After 635 days, the NFL’s version of the “lovable losers,” the Cleveland Browns, have won a football game. The Browns’ record now stands at 1-1-1.
The Browns game last night against the New York Jets started terribly; starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor kept getting sacked, making errant throws, and got booed by the entire city of Cleveland. On about three separate occasions, Taylor had rookie Antonio Callaway wide open deep. Instead of an easy touchdown throw, which any starting quarterback should be able to make, Taylor under threw him twice and failed to look his way a third time. Taylor, one of the Brown’s captains, exited the game late in the second quarter with a head injury, leaving the game in the hands of the first overall pick: Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield entered the game with 1:42 left in the first half down 14-0 to the Jets. His presence reenergized the crowd, who had a buzz about them for the rest of the game. Mayfield drove the Browns down the field to kick a field goal before the half. In the second half, Cleveland outscored New York 18-3, with Mayfield going 17-23 for 201 yards, catching what is now called the “Baker Special” two point conversion, and throwing dimes all across the field.
After the come from behind victory, coach Hue Jackson showed he was hesitant to pick next week’s starter. Jackson said he would have to “watch the tape” and do what’s best for the team. Coming from someone who has watched the tape, the choice should be simple: start Baker.
In two games this year, Taylor has only completed a mere 48.8 percent of his passes and has thrown an equal number of touchdowns and interceptions. Taylor looked inept against the Jets, completing 4-14 passes for 19 yards, missing wide open targets and getting sacked three times and an intentional grounding call. Mayfield was significantly better, making beautiful throws with a lot of zip. Some people may say the best way to develop Mayfield this year is to have him sit the year and learn, but the reality is the best way to develop your quarterback is to get him reps, and what better way is there to get reps than playing in games? The choice should be clear: start Mayfield and do not look back.
Outside of the quarterback situation, the Browns also look very promising. New kicker Greg Joseph went three for three, making two field goals and an extra point. The Browns defense, under Gregg Williams’ coaching, continues to be a turnover machine. This year’s fourth overall pick Denzel Ward played well again, forcing and recovering a fumble on the Jets’ side of the field, leading to a field goal. Joe Schobert and Terrance Mitchell also picked off Sam Darnold on New York’s final two drives of the game to clinch the victory for Cleveland. Myles Garrett continues to be a one man wrecking machine, getting two more sacks to increase his season total to four.
Cleveland has the defense to be great and they have the offensive weapons to be great. Should the Browns start Mayfield in their next games, this offense will be very explosive and something to be reckoned with. As long as Greg Joseph can make kicks for the Browns, and not blow games for them like the previous kicker, Zane Gonzalez, the Browns will continue to win.