The 2016 Cleveland Browns will be remembered as a very, very bad NFL team.

But not an all-time-worst team. Not now.

The 2008 Detroit Lions continue to stand alone at 0-16. It took the Browns until the next-to-last weekend of the season but they finally got a victory, avoiding the second 0-16 season in NFL history. Of course they needed some help from San Diego kicker Josh Lambo to hold on for a 20-17 triumph at home.

It seemed to be shaping up as a typical Browns afternoon. Quarterback Robert Griffin III played better, completing 17 of 25 throws and posting a passer rating of 86.1. Griffin added 42 rushing yards. But he was sacked seven times and left the game with a concussion.

The Browns led and blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt by Lambo with 3:45 remaining to stay in front.

But the Chargers got the football back and converted a fourth-and-10 play on a completion from quarterback Philip Rivers to tight end Antonio Gates. Surely the Chargers would send the game into overtime and then find a way to win, right?


Lambo missed from 45 yards as time expired. And the Browns – and their first-year coach, Hue Jackson – were in the win column. At last.

“The guys kept fighting,” Jackson said. “That’s what they’ve done all year. They fight. And sometimes we don’t fight the way we want to, but they do continue to stay with it, stick to it. And this is what happens when you stick to it.

“In the end you find a way to win a game. I think that’s what was needed.”

That’s putting it mildly.

“I’m gonna give all the credit to our veteran leadership, players from Joe Thomas to (Gary) Barnidge to Joe Haden to so many guys over there, Andrew Hawkins,” Jackson said. “I can go on and on and on because this is for them. This isn’t for me. This is about them. We’ve got a long ways to go to get to where I want our organization, our football team, to get. But today it’s about those guys. It’s a heck of a Christmas present for all involved because these guys work so hard.

“They’ve given me everything they have. And so I can’t thank this team enough for what they do every week to try to go out and win a game. And today we were finally successful. So at least that monkey’s off our back. We’ve got that part behind us.”

Jackson is a respected coach. He didn’t deserve 0-16. No one does, really. Now he won’t have that by his name.

“This is what it’s about,” he said. “It’s about the winning feeling. I was just saying to somebody the other day we haven’t given out any game balls to anybody because we haven’t won a game. I don’t remember ever doing that, being in that situation. But today everybody gets game balls. The whole organization gets game balls because they did a good job.

“It was a fight to the finish and that’s the way it is. When you haven’t won, you’ve got to find a way to win one. It doesn’t matter how you win it. Just win it. And that’s what it felt like.”

The San Francisco 49ers might end up “overtaking” the Browns for the top overall selection in the NFL draft in the spring. It remains to be seen if Jackson will find a way to get it done in Cleveland, if he and the Browns ever will put a franchise quarterback in place.

The team passed on the chance to draft Carson Wentz this past spring, trading the second overall choice to Philadelphia and doubling down on Griffin’s bid to rejuvenate his NFL career. The Browns remain essentially in start-over mode and the chief need is getting a quarterback.

That could mean trading for Jimmy Garoppolo of the New England Patriots. The Browns will have plenty of draft-pick resources, with the Eagles’ first-round selection to go with their own. But all of that is for another day. On this day, Jackson and the Browns felt good about themselves.

“It validates the work, all the hard work that these guys put in,” Jackson said. “You have to give them something back. And what they get back is wins and losses. 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. No one’s ever given up. I know sometimes it doesn’t look as (good) as we want it to. But I think we’ve stuck to it, and just kept fighting and just tried to do everything we could to win. And that’s what you see tonight.”

For one day at least, Jackson could say this:

“Today was a good day for the Browns.”

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