Rookie Baker Mayfield Named Starting Quarterback for Cleveland Browns

Baker Mayfield’s heard all about the Browns’ quarterback misery, the horrid history of failures and flops since 1999.

From Tim Couch to Jeff Garcia to Derek Anderson to Johnny Manziel and so many others, 29 quarterbacks have started in Cleveland before Mayfield, who isn’t taking any pride in being No. 30.

“It’s 2018,” he said. “Don’t really care.”

But maybe 30’s a charm for Cleveland.

As expected, Browns coach Hue Jackson named Mayfield the team’s new starter on Monday, just days after the No. 1 overall pick replaced an injured Tyrod Taylor and dazzled in his pro debut by rallying the Browns to a 21-17 come-from-behind win over the New York Jets — Cleveland’s first since 2016.

Taylor’s concussion forced the Browns to alter their plans and play Mayfield sooner than anticipated.

The Heisman Trophy winner didn’t disappoint.

“There was nothing that I saw that he wasn’t ready to handle,” Jackson said. “He went out there in some tough situations down 14 and late in the second quarter and handled all of that extremely well and went and played well. So he checked off every box from me.”

Under the national TV spotlight, Mayfield came in late in the first half and showed a seasoned veteran’s poise. He made quick decisions and even quicker throws while completing 17 of 23 passes for 201 yards in just more than one half.

It was quite an entrance.

“He nailed it,” Jackson said. “I saw him make more plays with the guys. “I saw the ball being spread around, the ball going to the right person. I saw the offense start to make plays up and down the field.”

Mayfield seemed to be the only one not enthralled with his performance, which ended with Browns fans signing his name as they partied outside FirstEnergy Stadium following Cleveland’s first win in 635 days.

He has bigger plans.

“I didn’t come here just to win one game and I didn’t come here just to start the next,” he said. “We’re building a franchise here and we’re turning it around. It’s about culture, so being that same person every day, which means finding that happy medium, never listening to the outside noise.”

Jackson said he hopes Taylor will be cleared from concussion protocol in time to back up Mayfield on Sunday against the Raiders. If not, veteran Drew Stanton will be active.

As for Mayfield, Jackson has been impressed with his quick development and acknowledged the switch happened sooner than he anticipated. But Jackson is also confident Mayfield is prepared to take the starting job and run with it — it’s why the Browns took him ahead of every other player in the draft.

“I mean this was a guy that we picked together, that (general manager) John (Dorsey) and myself and the personnel department, the coaching staff, that we went all-in on unanimously and said this is the guy for the future,” he said.

Taylor’s influence helped accelerated the learning curve for Mayfield. The Browns signed Taylor, who guided Buffalo to the playoffs last season, to serve as a “bridge” quarterback until Mayfield was ready. But although that connection is complete, Jackson said the team needs Taylor.

“He’s right here, not going anywhere,” Jackson said. “That’s important. Part of Baker being able to play like he did was because of Tyrod and Drew, so I don’t want to upset that room that way. Tyrod’s going to be needed. He’s the backup quarterback on this team if he’s healthy. He’s played and his teammates know who he is and the way he goes about the rhythm of his game.

“So I think it’s always good to have that kind of depth at that position.”

SOURCE: The Associated Press, Tom Withers