CLEVELAND – Bengals coach Marvin Lewis found his good friend near midfield and gave him a hug.
Hue Jackson needed one. The besieged Browns coach could use a lot more than an embrace right now.
After Cincinnati got its first win this season, thrashing Cleveland 31-7 on Sunday, Lewis weaved his way around players, coaches and cameramen to greet Jackson, his former offensive coordinator who is 1-19 in two seasons with the Browns.
The men shared a moment, and Lewis offered some advice to Jackson.
“Don't let 'em quit on ya,” he said.
Four games into what was supposed to be a rebuilding season, the Browns are in shambles – still. A week after an embarrassing performance in Indianapolis, where they fell behind by 21 points and never recovered, the Browns were down 31-0 in the third quarter to the previously winless Bengals.
They avoided a shutout with a touchdown in the final two minutes.
There are no signs the Browns (0-4) are laying down for Jackson, but Lewis' comment about quitting is curious given that the season is only 25 percent complete.
Jackson didn't offer any excuses. And as he has done almost from the start of last season, he vowed to stay positive and keep working until he gets the Browns headed the right way.
“We didn't play well,” he said. “We didn't play well anywhere. We didn't coach well. We didn't play well. We didn't do anything well. Cincinnati had a lot to do with that. We did not play as well as I think our football team can play.”
Not long after Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton threw his fourth touchdown pass to put the Bengals ahead by 31, thousands of Browns fans began streaming out of FirstEnergy Stadium, which was barely one-quarter filled when the game ended.
Jackson said the mass exodus was difficult to watch.
“It pains me,” he said. “I see it all. I saw everything here today because we all want to give them what they deserve. We didn't today. I understand our fans leaving. I probably would have, too. We weren't playing good enough.”
Next week the Browns are host to the New York Jets, who improved to 2-2 with a win over Jacksonville. The Jets' starting quarterback is Josh McCown, who was released in the offseason by Cleveland.