The Baker Mayfield Era Begins With A “W.”
In his first official NFL game, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield – the #1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft – ended the longest drought in NFL history, as far as team not winning a single game.
In other words: for better or for worse, Mayfield has set the bar quite high for himself. What can he possibly do for an encore?
We’ll let the answer to that question play out over the remainder of this season. But while Thursday evening’s victory by the Cleveland Browns over the New York Jets by a 21-17 score oddly felt like some type of history being made (given the fact that the Browns had gone 634 days between Thursday evening and their last regular season win), the real story of the game was undoubtedly the official debut of Mayfield.
For the better part of the first two quarters of Thursday evening’s game, it looked like the same horror story script that Browns fans had become accustomed to over the past two years: playing a rather beatable team in the friendly confines of FirstEnergy Stadium, only to see the team come out completely flat, and fall behind but a seemingly insurmountable deficit. Less than halfway through the second quarter of the game, Cleveland found themselves down 14-0 to the Jets, while they had to punt on each one of their first four possessions (none of which went for more than six plays).
While running back Carlos Hyde provided some semblance of offense in the first half, he was the only player able to do anything. Veteran incumbent quarterback Tyrod Taylor was highly ineffective during the first half of the game, and as he continued to throw passes that were just a bit too late or off the mark in general, the boo’s got louder, as did the “We want Baker” chants.
After Taylor went down with an injury late in the first quarter, Mayfield entered the game, and nearly everyone on the field, from the players to the guys standing on the sideline, felt a palpable shift in the energy of the stadium; even Taylor himself, who had to know that he was basically losing his job as the starting quarterback of the Browns, commented on how much electricity and excitement the insertion of Mayfield brought to the game.
That’s why it shouldn’t be any surprise that Mayfield led the Browns to putting points on the board in four of the next six possessions the Brown had. While there were plenty to choose from, perhaps the biggest highlight of the evening came when Mayfield not only delivered a 29-yard laser to wide receiver Jarvis Landry for his first NFL touchdown pass, but then was on the receiving end of the infamous “Philly Special” play that the Browns used to convert their two-point attempt, to tie the score at 14.
After the Browns went up 21-14 and held off any final rally from the Jets to seal the win, the city of Cleveland partied like they had just won a championship. However, at the end of the day, it’s still just one win in a 16-game season. But it’s hard not to see why everyone in and around the Browns were excited about what Mayfield’s arrival could bring.