You would think having the worst head coaching record with a team in the entire history of the NFL would have been enough punishment—or enough of an indictment. And if not, maybe getting unceremoniously fired midseason might have been sufficient. But no, not only does Hue Jackson have to live with the ignominy of what he did in Cleveland, but he gets to deal with Browns players’ widespread and very vocal joy that he’s gone.
Two weeks after being dumped by Cleveland, Jackson joined the Bengals with the nebulous job title of special assistant to the head coach. That obviously did not sit well with many of the Browns, who, before, during and after Sunday’s 35-20 win over Cincinnati, went out of their way to criticize, show up, and pointedly ignore Jackson. Chief among them rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has thrived in Jackson’s absence. In his postgame press conference, Mayfield elucidated why he blew off Jackson:
“Left Cleveland, goes down to Cincinnati, I don’t know. It’s just somebody that was in our locker room, asking for us to play for him and then goes to a different team we play twice a year.”
That reasoning is, obviously, dumb as hell. The Browns fired him! He can go work anywhere he wants. I honestly cannot believe that this is even a topic of debate. Think about how ludicrous it would be, in literally any other industry, for a person’s former co-workers to be bitter at him for taking a job with a rival company after being fired; their resentment would rightly be laughed out of the room.
(Mayfield, later in the same press conference, unwittingly undercut his own gripe and identified the direction the resentment should logically go when he noted that Browns TE Orson Charles and QB coach Ken Zampese had extra motivation for this game because they had been let go by the Bengals.)
Regardless, debate this we apparently must. It was a topic on First Take yesterday, when analyst Damien Woody attempted to call Mayfield a hypocrite because he transferred from one Big 12 team to another. That is a stupid line of argument for multiple reasons, but Mayfield, spending his Monday scrolling Instagram and getting angry, brought it back to Hue:
Let us be clear: I am pro-beef. Love it. Can’t get enough. If Mayfield disliked Jackson as a coach and as a person, and wants to publicly trash him at every available opportunity for the next decade-plus, (and if Hue gets the Bengals head coaching gig, as has been rumored? Bellissimo) I am here for it. But we all ought to agree on the proper foundations for any beef. And here, as everywhere, there is absolutely nothing objectionable about a person without a job deciding to take a job. No matter which team it’s with.