While Baker Mayfield turned heads with his play on the field in his debut with the Cleveland Browns, he also proved his greatest strength is immeasurable
By now, every Cleveland Browns fan has been able to reflect upon how great this past Thursday night really was. What made it so good was the simple fact that there is finally some good quarterback play in the Land.
And to be honest, it doesn’t matter where you stand in the debate about whether or not rookie Baker Mayfield should play this season — well, it’s a debate amongst fans as the team seems content to let him sit. The reason that even the biggest Mayfield fans shouldn’t be upset is Tyrod Taylor looked more than capable of running this offense in his lone drive during the opener.
So for the first time in a long time, Browns fans can say with complete confidence we have a starting quarterback. And with Mayfield being a rookie, we have that for the foreseeable future — and a lot of the confidence in him comes from outside the stat lines.
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While his 212 yards and two touchdowns were impressive, Mayfield showed his greatest strength comes from a source that cannot be measured. That strength is his ability to be a leader that his teammates believe in. We’ve heard that all offseason, but we saw that on the field this past week. We also saw him lift a fellow rookie up when he needed it most.
After a week in which there was unfavorable news around him, rookie receiver Antonio Callaway started off his game on a sour note. He dropped a screen pass that was right in his hands the first time he was targeted by Mayfield. The quarterback didn’t give up on Callaway though and tried to hit him again later in the game, but they just missed connecting on a long pass.
Then on a two-point conversion, Callaway again was unable to pull in a pass from Baker. The cameras caught a small glimpse of the gunslinger meeting up with his receiver, and we found out later that he was encouraging him to step up his game and not to give up.
"“I just kept telling him ‘fight through it, just keep going, keep pushing through it’ because I needed him,” said Mayfield per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “When you’re tired you’ve got to be able to focus. He’s a guy that we’re going to be counting on to play and so third and fourth quarter he’s got to be able to run those routes and execute it and make adjustments on the fly.”"
It’s easy to gloss over such a statement, but this is maturity beyond his years. Rather than being mad at Callaway for a couple mishaps, Mayfield told him that he was needed. He told him that they were going to make it work and Callaway responded.
From that point, the receiver was a menace to the Giants. He finished with 87 yards and a touchdown, putting a bad week behind him and proving why the Browns took a chance on him despite off-field concerns.
Had Callaway’s bad day continued, it could have really snowballed for him. Instead, he now heads into his second week of preseason football looking great. Mayfield had something to do with that, and not just because he was the guy throwing the ball. That’s what makes him worthy of the No. 1 pick and why fans should be happy about the future.