Baker Mayfield Has Officially Arrived (In The Lineup), And The Browns Are Officially Back (In The Win Column)
It happened. It finally happened.
The number 635 has been thrown around ad nauseam, as - prior to last night - that’s the depressing amount of consecutive times with which the sun had both risen and set on the city of Cleveland without it’s inhabitants having been able to celebrate a single victory for their professional football team.
However, the picture I’m looking at is much bigger than the conclusion of some near crippling, 21 month long drought from all things encouraging. After all, last night didn’t just provide Browns’ fans the long overdue ability to exhale the booziest of deep breathes. It also, for the first time in an amount of days that’s probably a hell of a lot closer to 6,035 (if not 60,035), gave them a glimpse at a passer who wore the healthiest shade of shit while performing as though his didn’t stink.
There’s plenty of reasons not to overreact to what Baker Mayfield was able to do by instantly injecting energy and optimism into literally everyone invested in a long suffering organization. It’s not like the Jets, who couldn’t even flog the Dolphins after blowing their load against the Lions, are particularly good. It’s not as though they had catered their game-plan to stopping a rookie quarterback who appeared in relief of someone whose arm talent is much more limited. It can definitely be argued that a defense that had grown accustomed to watching Tyrod Taylor over and under throw his receivers under the bus was lulled into a false of security that was soon after exploited by an opponent they didn’t expect to see.
All that being said, there’s even more reasons why we should slightly overreact to a half of football from someone who turned a Thursday night matchup between two teams that could ruin a wet dream, never mind a rookie quarterback, into must watch television. For one, that’s what we, as a football-viewing collective, always do whenever a first year quarterback doesn’t look as lost as a prepubescent freshman on the first day of high school. More importantly, however, the only thing stopping me from saying that Baker Mayfield immediately started making chicken salad out of chicken shit is that what he served up was much more appetizing to the eye than some mayo-based mess. Qualifying someone as a "winner" is a little vague for my tastes, but I'll be damned if you couldn't feel the momentum swing through the screen with each passing completion. In comparison to Sam Darnold (someone who was 11 days removed from being lauded for his work during a much less impressive introduction to the NFL), Baker Mayfield carried himself, and an offense that suddenly looked confident, like a seasoned veteran while leading a team whose veteran signal callers rarely last more than a season.
The truth is, Tyrod Taylor would have drop punted the ball on 2nd down if the alternative was to attempt the picture perfect throw that Baker Mayfield wired to a well-covered Jarvis Landry in bringing the Browns to the brink of evening things up. So yeah, it was just one game, but it was one game that was taken over by a player that certainly showed he belonged.
At the very least, I think we can say that, barring a catastrophe, there won't be any new names added to the back of a jersey that represents quarterback failures that go a lot further back than 2016. The Cleveland Browns might be something close to appointment television, and - as I live and breathe - the star of the show is actually under center. That's definitely something we couldn't have said yesterday afternoon.