Before I dive in here, I kick this off by addressing two very obvious facts:
1) I’m aware it’s preseason, so any judgments need to be taken with a grain of salt.
2) I still think the Cleveland Browns are taking the right approach in having Tyrod Taylor start at quarterback to open the regular season.
With that said, I couldn’t help but marvel once again while watching rookie Baker Mayfield in last night’s preseason finale. Cleveland’s latest attempt at a franchise savior displayed poise and accuracy throughout the first half. He stayed composed in the pocket at all times, while his incompletions were only a result of dropped passes or throwaways.
It’s obviously still too early to claim the Browns may finally have their QB of the future. At the same time, when watching Mayfield, you can’t help but think of Cleveland’s numerous failed attempts at finding a franchise quarterback.
The reason for this is twofold. Every one of those flops had a fatal flaw which derailed their chances of being a star. When you watch Mayfield, you see how none of the issues those players displayed affect him whatsoever.
I should warn you, we’re about to dive into the rabbit hole when it comes to some of Cleveland’s infamous failed draft picks. It’s all for a good cause, but I’d advise you to grab a stiff drink just to be safe.
With that settled, go ahead and think back to every rookie QB the Browns have forced us to pin our hopes on, and the one biggest issue each one had. Now look at the film we’ve seen from Mayfield so far and realize how little you have to worry about those issues with him.
The accuracy he’s shown is unbelievable, as you’re never forced to utter the words “I wonder who he meant to throw that to” (DeShone Kizer). Mayfield has not only been able to consistently hit his intended receivers, but also shown an ability to put the ball where only they can get it.
His arm strength isn’t limited, as he’s had no issues when it comes to throwing a long ball (Colt McCoy, Cody Kessler). Not only can he throw it deep, he can do so without losing his aforementioned accuracy (Brandon Weeden).
As mentioned, Mayfield’s pocket presence has been something to behold. He’s quick to go through his reads, never locking on to his first option and forcing the ball into coverage (Charlie Frye). He also doesn’t panic and throw ineffective check-downs when his first read is unavailable (Brady Quinn).
Most importantly, the abrasive attitude many seemed to worry about with Mayfield hasn’t been an issue whatsoever. He’s shown this arrogance comes more from a desire to win, and less from just being a cocky ass (Johnny Manziel).
That last one was necessary to call out, if only because it seemed most Browns fans who were unhappy with the Mayfield selection were reacting based on Vietnam flashbacks from the Manziel era. They saw the former’s brash leadership and immediately pictured the clown-show we endured during the latter’s two-year stint in Cleveland (and the NFL in general).
I’d like to think nobody still worries about Mayfield being a Manziel clone anymore. It’s just another example of the Browns’ latest rookie bucking the negative trends we’ve seen from the past.
Again, though, I’m 100% OK with the idea of letting Mayfield sit as long as need be through the upcoming season. No quarterback has gotten worse by waiting to take the reins, but we’ve seen plenty of examples of them failing because they were tossed out too early (Tim Couch).
That said, it’s the Browns we’re talking about. With this team, it’s always about the rookie QB, the latest attempt to find stability at a position we’ve seen get woefully mismanaged year after year.
We can’t say for sure the team finally found its guy in Mayfield. That said, we’ve seen plenty of defects in the rookies Cleveland has trotted out in attempt to end the still-running carousel of failed QBs.
We’ve yet to see any of those flaws with Mayfield.