Mayfield now the man
Now that Baker Mayfield has been anointed the 30th starting quarterback for the Browns since 1999, it’s time to greet the news with a dose of reality.
What fans saw last Thursday night against the New York Jets was refreshing, to say the least, and somewhat awe-inspiring with regard to where the future of this franchise lies.
Coach Hue Jackson saw that, too, on the field and on tape. His decision to elevate Mayfield to the top spot on the depth chart was not only inevitable, it was maybe the easiest he’ll make all season.
From the moment the top selection in this year’s college draft trotted onto the field to the moment he trotted triumphantly to the locker room, magic wafted over the field en route to the Browns’ 21-17 victory.
It was almost as though the epiphany Browns fans have longed for all these years was taking place right before their eyes and the eyes of those who watched on national television.
Fans, especially those who have suffered with the ill-fated fortunes of the Browns over the last two decades, have a tendency to overreact when they witness the kind of football Mayfield played against the Jets.
Omigoodness, many must have thought enthusiastically as the rookie played the game of football in a manner with which they are not familiar. If this is any indication of what lies ahead, let me back on the bandwagon, some said, especially those who jumped off long ago when all hope seemed lost.
Therein lies a possible danger, though. Immediately latching onto a rising star such as Mayfield, who does indeed seem to have a star quality about him so early in his professional career, might be a little premature.
Reality unfortunately has a way of balancing the scales in unforeseen ways when it comes to predicting the future of someone as young as Mayfield. In the National Football League, fortunes turn suddenly. One game, or in this case half a game, is not the measuring stick of the future..
That’s not to say the kid won’t go out to Oakland Sunday and reprise his heroics in the Jets victory, lighting up the place against the Raiders. At the same time, it is entirely possible he might even surpass it.
It is also possible the Raiders will be ready for him now that they have tape on him with a sliver or two of insight as to some tendencies he might have inadvertently shown. Falling short of expectations is a distinct possibility.
There is no question, however, that he will take a certain amount of quiet swagger into this game probably along with some nervousness, which is to be expected. But strong personalities such as his have a way of overcoming those nerves.
The fact he is now the man, which is not surprising at all, comes at a time when this offense is in desperate need of a positive infusion. It was not getting it from Tyrod Taylor.
As cold as this sounds, it was a blessing in disguise the veteran quarterback was concussed late in the first half. There is no telling what Jackson would have done had Taylor been cleared from concussion protocol in the Jets game. Now we’ll never know.
When Mayfield grabbed his helmet and rushed onto the field several minutes later, he did not have time to think. Now he will have the benefit of a full week of taking all the reps with the starters. That in theory should make a difference.
It will be only step one of 13 for Mayfield, who will play the rest of the season with a bull’s-eye on the back of his uniform. Therein lies the big test, the one that will determine once and for all whether he is “the one” fans have been waiting for all these years.