It’s just one game. I know it’s just one game. As sports fans, we tend to make so many gut reactions, immediately crowning a player as boom or bust despite having small sample sizes to work with. I get that.
With this out of the way, what Baker Mayfield did last night can’t be overstated. In just a little over one half of football, the rookie quarterback showed he could potentially put to bed so many annoying Cleveland Browns clichés we know all too well.
Everyone’s aware of how snake-bitten this franchise is. The list of quarterbacks who’ve played for the Browns since 1999 seems long enough to stretch across the country. None of them have even remotely looked like a sure-fire bet to stop the revolving door.
Cleveland’s ability to draft, or lack thereof, is national fodder. The team is so often better known for the players it passes on than the ones it actually selects.
And, of course, the Browns came into Thursday’s prime-time contest with the New York Jets having not won a football game in almost two years.
Mayfield took care of that one last night, and while it’s still too early to make any definitive statements, he sure showed he has the potential to erase the other stigmas as well.
It took the rookie just one drive to surpass the yardage Browns starter Tyrod Taylor collected in six. Stepping into the game after Taylor left to be evaluated for a concussion, Mayfield injected life into an offense which was playing without a pulse.
What he also did was instill a sense of confidence we haven’t seen from a Browns quarterback since Bernie Kosar.
With every single throw Mayfield made last night, you knew where he was going with it. You sensed he had found an uncovered option and was going to get him the ball. On some passes, Mayfield was literally throwing his receivers open.
When’s the last time a Cleveland QB made you feel that way? When’s the last time you saw a Browns quarterback get the ball and think “I bet we score on this drive”?
Right now, the answer to that question is “last night.” With Mayfield under center, you just had a sense Cleveland was going to pull off the win. Based on the reactions we’ve seen from the players, it sure seems like that was the feeling on the sideline as well.
Consider, also, how last night was yet another opportunity for people to scoff at the Browns’ draft history.
For the third year in a row, Cleveland found itself playing against a quarterback it passed on in Sam Darnold. Many – myself included – initially felt the USC standout was the right choice for the Browns at first overall. Despite the fact Mayfield wasn’t supposed to be on the field last night, people still would’ve ran with the “can you believe the Browns passed on this guy” narrative had Darnold played well.
Instead, Mayfield needed just one half of work to outplay Darnold. Cleveland fans didn’t have to suffer the same mockery they endured when watching Carson Wentz or Deshaun Watson shred the Browns. They didn’t leave a game wondering “what if we drafted that guy instead.”
Again, it was just one game. This is a fact I’ve had to repeat to myself all day, if only to keep emotions in check. Mayfield now needs to prove this wasn’t just a flash in the pan showing, that he can succeed when his opponent has a week to scheme against him.
That said, the Browns came back and won their first game in two years, and did so thanks to superb play from their rookie quarterback.
It’s OK to celebrate such a thing. It’s been so long since you’ve experienced anything like it.