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The Browns Are Retaining the Least Successful Coach in NFL History

No one has ever gone 1-31 before, yet Hue Jackson is getting a third chance with the league’s most moribund franchise

AP Images/Ringer illustration

Last season, head coach Hue Jackson had the worst campaign in Browns history when his team went 1-15. After Sunday’s loss pushed them to 0-16, that’s now only the second-worst season in Cleveland franchise history—and Jackson is getting a third chance to continue his record-setting leadership of the team.

The Browns are the first team to finish with an 0-16 record since the Lions accomplished the feat in 2008, and the fourth team to finish a season winless since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. The year caps off a 1-31 run for Jackson, the worst such stretch for a team in league history. Even for the Browns, this is a whole new era of futility.

Cleveland hasn’t just played bad football during this stretch—the Browns have played ugly football. The squad entered Week 17 as the 32nd-ranked team in DVOA, and will likely finish the year at the bottom after a 28-24 loss to the Steelers on Sunday. Cleveland ranked 31st in the metric last season, just beating out the Colts. The Browns rank last in point differential (negative-176), points scored (234), turnovers (41), completion percentage (54.4), passer rating (61.4) and adjusted net yards per passing attempt (an astonishingly bad 3.6). Many of these same statistics were at or near league-worst levels last season, and Jackson failed turn his team around. But as they say: the third time’s the charm.

The organization has upended parts of its operation already. In December, franchise owner Jimmy Haslam fired general manager Sashi Brown and hired former Chiefs GM John Dorsey in his place to overhaul the roster. After his hiring, Dorsey said that the organization “didn’t get real players”—pointing out the lack of talent across the Browns’ roster. But though the general manager is new, the team opted for some continuity by retaining both Jackson and senior personnel executive Ryan Grigson, who was hired in March, and in October Jackson stated that he liked his soon-to-be-winless roster “a lot.”

The Dorsey hiring was presumably a reaction to the organization’s high-profile draft misses in recent years. Sashi Brown’s philosophy of trading down in the draft led to Cleveland acquiring a treasure chest of assets, but he also passed on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, instead taking DeShone Kizer in the second round of last year’s draft. Kizer’s season wasn’t promising—the rookie threw just 11 touchdown passes compared to a league-high 22 interceptions. When he was hired in 2016, Jackson was billed as a “quarterback guru,” yet he benched Kizer for Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler five times this year and publicly questioned whether his young quarterback would ever “get it.” Luckily, Jackson will be able to continue his wildly successful mentorship of Kizer next season.

Though Jackson’s second season at the helm didn’t deliver what many fans hoped, the coach did make good on one promise. After going 1-15 in his first season, Jackson vowed that fans wouldn’t see that record again.

“I’m not going 1-15,” Jackson said in January 2017. “No. I’ll be swimming in that lake over there somewhere. That’s not happening.” Though he did keep his promise not to go 1-15, Jackson is still planning to jump into Lake Erie.

As of press time, Jackson hasn’t confirmed what body of water he’ll jump into if his Browns go 0-16 again next year.