I’m not ashamed to admit it. As I watched Tyrod Taylor struggle this past Sunday in the Cleveland Browns‘ season opener, I was vocally underwhelmed. I candidly shared my feelings on Twitter, a place where every statement is always well-thought out and rational…
I’ll admit, these were gut reactions which didn’t account for things such as weather and Taylor’s still-developing chemistry with his wideouts. After letting the dust settle, I’m also willing to concede it’s indeed way too early to start calling for Browns rookie Baker Mayfield to take over at QB.
I know I wasn’t alone in my instant reaction to Taylor’s performance. I’ve seen many “just put the kid in now” comments both in and outside of Cleveland. Polls have been posted asking fans to vote on whether they believe the Browns would’ve won Sunday had Mayfield been playing.
Adding another wrinkle was watching New York Jets rookie Sam Darnold shine in his debut, creating ammo for fans wondering why Cleveland won’t pull the trigger and start its first-round pick, as well.
I personally can’t wait to see what the Browns have in Mayfield. With that said, I still think it’s too soon to start calling for him to get on the field.
Make no mistake – this is less about how prepared I feel Mayfield is, and more about ensuring Taylor gets a fair chance. Claiming he received that and more after just one regular season game would be extremely off-base.
This isn’t to say Taylor played well on Sunday. There’s no denying he struggled, as going 15-for-40 with 197 yards passing is hardly what you’d call inspiring. He also showed too much indecisiveness at times, taking sacks instead of pulling the trigger on a pass.
Cleveland clearly needs to see more from him if it expects to finally land in the win column. Despite that, opening the door for Mayfield now would be a mistake.
For one, I’m going to go ahead and predict Taylor won’t be trying to complete passes in a monsoon every Sunday.
Last weekend’s weather was atrocious, and ignoring this when analyzing Taylor’s performance would be unfair. While there’s no guarantee he’ll light up the scoreboard under better conditions, he at least needs a chance to show how much of his performance was weather-related.
On top of this, it’s clear Taylor still needs to develop chemistry with his wideouts. He only logged about three full quarters of action in the preseason, and one of his top receivers – Josh Gordon – was absent for the bulk of training camp. The offense in general needs to get into a rhythm before we can make concrete judgments on any player.
What really needs to be considered, though, is the giant mess an early QB swap would create for this team.
Browns coach Hue Jackson has spent the past six months insisting Taylor is his starter, that the goal this year is to avoid having to play Mayfield too soon. Cleveland came into the season with a plan at quarterback for the first time since…ever, ensuring everyone within the locker room knows the days of cycling through quarterbacks left and right were finally going to be in the past.
To, after all of this, double back and decide one lackluster showing from Taylor is enough to open the door for Mayfield to take the job would send this team right back into its usual chaos. Jackson would be rightly skewered for deciding to undo months of planning, while an offense still trying to gel would be thrown into a state of flux.
All in all, even hinting a swap is possible this early would result in the Browns once again looking like a team without a plan, just flying by the seat of its pants and constantly getting in its own way.
Of course, the best way to quiet the calls for Mayfield would be to start winning games. Make no mistake, if the Week 3 Thursday night contest against Darnold and the Jets comes and goes and the Browns are still winless, the calls for a swap will be louder than ever. Suddenly you’d have a coach in Jackson who entered the season on the hot seat desperately trying to do something, anything to notch his first victory since Christmas Eve 2016.
For now, though, fans and pundits need to pump the breaks on the Mayfield chatter. His time will come, and it’ll likely be this year.
That said, it shouldn’t come without giving Taylor enough of a chance to prove himself first.