Jackson coaching in Cincinnati probably doesn’t really bother the Browns locker room that much. But, for whatever their reasons, the Browns player leadership used him to energize their team to help embarrass their hosts in the first installment of 2018’s Battle of Ohio.
The second edition should be a spectacle when the Bengals travel to FirstEnergy Stadium with Jackson on their sideline. And the fans won’t, and we certainly won’t forget about it in the build-up to the showdown.
And Jackson’s dreaming if he’s expecting a warmer reception in Cleveland.
Like the players, Browns fans were not happy with their team’s futility for Jackson’s two-plus seasons, or the way he continually skirted responsibility and finger-pointed his way out of town and through the media rounds after his dismissal.
“We weren’t losing that game,” one Browns staffer told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “No way in hell were we losing that game.”
There are probably more concrete reasons for Baker Mayfield “cold-shouldering” Jackson before and after that game. He did call his former coach “fake” on Monday after taking backlash from ESPN’s “First Take” program commentator Damien Woody for his comments about Jackson jumping aboard with a divisional rival after his termination.
Mayfield responded to a FirstTake Instagram post video clip from the show. In the clip, Woody criticized Mayfield’s comments about Jackson considering he transferred from Texas Tech to Oklahoma, and the fiery rookie quarterback replied on the website with the following:
“Not even comparable... I didn’t lose 30(-plus) games be fake and then do that... I wasn’t gonna have a scholarship. Good try though buddy.”
Whatever. The two situations are miles away from being similar situations. Mayfield might be a little off-base for going so hard at Jackson, but it’s not because he’s a hypocrite because of his own situation.
And Damarious Randall’s hilarious “game ball” offering seemed a little too fated rather than any conscious or pre-planned effort to stick it to Jackson.
But the Browns’ response to Jackson’s dismissal, both positively in the win column and negatively in the petty—albeit hilarious—response to trouncing his new team on their home field, has been a clear signal that his team simply didn’t respect him.
Contrary to popular belief that Jackson is an elite and appealing coaching candidate—ideas perpetuated by his nice-guy attitude, his media buddies (mouthpieces) like Mike Silver, and his past accomplishments—it’s becoming more and more clear how over his head he was when asked to lead an entire football team. And despite the popular sentiment around his name, he just never earned his locker room’s trust.
Hiring Todd Haley was a last-ditch effort to save himself. Instead of helping solve his team’s issues, though, he continued deflecting blame and reportedly clashing with his coordinator. It was his feeble attempt to preserve his “good” name, and it backfired, big time.
And to be perfectly honest, it’s not surprising he went crawling back to Marvin Lewis’s waiting arms. After he embarrassed himself on every media outlet in the country, it was hard to imagine any other franchise employing him or affording him any kind of role in the near-term.
The Browns have plenty of reasons to act the way they have towards their former coach. No one outside their locker room, especially media folks with no access like Damien Woody, gets to criticize them for it, either.
It doesn’t matter why they don’t respect him, or why they wanted to beat him so badly. They used his contrived betrayal to come together to stick it to their former coach.
And it worked.
The Browns hadn’t won a road game since 2014. They ran the Bengals, with Jackson on their sidelines, off their own field in one of the most decisive road wins by a Browns team that I’ve ever seen.
If that’s what it takes, then contrive some more controversies, please.
Apologize to no one.