The Cleveland Browns turned to rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield in the middle of what would be their first win since 2016 over the New York Jets in Week 3 on Thursday Night Football. And there’s no turning back from Mayfield now.
Two massively significant things took place for the Cleveland Browns Thursday night. First, the obvious. Cleveland won its first game since 2016, ending what had been arguably the worst stretch for any professional franchise in recent sports memory. But more importantly, the Browns’ top investment from the 2018 NFL Draft, quarterback Baker Mayfield, ended up being a key reason why.
The Browns’ 21-17 Thursday Night Football win over the visiting New York Jets wasn’t exactly a pretty game. And the first quarter-plus was about as boring, sloppy and uninspiring as it could get.
A major reason why was the ineffective play of veteran Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who started the game, yet went a measly 4-of-14 for 19 yards.
Yes, 19 yards.
It would have been one thing if Taylor had been lining up opposite one of the league’s elite defenses. But the Jets were playing their third game in 11 days, which is incredibly taxing on any defense. Instead, Taylor was just plain bad.
Like this kind of bad:
Tyrod Taylor threw a beautiful TD pass to Manti Te’o’s girlfriend
— Someone's An Idiot (@SomeonesAnIdiot) September 21, 2018
Browns head coach Hue Jackson could have made the decision to swap out Taylor and go with Mayfield at nearly any point in the first half. Instead, circumstance made the decision for Jackson.
On a 3rd-and-12 play at the Jets 35-yard line, Taylor took a sack and suffered what appeared to be a concussion. Jackson had no choice. Mayfield was going in.
And the rest, well… is history.
Mayfield was 17-of-23 for 201 yards and a passer rating of 100.1 over the remaining two-plus quarters. With that performance, there’s zero way Jackson can justify, outside of injury to his rookie, going back to Taylor at all for the rest of the season.
Jackson told reporters after the game he’d have to look at the film before deciding which quarterback gets the start in Week 4. But that’s a foregone conclusion. The decision is already made for him. And while some may criticize Jackson’s comments, wondering why there would even be any question to the matter, it’s still prudent for Jackson to inform his two quarterbacks first before releasing his intentions to the media.
We all know what decision that should be. It’s Mayfield show from here onward.
“I’ve just been waiting for my moment,” Mayfield said after the game, via ESPN. “I’m just getting started.”
So is Cleveland’s offense too. A year ago, one should have scoffed at how Jackson threw in then-rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer into a talent-lacking Browns squad with few supporting weapons to help him. But the Browns’ 2018 scenario is vastly different. Running back Carlos Hyde, who rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns in the contest, has invigorated the ground game. Wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway have looked sharp too.
As a result, the Browns have graduated from must-avoid television to moderately watchable. Heck, perhaps enjoyable to an extent.
It’s a joy to watch Mayfield too. He’s going to be the pinnacle Cleveland storyline after being selected No. 1 overall in this year’s draft. With this performance en route to the Browns’ first win since 2016, why should it be any different? It’s Mayfield’s show.
And it needs to stay that way for the rest of the year and beyond.