Now that we can all move on from the hypothetical Baker Mayfield/Aaron Rodgers saga, we can look ahead to the upcoming season.
Should Mayfield be the starting signal-caller come September, which barring injury he will be the starter, he will be the first Browns quarterback since 1999 to start the season for three-straight seasons.
The quarterbacks that started in consecutive season openers are Tim Couch (2000/2001), Kelly Holcomb (2002/2003), Charlie Fry (2005/2006), and Brandon Weeden (2012/2013).
Mayfield and the Browns took major strides in 2020 and the offseason has them prime to take an even bigger step forward in 2021, but it all starts with the season opener where the Browns have not had much success since 1999.
Cleveland has only won one of their season openers since the franchise’s return to the NFL and that was all the way back in 2004. Yikes.
The team is 1-20-1 in season-opening games, with the tie coming back in 2018 against the Steelers. Last season the Ravens, who are the only team the Browns have beaten in season openers, beat the breaks off Cleveland 38-6.
The NFL schedule is releasing on Wednesday evening and we will then know when and where the Browns will open the 2021 campaign. The schedule makers can go any which way, but the most two most intriguing opening week matchups are a rematch with the Chiefs and a showdown with the Packers.
Baker and company will want to prove they’ve taken the next step in their quest for a Lombardi Trophy by knocking off the very team that beat them in the playoffs and the one that will be the biggest challenge in the AFC.
A matchup with the Packers would be highly entertaining, especially with all the chatter on the two quarterbacks. Mayfield has always played with the underdog/chip on his shoulder mentality and this could be a game that he really sets out to prove a point the everyone who even suggested that the Browns trade for Rodgers. This is assuming Rodgers is still a member of the Packers, of course.
Those two teams will likely be paired up in the Sunday Night Football slot opening weekend, so should that be the case, Cleveland could open the season with either the Steelers or Ravens, both intriguing matchups and not just due to being divisional rivals.
Cleveland defeated Pittsburgh to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 18-years in Week 17 and then knocked them out of the playoffs a week later to snap a 26-year playoff victory drought.
On the other hand, Baltimore defeated the Browns twice last season, the season-opening beat down, and then a game that was arguably the year’s game. Mayfield will forever be linked to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who leads the head-to-head matchup 3-1. The duo dueled in the Monday Night Football classic and it should be a glimpse of what the future holds for rivalry.
The Cleveland Browns were in quarterback hell from 1999 to 2018 when Mayfield was drafted. They feel they finally have their franchise quarterback and he will be bound and determined to take this team to the next level.
Mayfield and the highly talked about and much improved Browns from the season opener need to set the tone. There is a new era of Cleveland Browns football on the horizon and a win in the season opener will go a long way to continuing that notion.