- All signs point to Baker Mayfield taking the Cleveland Browns’ starting quarterback job after he electrified in his debut and led the team to a win.
- While Mayfield earned the job, it could leave the Browns in an awkward spot with Tyrod Taylor.
- The Browns traded for Taylor, insisted he would be their starter, and even discussed giving him a contract extension.
- Taylor might be miffed at losing his job after he was pulled for a concussion, then sitting behind a rookie before he hits free agency.
Baker Mayfield made his NFL debut on Thursday and electrified.
Mayfield took the field after Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor left the game with a concussion. The stagnant Browns offense immediately kicked into high gear as Mayfield made a series of completions. He ended up finishing the game with 201 yards on 17-23 passing and a receiving 2-point conversion, all while setting up two running touchdowns from Carlos Hyde. The Browns beat the Jets, 21-17, getting their first win since the 2016 season.
After the game, the question then became if Mayfield would be the Browns starter going forward. According to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, head coach Hue Jackson is giving the team the weekend off while he decides on a quarterback, but really, the decision has been made.
“Browns coach Hue Jackson won’t name Baker Mayfield his starter until Monday after he meets with Mayfield and Tyrod Taylor and tells them first.” Cabot wrote.
Likewise, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported: “The more people I talk to, the more I get this: How do you turn back to Tyrod Taylor after what Baker Mayfield did on the field? … How in the world do you go away from the guy who led you back from being down double-digits, the first win in 600 days, at home, to ignite this whole thing he ignited?”
But in handing Mayfield the job, the Browns also encounter a potentially awkward situation with Taylor.
Taylor struggled mightily in Week 3, and things were trending toward Mayfield taking the field, even before Taylor left the game to be evaluated for a concussion.
But if the Browns turn to Mayfield full-time, it’s fair to wonder if Taylor got a fair shake. After all, the team traded for him in March, and throughout training camp, Jackson and GM John Dorsey insisted that Taylor would be the starter, with no immediate plans to turn to Mayfield.
Taylor played well enough in camp that Dorsey openly said they might discuss contract extensions with Taylor down the line.
“He’s had an excellent camp so far,” Dorsey told The Ringer’s Kevin Clark. “I want to see it unfold. There may come a point here where I call his representatives in October and say, ‘Let’s strike something up.'”
The Browns drafted Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick after trading for Taylor, so it’s not as if Taylor entered this season without knowing he could have competition for the starting job.
However, Mayfield also took over on Thursday out of necessity. It’s not as if Taylor was pulled due to his performance and then Mayfield took over. If Taylor gets replaced because of injury, there may be some sore feelings there. Additionally, Taylor may not like being benched for a rookie the year before he hits free agency – it could temper his market.
There’s also a question about what happens if Mayfield begins to struggle as the season goes on. For as electric as Mayfield was on Thursday (and he certainly looked prepared for the moment), it wouldn’t be surprising to see teams begin to game-plan for and figure out some tendencies. If he struggles over several weeks and the Browns lose games, would they turn back to Taylor? And if so, how would that affect Mayfield’s development? Is there a scenario where they bench a struggling Mayfield, go back to Taylor, then return to Mayfield to give him a second shot? There would be an obvious danger in shaking up the quarterback situation too much.
Mayfield taking the starting job was the most likely outcome, given their investment in him with the No. 1 overall pick. But the speed at which he’s taken the job could leave the Browns with an awkward situation on their hands.