Cleveland Browns: Tyrod Taylor is the starter, but for how long?
By Mike Lukas
Head coach Hue Jackson has declared Tyrod Taylor the starting quarterback. Will that hold true if No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield shows him up?
As it stands right now, the 2018 Cleveland Browns quarterback depth chart looks like this: No. 1, Tyrod Taylor. No. 2, Drew Stanton. And No. 3, rookie Baker Mayfield.
Head coach Hue Jackson swears this order will not change despite Mayfield being the Browns’ first pick in the first round of this recent draft. And despite every Browns fan being desperate for this kid to be the franchise savior.
Even Mayfield himself seems okay with sitting — for now.
When asked in a conference call about his “not going to settle for a backup job” comments at the NFL combine, Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot reports Mayfield’s answer as:
"“[Taylor] is a veteran that has been in the league, a guy that I can sit behind and learn from. When I say those types of things, it is because I am competitive. If I came in with the mindset of just being happy that I got drafted and just to settle for a backup job, that wouldn’t be myself.” — said Mayfield via Cabot of Cleveland.com"
That’s exactly what Browns fans want to hear.
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Especially after watching last season’s talented rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer lose every game he started. Oh yeah, and (even more especially) after watching the parade of failed superstar rookie quarterbacks the Browns threw to the NFL wolves prior to that – Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel and Cody Kessler.
Jackson obviously agrees, saying to Cleveland.com:
"“We have been playing young quarterbacks here in Cleveland for the past two years and putting them in some tough situations.” — Said Jackson via Cabot of Cleveland.com"
Ya think, coach?
Hopefully by now everyone from the Browns front office to their entire coaching staff has learned their lesson about pushing a leadership role onto someone who has zero experience leading a pro team in the NFL.
After all, isn’t that exactly why the team picked up Taylor from the Buffalo Bills in the first place?
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It can’t be a coincidence that Browns general manager John Dorsey chose Taylor right before selecting Mayfield. Taylor is a six-foot one-ish scrambler with a style of play that excels outside the pocket – basically a Mayfield doppelganger with some extra speed, a slightly stronger arm and years of actual NFL experience that includes the playoffs.
Taylor is the NFL-ready version of what Dorsey, Jackson, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Browns fans everywhere hope Mayfield can eventually become and far exceed.
Key word: eventually.
That’s the plan – let this talented rookie watch the more experienced Taylor from the sidelines this season and let him get hungry. Give Mayfield plenty of time to safely read defenses, to learn how to play under center, to prove himself as a team leader who’s the first to arrive and the last to leave.
Let him gradually figure out how to adjust his own unique skill set (accurate thrower, quick processor and responder, natural leader, secure ball handler, red-zone effective) to where he can be consistently successful against the professional big boys.
Of course, all those carefully made plans of rookie quarterback patience (like similar past plans) go out the window the second the seasoned starter is injured. Because if that happens (again) and QB2 Stanton doesn’t cut the starter mustard, it really doesn’t matter whether Mayfield is ready – he’s going in.
Though with a stronger Browns O-line than they’ve had in the past and with receivers who can actually get open and catch the ball, the hope is that they can keep Taylor healthy and better protected than past Browns quarterbacks have been.
Wouldn’t that be a nice change of pace?
Ideally, Taylor will play as advertised and bring some offensive excitement to a Browns team that barely broke into the top 25 offenses last season. His personal goal is to be the leader of a team sorely lacking one – and every Browns fan hopes that he can achieve this sooner rather than later, immediately if possible.
And if Taylor succeeds and brings the Browns the wins they’ve been so desperately seeking, nobody will be calling for Jackson to pull him in favor of Mayfield’s unknown effectiveness any time soon.
But if you’re a Browns fan, you know that the word ‘ideally’ rarely applies to this team.
It’s up to veterans Taylor and Stanton to get the job done for the Browns in 2018. But if the Browns’ past is any example of how their future will unfold, Mayfield better be ready to play ASAP. Eventually, this Oklahoma phenom will have to prove to Browns fans and the entire football world that he was worthy of being the number one pick and that he is capable of becoming the Browns’ franchise quarterback
Next: Who will be the biggest steal of the draft?
Let’s hope the key word remains eventually for as long as possible.