I wrote an article recently saying that I wanted Baker Mayfield to start Week 1. After the Browns’ first preseason game, a 20-10 win over the New York Giants on the road, I still stand by that opinion despite the coaching staff starting the veteran, Tyrod Taylor, instead.
Both quarterbacks were excellent and that is good to see.
Taylor started the game and went 5/5 for 99 yards and a touchdown. Mayfield came in and went 11/20 for 212 yards and two touchdowns.
If the goal of this NFL season is to win as many games possible and to not think “big picture” then, of course, starting the solid and experienced quarterback makes sense. The Browns likely win a few more games under Taylor than just throwing Baker in Week 1 and seeing how he does.
But I, however, am more interested in the long term outlook of this team. After this season, Taylor will most likely sign a contract elsewhere and part ways with the franchise.
I am a firm believer that there is nothing in the NFL that can replace in-game reps during the regular season. Standing on the sideline, preseason and practice just doesn’t cut it.
Some might cite that DeShone Kizer started the season last year and he had a horrible year. Well, not only was he drafted on Day 2 and not with the number one overall pick, but the Browns have improved much more this year. In this small sample size of one preseason game, Baker appears to be capable of playing the NFL quarterback position.
Here’s my fear.
I don’t want another Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel franchise crisis. If Tyrod Taylor starts off the season and struggles, fans will be calling for Baker to start just like they did with Johnny Manziel. I loved Johnny and I think he never got a real shot here in Cleveland and he obviously had other issues he needed to take care of besides football. But I don’t think standing on the sideline behind Hoyer did him any justice.
You could also say that throwing Mayfield into the fire could drain his confidence if he starts to struggle and ultimately ruin his career. Again, a lot of rookies have a tough first year and have great careers. Just take Peyton Manning’s Colts for example. They went 3-13 and he threw 28 interceptions in 1998.
If a quarterback is meant to be in this league, he will be able to overcome the struggles of a difficult rookie season and find success down the road. I still believe DeShone Kizer could have a decent career in Green Bay but that remains to be seen.
The bottom line is if you feel having Baker wait a year to play in the NFL benefits him over starting him right away, then you are in the same boat as the Browns. But I feel like getting the rookie under center right away, a true taste of NFL football, is beneficial long term.
Tyrod Taylor is solid, but he isn’t going to win us a Super Bowl this season. He can serve as a great mentor to Mayfield and a very solid backup.
Moreover, I’d rather win fewer games with Mayfield progressing into a star than a decent season with Tyrod, a worse draft pick next year and ultimately having Baker start in 2019 anyway after Taylor is gone.
The best argument for starting Taylor is to build a winning culture in Cleveland, which I completely understand. But say the Browns win seven games this year and next year Baker struggles and the team only wins four. That’s a regression and not a progression.
From usually having no good quarterbacks to now having two very good quarterbacks, the Browns have a very interesting scenario on their hands and it will be a story to watch this season.
Regardless of who starts, I am just excited for the campaign to start and the Browns to actually win at least one game this season.