This was originally published in The Athletic.
There were only a handful of significant, lasting images from Sunday’s Bengals loss to the Browns. There was one of Vontaze Burfict swiping away trainer Paul Sparling’s hand in his latest mini-tantrum. There was a CBS graphic comparing resumes of the NFL’s longest-tenured head coaches that served as a visual reminder of what Marvin Lewis-coached teams haven’t accomplished. And right as the ninth loss of the season had been clinched, there were those of Baker Mayfield staring down Hue Jackson.
The Browns completed their first season sweep of the Bengals since 2002 with a 26-18 win that was not only far more lopsided than the final score indicates but that also seemed like a celebration of sorts for the home team. Cleveland has, in a span of 12 months, gone from punchline and punching bag to a franchise that seems to be on the verge of something big. Sunday’s game felt like a chance for Browns fans to rejoice in not only their team’s future, but also shedding its past, with their former failed coach in the house to endure the taunts.
The Browns, for the second time this season, didn’t just beat the Bengals decisively, but they trolled them, with their Assistant to the Head Coach being the target of the trolling. I don’t really believe Mayfield feels major personal enmity toward Hue Jackson, nor do I really believe that he should. Mayfield and Jackson had a professional relationship that lasted barely half a year, and while it’s very fair to wonder whether Hue should’ve handled his rookie quarterback’s initial NFL months differently, Mayfield was eventually going to be Cleveland’s starter, regardless of who his coach was.
But I still get was Mayfield was doing.
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(Photo: Getty Images)