CLEVELAND - The genesis of the Browns' turnaround from a 0-2 start didn't begin with the insertion of Brian Hoyer at quarterback and the return of receiver Josh Gordon from a two-game suspension.
While those two moves were important, the rallying point of two consecutive wins was the speech linebacker D'Qwell Jackson gave in the locker room after a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in week two. Jackson, who projects a reserved image to the media and public, ranks the speech among the top five of his eight-year career in terms of emotion and volume. ("It wasn't a library voice," he said.)
"It was just a culmination of emotions running wild," Jackson said. "I felt like we were a better team. 'Don't go in the tank. Remember our goals and why we do this because if we don't turn this thing around it's going to be a long season.'
"I've been through that with some pretty bad teams. This team is not that team. It was basically a message of letting guys know how good we can be if we just stay the course."
Few players command more respect in the locker room than Jackson. He leads by example on the field, and when he feels it's necessary he'll assume control of the situation in the locker room.
That veteran presence was needed after running back Trent Richardson was traded to the Indianapolis Colts 12 days ago. With angry fans assuming the Browns were throwing in the towel on the season, Jackson wanted to make sure his teammates didn't buy into that thinking.
His words after the 14-6 loss to the Ravens hit home to cornerback Joe Haden.
"D'Qwell wouldn't let it happen," Haden said of not giving up after the 0-2 start. "If he thought we were thinking about losing or acting differently; I don't know if he would have kicked them off the team, but he'd have kicked them out of the meeting. We have good leaders on the team, always bringing that spirit."
Jackson has been part of only one winning season since being selected in the second round of the 2006 draft. He was rewarded for his services by signing a five-year, $42.5 million contract in February of 2012.
Jackson won't say for sure that a two-game winning streak marks a change in the fortunes of the franchise. He just wants to make sure that everyone is on board.
"It was something that needed to be said," Jackson said. "I addressed it the best way I could. I basically told guys when we walked off the field in Baltimore, 'don't accept losing. We've worked too hard. We have great guys in this locker room. We're better than this. Keep pushing forward and great things will happen.'
"I don't think anyone outside of this building expected much. We had a lot of expectations on ourselves and now can we handle that and can we continue to get better?"