It is about our fans. It is about the people in the organization that come here every day and have to deal with people that do not sometimes see the long-term plan of where we are trying to get to so I get it. To me, that was an opportunity to exhale for them.”
Andrew Hawkins agreed.
"As a player, it's a relief," Hawkins said. "None of us wanted to be a part of a historical bad season."
The only other NFL team to go 0-16 was the 2008 Detroit Lions.
RG3 in Protocol: QB Robert Griffin III is still in the NFL's concussion protocol as of Monday according to Jackson. However, he wasn't ready to name QB Cody Kessler the starter for the season finale in Pittsburgh.
"We'll go through the week and see where Robert is and make that decision," Jackson said.
Jackson was asked if Griffin would be the starter, if he was cleared.
“More than likely yes, but again, I just need to see where he totally is," he said. "You guys know how I am about these concussions. I really like to get all the information that I can before we make a decision on where to go and what to do."
Jackson was impressed with what Griffin did against the Chargers.
“Yeah, I thought he did a good job of standing in there in the first half and delivering some balls on third down and made some crucial third down throws and runs, as you just mentioned," he said. "He made some first downs with his legs, which extended drives which gave us a chance to score more points. I think we had probably more yards, more first downs, more points in the first half than we have had in a long time, and that is kind of the way you hope to play.”
Haden Should Play: Jackson sounded optimistic that DB Joe Haden (neck) would be able to play in the final game against the Steelers. However, he said that DB Trey Caldwell (hamstring) likely wouldn't be able to play.
"I think (Haden) will be alright and wants to be out there with his teammates."
Last week, Haden said he would need to have surgery on his groin muscles after the season.
“I think it shows the commitment that he wants to be out there," Jackson said. "I wish he would not tell everybody that because that is why they are going to keep throwing the ball at him (laughing). He has done everything I have asked him to do. I am proud of him for being out there with his teammates and fighting through when things are not just perfect because it is not just perfect for any football player at this time of the year. Obviously, not [perfect for] him with what he is going through, but he is out there and he is to be commended for it.”