For the first time in years, the Cleveland Browns aren’t a total embarrassment. They beat the Cincinnati Bengals 35-20 on Sunday, and they did it in style. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield played like a star, throwing for 258 yards and 4 touchdowns. It was the first time the Browns have won an away game since 2015, which was the year before the team appointed Hue Jackson to be its head coach. Jackson was fired this season, in October, after leading Cleveland on one of the most unsuccessful runs in NFL history. Just weeks after his exit, the Bengals hired Jackson to be a special coaching assistant, and he was on the Cincinnati sideline during their defeat to the Browns.
The Cleveland players didn’t exactly shower their old coach with respect on Sunday. When Browns defensive back Damarious Randall intercepted Andy Dalton in the second quarter, he presented the ball to Jackson like a gift-wrapped turd.
Jackson sought Mayfield out at the final whistle to give him a handshake and a hug, but the quarterback kept him at a distance. Mayfield explained his cold(ish) shoulder during the postgame press conference, saying he didn’t like that his former coach went to work for a division rival.
This is silly on a few levels. It’s not like Jackson abandoned his adoring roster for greener pastures. Cleveland threw him out on his butt, and he was free to find work wherever he could. More importantly, though, is that Mayfield should want to play a Jackson-coached team twice a year. Recent rumors suggest the Bengals may hire Jackson to be their next head coach, which would be a boon to every AFC North team outside of Cincinnati. The man led the Browns to a 3-36-1 record over two-and-a-half seasons. That is a monument to incompetence, and you shouldn’t complain when another organization decides to light that eternal flame.
If anything, Mayfield should ask himself whether it was a coincidence that his best game as a pro came against a team that had just hired Jackson to advise its defense.