First it was the loud boos. Then the chants. Finally, the Cleveland Browns had no choice.
Top overall pick Baker Mayfield made his regular-season debut.
Mayfield got forced on the field late in the second quarter on Thursday night, despite how badly Browns coach Hue Jackson didn’t want to make the move (which was always strange). Tyrod Taylor was awful on Thursday night against the New York Jets. It was the third straight week Taylor struggled. Then Taylor suffered what appeared to be a concussion and was taken back to the locker room.
When Mayfield came on the field with 1:42 left, the Browns fans cheered, for what seemed like the first time all night.
Top overall picks at quarterback don’t sit anymore. It’s an outdated notion. The fact that Jackson would make Mayfield wait, while the Browns started 0-1-1 and the offense went nowhere, seemed crazy, especially after seeing what Mayfield could bring to the offense in his first drive.
Baker Mayfield gives Browns fans something to cheer
Mayfield’s first two throws were great. He hit Jarvis Landry for 14 yards. Then he threw a rocket to David Njoku downfield. He led a drive for a field goal. The Browns were losing 14-0 before that. Mayfield was 3-of-4 for 47 yards that drive. Taylor was 4-of-14 for 19 yards before he exited with an injury.
It’s not a big surprise that Mayfield gave the Browns a quick boost. He is a talented player and we saw his skills on display in the preseason. That’s why Browns fans were calling for him as Taylor struggled on Thursday night.
Why Jackson didn’t want to play him before he was forced to is anyone’s guess.
Hue Jackson didn’t want to play Mayfield
The Browns strangely never even considered letting Mayfield compete for the starting job. No good reason was given. Taylor took all the reps with the starters in practice too, as Jackson said Taylor needed to get all the reps he could in a new system.
Taylor was a solid quarterback with the Buffalo Bills, but he didn’t make Jackson’s stubbornness look smart early this season. Taylor struggled most of Week 1, settled for almost all dump-off passes for most of Cleveland’s Week 2 game, and then looked miserable in the first half of Week 3 before he was injured. And still, no Baker, at least not voluntarily.
Mayfield’s debut came later than most recent top picks
It’s a myth that first-round picks at quarterback need to sit. Some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL played right away as rookies. Dating back to 2006, every No. 1 overall pick at quarterback started every possible game with the exceptions of JaMarcus Russell, who held out until the regular season started, and Jared Goff, who was coached by Jeff Fisher. Mayfield joined that group this year.
Mayfield looked great winning a Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma, and he looked very good in the preseason. Everyone who has seen him play knows the skill level he has.
Jackson was forced to play Mayfield on Thursday. It will be interesting to see what his decision is when Taylor is healthy again.
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