In fact, they literally handed it to Jackson, who was fired in late October after the Browns started 2-5-1, giving him a record of 3-36-1 over two-plus seasons in Cleveland. What bothered Mayfield and Co. more than that abysmal stretch of coaching, though, was that Jackson wasted little time in signing in with a division rival, joining Marvin Lewis’s Cincinnati staff in mid-November.
“Left Cleveland, goes down to Cincinnati,” the Browns' rookie quarterback told reporters after throwing for four touchdowns to help his squad improve to 4-6-1 at the expense of the Bengals, who have lost three straight to fall to 5-6. “I don’t know.
"That’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. Everybody can have their spin on it, but that’s how I feel.”
Browns cornerback Damarious Randall showed how he felt early in the second quarter after intercepting a pass by Andy Dalton. Finding himself near the Bengals' sideline, Randall took the opportunity to give Jackson the wrong kind of game ball, a gesture met by the coach with a pat on the helmet.
Saying of Randall’s troll job, “I love it,” fellow Browns defensive back Jabrill Peppers added that it “was probably one of my best moments of the game, even though he could’ve scored."
"It was definitely worth it to see Hue’s face, man,” Peppers said.
Asked after the game if he saw Randall’s act, Mayfield replied that he “did not,” offering an, “Oh, jeez,” with a chuckle. “Surprising? No, not really, out of Damarious,” he said.
As soon as Sunday’s game ended, Mayfield appeared to rebuff Jackson’s attempt to give him something — a hug. The quarterback was willing to shake hands with Jackson but kept his former coach quite literally at arm’s length.
“Um, yeah, it was brief. I didn’t feel like talking,” Mayfield said of the exchange.
“It’s the NFL and it’s a business, but he was our head coach the last two and a half years,’’ Browns offensive lineman Joel Bitonio said of Jackson (via cleveland.com). “He was part of our organization and I know he tries to get back in it with Marvin, and it’s not disrespectful or anything but there are some personal issues to that. I mean, he went back to the enemy. We’ve got him two times this year. You bring a guy in because he knows your offense, there’s definitely some energy that you can pull from that.’’
Asked if he felt that Jackson was the cause of the Browns' early struggles this season, Mayfield replied, “No. What it comes down to is we still have the same players. We just had to play better."
Mayfield has certainly been playing better since Jackson’s departure. In six games with Jackson, the former Heisman Trophy winner threw for eight touchdowns against six interceptions, with a 1-4 record as a starter. Since the firing, he has gone 2-1 with nine touchdowns and just one pick.
“We have people that we believe in calling the plays now,” Mayfield said.
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