Hue Jackson was fired eight games into the season after a 2-5-1 start, his best in 2.5 years as the Browns' coach. He left Cleveland with a 3-36-1 mark and the 0.088 winning percentage was the worst in team history. But Jackson wasn't out of work long; several weeks later he joined the Bengals' coaching staff as a special assistant to coach Marvin Lewis.
Lewis, who fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and replaced him with ... himself, told reporters that Jackson, who has been an offensive coach for most of his career, would "assist with players on the field and with us defensively with the implementation and development of the plan and, you know, he'll continue to look at things analytically."
"Yes, yes, it will be a lot of motivation going into Cincinnati week because [Jackson's] over there," Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins told Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot on Tuesday. "Absolutely. From him coming to Cleveland it's been hard, and we grinded it out with him. We're not going to put too much pressure on it, but we're going to go out and play ball."
Defensive end Chris Smith is also looking forward to the reunion.
"We're going to talk to a little junk to him, too," Smith said. "But it ain't who you play, it's how you play, and it's a division game. It's all about us right now. We're trying to stack two wins back-to-back so it's really on our preparation."
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams replaced Jackson in Cleveland on an interim basis and Freddie Kitchens is now the offensive coordinator after Todd Haley was fired. But Higgins isn't concerned that Jackson's knowledge of offense will be a disadvantage for the Browns.
"At the end of the day, it's up to us to execute our plays like I've been preaching for the last couple of weeks," Higgins said. "It's not what Hue Jackson knows, it's about how we go out and do our thing. We're not worried about it. We're just going to go out and play."
Smith, meanwhile, admitted that the Bengals could gain an advantage from Jackson's insights.
"Of course he's going to know some things, and I congratulated him on getting the hire,'' he said. "Coach Jackson is one of my friends. Gregg (Williams) always says it not about if the other team knows what we're doing as long as we know what we're doing and we can execute.''
Smith added: "We might tweak some things a little bit as far as terminology and things of that nature but we're still going to do what we do, play aggressive on defense and special teams and offense. It's about playing with toughness and imposing our will on everybody."
The Browns are looking for their fourth win of the season, something they haven't managed since the 2014 season when Mike Pettine was coach and the team was atop the AFC North in Week 12 with a 7-4 record. The wheels promptly fell off, and Cleveland finished 7-9. But it was a glimpse of what success looked like. And for the first time in more than three years, the Browns are again tasting success.
"It'll be a weird for a minute to see [Jackson]," linebacker Christian Kirksey said, "but you can't think about that. You have to think about the game and just think about winning."