Let me give you a brief description of my thought process while watching the Jets play the Browns. As the first half ticked away, all I could think was this is the worst. Why are Thursday night games always so bad? Why in the world were the Browns favored by 3 to win this game? Would the NHL preseason be more interesting? Why is Isaiah Crowell wiping his ass with a football? And then, with the first half almost over, and the Browns trailing 14 to nothing, Tyrod Taylor went out of the game. Time for Baker, I thought. I can’t wait to see him get eaten.
And then, HOLY SHIT! Baker Mayfield is AMAZING!
He came into the game, made four awesome throws and got the Browns into field goal position. The rest of that game was a revelation. Every play he was throwing daggers. There was the play where he dodged a sack and hit a running back down the line, there was the throw that was an absolute dime along the sideline but it slipped through his receiver’s hands, and that Jarvis Landry catch which was not such an fantastic throw but still awesome. He was electric. Even when he messed up, and he did because he’s never been in an NFL game before, it was exhilarating to watch. The speed with which he delivered the ball made every throw seem possible. I mean, watch his first throw in the game:
First throw and he’s putting a beautiful strike between two defenders in the open field. Any idiot can throw outside the numbers, but it is really damn hard to play up the middle. There’s a reason nobody did it before Brady and Belichick, that and the rule changes, but still, to throw with power and accuracy into the center of coverage is not something most rookies can just do. Mitchell Trubisky can’t, and Sam Darnold seems to have trouble. But Baker Mayfield can do it, and he did it all night.
Now, let me pump the brakes for a second before I explode with Baker love. Coming into the season, I thought he was going to be trash. I really did. This tiny dude with attitude problems who didn’t look impressive from a pocket passing standpoint felt like he’d be completely out of his depth in the NFL. As a rule, I need running QBs to prove themselves, and I did not think Mayfield had the tools to make it. I still think a lot of those concerns are real. He scrambled too much, and some of his throws were off target. He’s still too short, and before you complain that Russell Wilson is too short, Russell Wilson is one of, if not the, best quarterback in the league, and height is important. But aside from his height, the rest can be sorted out. He’s got a pretty strong foundation, if one game of overreaction against the Jets is anything to go by.
But now I must ask the question that people have been asking for eons. What the hell was Hue Jackson doing? Nothing about Baker Mayfield’s performance said he needed any time to get used to the league. The way he played last night, the team could be 3-0 in a wide open AFC North. The guy is supposed to be a quarterback specialist, but he kept Mayfield out for seemingly no reason. But if going 0-16 doesn’t get you fired, nothing will. Sorry, Cleveland.
By Tali Falk-Judson