Hue Jackson and Baker Mayfield

USA Today

The New Cleveland Browns

This crew is different.

November 26, 2018 - 9:16 am
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Let me give you a little peek behind the scenes. When it comes to the start of a Monday show, there’s a lot to choose from because a lot happened over the weekend: college football, NBA, college basketball, hockey, but usually, the focus is on the NFL and more specifically on one of the elite teams that played on Sunday. 

But in that regard, today is kind of weird. Kansas City and the Rams were off, the Saints were one of the six teams that played on Thanksgiving, the Patriots played the Jets and I’ll have something on that later, so who does that leave?

The other elite team in the National Football League. I’m talking about America’s Team. I’m talking about the Cleveland Browns. Yeah I said it. And I’ve been saying it. 

America’s Team rolled into Cincinnati to face the Bengals and their old coach, Hue Jackson. And they were so New Browns about it that it hurt. Yeah, I said New Browns, because these aren’t your father’s Browns. They aren’t even last year’s Browns. This crew is different. They play with an attitude and SWAGGER.

Like defensive back Damarious Randall who declared on Friday that if the Bengals didn’t have AJ Green, “they’re getting their ass beat.”

Well, Cincy didn’t have AJ Green. And they DID get their ass beat. 35-20. The New Cleveland Browns, talking junk and backing it up. And nobody backed it up better than Randall. 

With nine minutes left in the first half and Cleveland leading 21-0, Randall did this. 

Andy Dalton completely air mails that pass, Randall picks it off near midfield, could’ve had a nice return, but instead, he runs over to the Bengals sideline and hands it to Hue Jackson. His former boss. 

And that wasn’t a tribute. That was vengeance. And it was awesome.

Hue Jackson gets fired by Cleveland and then is brought in to help the Bengals beat the Browns when they meet in November and December. And promptly gets his head, and a game ball handed to him by his old team. 

Win the game, and he probably gets a game ball in the locker room. Lose the game, and he’s getting a game ball on the field. 

And Randall’s teammates loved it. Take safety Jabrill Peppers: “That was great. That was probably my [favorite] part of the game 'cause he had a pick-six. He had a pick-six. He had blockers. He had the sideline. He saw Hue. He gave him the ball. So swaggy. The way he did it was just so swaggy, man. You need that. You need that out of your free safety, man, to get the guys picked up. We knew how big this game was and we wanted to come out on top."

It was cool.  IT WAS AWESOME. But was it worth giving up field position and a possible pick six, Jabrill? “It was worth it. It was so worth it. Then (the look on) coach Hue’s face, man – oh my God. It was definitely worth it, man.”

And the only look worse than one of his former players finding him on the sideline and handing him the ball he just picked, was HUE’S reaction to it: Randall clowns Hue badly and Hue responds by taking the ball and patting Randall on the helmet, totally oblivious to how badly Randall just humiliated him. Hue couldn’t have looked any more oblivious than he did in that moment. Even more oblivious than he was the entire time he was winning just one game in two seasons as the Browns’ head coach. Even more oblivious than Browns ownership for keeping Hue around as long as they did. 

And Randall wasn’t the only one who was fired up to see Hue Jackson on the opposing sideline. Baker Mayfield, who had a career-high 4 touchdown passes and a rating of 143.9, had some hot sauce in the postgame presser too. But before we get to the presser, how about a quick note about his postgame handshake with Jackson.

Hue went in for the hug, Mayfield, instead, hit him with a handshake. And not just any handshake but the dead fish handshake. And was backpedaling the entire time. Mayfield was like Darrelle Revis in his prime, sinking the hips and getting flexion in the knees and ankles, and backpedaling away to avoid anything more than a handshake with Jackson. 

Why? Well, I’ll let Mayfield explain: 

"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. Everybody can have their spin on it, but that's how I feel."

And there’s more. "That's how it is now. That's how I'm going to treat it every time I play him. It's nothing ... You know ... There's no hate. That's just how it is. That's how I'm going to treat it, and I think that's how our team's treated it, too."

Oh, by the way, have you noticed how much better Mayfield has been since Jackson and Todd Haley were fired? He was good before, he’s great now. If you’re a Browns fan, and we all should be, that’s what should get you really hyped. Forget that you just beat the Bengals and your old coach, Baker Mayfield is playing like a legend and breaking records on a weekly basis. He literally is changing the vibe and culture of the entire organization. The fact that this guy was ever, even compared to Johnny Manziel is impossible to fathom. 

The old Cleveland Browns would’ve watched their coach get hired by their rival mid-season and then promptly lost two games to them. The New Cleveland Browns watched their coach get hired by their rival mid-season, talked junk about it, beat him, humiliated him, and then talked more junk about it afterwards.

They’re not scared. They’re not intimidated. And they are awesome. And they’ll let you know about it. 

Just ask Damarious Randall about whether he was concerned that Hue Jackson was telling the Bengals all the Browns secrets: “We ain’t got no secrets, we’re talented, that’s the secret. I promise you, we’re talented. Everybody in the world knows we’re talented.’’ 

Hell yes. America’s Team. The Cleveland Browns. Browns fans, am I the only one today who is going to hype you. Or are you going to get your ass in here, show your team some love and stick your chest out some. Because for the first time, in a long time, you can!