If you’re a glass-half-full type, Sunday is a win-win situation for the Browns — no matter what happens in their season finale.
If they beat the Steelers, yay! They’ll end 2016 with a two-game winning streak (and a 2-14 record). If they lose to the Steelers, the Browns will wrap up the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, where they would almost certainly target their next franchise quarterback.
But for first-year coach Hue Jackson, who has endured enough losing over the last four months for it to be classified as cruel and unusual, the Browns aren’t concerned about where they’ll be picking in the draft. Their immediate concern is winning football games, which happened last week for the first time in more than a year when they outlasted the Chargers.
“Our players work too hard in the locker room and they put it on the line,” Jackson said, via Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “We have to put it on the line. That’s what sports is all about. I said before, whether it’s the first pick, second pick, or third pick, they’re all going to be good players there. We’ll get good players on this team. I assure everybody that as we move forward, but what I think is most important is finishing the season the right way for these guys.”
Jackson’s not alone — the players feel the same way.
“I would hope that you don’t sacrifice a win over a pick,” wide receiver Terrelle Pryor said. “Geez, this thing’s about winning. I would hope that isn’t our thing, because I’m playing this game for the wrong reasons. Definitely. I don’t care what the record is, I play this game to win. That’d be sickening and sad if we were playing for that, for me to put my body out there to lose. So I hope that’s not the case and I don’t think it’s the case and I don’t believe it to be so. That would be heart-hurting if that was the case.”
And here’s the Browns’ current young starting quarterback, Robert Griffin III.
“Right now, we’re blessed with an opportunity to go out and play a game on Sunday,” he said. “That’s all we have. After that, no one knows what’s going to happen. This team, these 53 guys and then the practice squad guys will never be together again. I look forward to finishing strong with these 53, going out and having some fun and prayerfully, God-willing come away with a win.”
Meanwhile, members of the Browns’ front office were in El Paso, Texas, on Friday to watch UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky take part in the Sun Bowl, where he finished 23 of 39 for 280 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a losing effort against Stanford.