When Baker Mayfield was drafted with the first overall pick in the 2018 Draft, I was very skeptical about what the Cleveland Browns’ plan was with the former Heisman Trophy winner. There were other quarterbacks that were more ready to play right now such as Josh Rosen, or players with better arm strength such as Josh Allen. I also thought that it would be beneficial to the Browns to wait maybe one more year and draft Drew Lock from Mizzou in this year’s draft.
Even after the Browns selected Mayfield, I still was not on the Baker hype train, on both my podcast and my radio show I was saying that he should not see the field this year and that he should learn under an experienced leader like Tyrod Taylor.
However, as time went on and Taylor’s play continued to be less than impressive, I began to run out of excuses for Baker to not see the field and for Browns fans to not at least get a taste of the potential future of this once proud franchise. It is my opinion that the best thing that happened to the Browns this year is the unfortunate injury to Tyrod Taylor in that game against the Jets.
Mayfield, who has a long history of playing well when the spotlight shines brightest, (i.e. his performance in the college football playoff last year) was once again thrust into the spotlight. While watching the game on my couch, I was incredibly impressed with the poise and confidence that he entered the game with. There was not a single point in time throughout that game that the moment ever seemed too big for Baker. The offense seemed to have a higher confidence, as well as an intangible feeling of wanting to come up with big plays for this rookie. This is not to say that the team didn’t want to play for Tyrod Taylor, but there just seemed to be more excitement by the playmakers on the offensive side when Mayfield was calling the plays.
After completing the comeback win, the first for the Browns since December of 2015, I was still not convinced that Mayfield was the franchise quarterback many were proclaiming him as. Even Tim Couch could play an impressive half of football and being the cynical Browns fan that I am, my heart hardened by years of losing/non-competitive teams being put on the field. I was not ready to name Baker the heir to the throne.
Against the Raiders in his first start is when I really started to believe in Mayfield. I saw that same confidence continue to grow, even after making a few mistakes like a pick-6 to start the game. He did not allow anything to shake him. Even after Carlos Hyde got jobbed by the referees of a first down call to win the game in regulation, Baker didn’t lose his cool and attempted to drive the Browns down the field to win the game. While he did not win the game and forced the ball a few times, overall this game made me realize how much confidence this guy really has that he is the best player on the field at all times.
I now sit here Monday following what I would call the signature win I was looking for to finally put my confidence behind the rookie quarterback. Mayfield threw the game’s only touchdown and once again didn’t lost confidence when Greg Joseph clanked the extra point off the upright (which would have won the game in regulation for the Browns). In overtime, with the Browns backed up in their own end, Mayfield made a play that only franchise quarterbacks can make. After scrambling to pick up the yards lost on a terrible play call for a double reverse. On the following play, he avoided the rush of the Ravens and made a throw downfield to Derrick Willies that left everyone in shock. Most importantly, though, he won the Cleveland Browns a football game and as long as he continues to do so, I have no problem admitting I was wrong about one Baker Reagan Mayfield.