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Browns officially name Mayfield starting QB

By MARY KAY CABOT • Sep 24, 2018 at 8:05 PM

CLEVELAND — The Browns are hoping the 30th time is the charm.

Let the Baker Mayfield Mania commence and get the embroidery needle out for the infamous Browns' QB jersey.

Coach Hue Jackson named his No. 1 overall pick the starting quarterback on Monday, replacing Tyrod Taylor, who was knocked out Thursday night's 21-17 victory over the Jets with a concussion.

"He's the starting quarterback of this football team,'' Jackson said during his press conference Monday, stressing this is not a temporary move. "He's earned it.''

Mayfield will make his first NFL start Sunday in Oakland, against the Derek Carr-led Raiders, becoming the 30th quarterback to start a game for the Browns since 1999.

"He's got to go make it happen,'' Jackson said. "I'm not surprised by what he did in the game. This is sooner than what I thought would happen. He's not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination. We believe he'll continue to grow.''

He said Mayfield had a big grin on his face when he told him the news this morning. He said Taylor, who is now the backup, was disappointed but handled it professionally.

He also said that Taylor isn't going anywhere, despite teams such as San Francisco possibly in the market for a starter.

"He's right here,'' Jackson said. "Tyrod's going to be needed.''

Mayfield came in off the bench with 1:42 left in the half of the Jets game and electrified FirstEnergyStadium, rallying the team from a 14-point second-quarter deficit to put all 21 points and the give the Browns their first victory in 20 games and 635 days. It improved the Browns to 1-1-1.

"That's why we drafted him,'' Jackson said after the Jets game. "We drafted him for that reason. He has that magnetism. He has it. He's still a young player. He has a lot of work to do. He's got to keep working. Tonight is his night. It was his coming out party. It's just really ironic that it happened that the quarterback on the other side was a rookie, too (Sam Darnold). Baker did some good things tonight. He truly did."

With Mayfield's quick release and pinpoint accuracy, he brought the Browns' sluggish offense back to life. The receivers and tight ends snapped to attention. The offensive line looked better with his upbeat tempo, and the defense backed him up with three more takeaways in the second half for a total of 11.

"Obviously, once Baker got into the game at quarterback, you just saw a different rhythm which was good, good to see,'' Jackson said. "Obviously, the young man did some really good things. You can't take that away from him. What a night for him. He came off of the bench, went in there and led this team and helped lead this team to victory.''

Jackson didn't apologize for not starting Mayfield sooner, despite the fact Taylor struggled. In 2.5 games, Taylor completed 48.8 of his attempts, averaged only 5.5 yards per attempt, and threw two TDs and two INTs for a 63.7 rating. He was also sacked 13 times.

"I still stand by the decision,'' Jackson said after the Jets game. "I think it was right. I still think he needed the time. He needed the time to see, and understand the National Football League and how it works. We're better served — I can't tell you that Baker would have performed like that in Week 1. The way he works, the time he spends, it's been invaluable for him. It led up to when he was ready to play, he was going to play well. That's all I ever said about Baker — when we stick him out there, he was going to play well, and I truly believe that tonight was his coming out party.''

He acknowledged it was an organizational decision and that GM John Dorsey was in on it. Dorsey, afterall, had watched Aaron Rodgers sit for three years in Green Bay and then Pat Mahomes for a year in Kansas City after he drafted him there. In fact, after the game, Dorsey was overheard saying to Jimmy and Dee Haslam, 'I think I picked the right one.'''

There were also extenuating circumstances for making him wait, specifically that they had undrafted rookie left tackle in Desmond Harrison who needed to get his sea legs first.

"My deal I was not really sure about the left tackle and how that was going to unfold and how good that player could be protecting a very young quarterback,'' he said. "(We went with) a veteran quarterback who knew how to deal with that if it didn't happen as well. All of those things go into the bucket to make the decision about what's best. Let's put him out there when we think he's ready, and let's put him out there when we feel like we are ready for Baker Mayfield too. I think that is important that we have enough talent around him that we can support him and let him play.''

Jackson said there wasn't much about Mayfield that surprised him Thursday night, not the arm, the big throw, the poise or the improvising. Not even him catching the two-point conversion pass from Jarvis Landry to tie the game at 14 with 42 seconds left in the third quarter on the "Philly special.''

"I meet with Baker after every game in my office, and we sit and talk about a lot of different things,'' he said. "I always try to put things into context for him that these things can happen, and when they do, how's he going to handle it? He normally looks at me in my office and goes, 'Coach, basically, are you kidding me? I am going to go out there and play my tail off.' That's what he did. He's a tremendous football player.

"I've said that to you guys,” Jackson added. “I just think that everything was going to work itself out however it was going to work itself out.''

Jackson couldn't help but throw a little shade at all the critics who panned the Mayfield pick after the draft.

"Are you guys surprised?'' he said. "I'm laughing because at one time people said, 'Whoa, we should not have drafted him.' Now, everybody says, 'Dang, he can really throw.' In general, when we took him, it was 'he was too small, he could not throw this and could not throw that. Now, 'Dang, look at the throws that he makes.' I'm not surprised by any throws that this young man makes.

"I told you guys, he does things in practice that I just go, 'Oh, my gosh.' Timing. Timing is everything. The right time. The right situation. You can't deny the talent. You can't deny what he is able to do. He showed that tonight."

Jackson acknowledged that the game changed on a dime when Mayfield came in.

"It felt like it was moving quicker,'' he said. "It felt like that position was playing quicker. Seeing things very clearly and the ball was coming out of his hands. That was the good thing.''

He also noted that good QB play is just what this team has needed since 1999.

"It makes a huge difference,'' he said. "You guys have seen this organization for years, all of you have. The difference has been the quarterback play. The quarterback play needed to improve and be better. That's what you saw when he came into the game and started to play like he did. You saw the offense start to move and the ball start to matriculate down the field. That position is huge.

"We know that. We knew that we drafted the right guy. I knew that that was the right guy, but it was going to be the right timing. Nobody knew how that was going to happen. This is how it's unfolded."

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