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News 5 reporter Lauren Brill asks: Is it too soon to believe in Baker?

News 5 reporter Lauren Brill asks: Is it too soon to believe in Baker?
Posted at 4:24 PM, Nov 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-06 17:17:36-05

The following is an editorial from News 5 sports reporter Lauren Brill.

On April 25, 2018, the day before the 2018 NFL Draft, neither the media nor the public had a clear sense of who the Browns would choose with the No. 1 overall pick. With several quarterback candidates in the mix, the Browns made a massive investment in Baker Mayfield, drafting him with the top pick. Now fans and Browns personnel alike have shown little hesitation in labeling him the future of this franchise, but is it too soon?

On the field, Mayfield is, in many ways, outperforming his fellow rookie quarterbacks. He received the Rookie of the Week honor twice. True, Mayfield has the lowest winning percentage among his peer quarterbacks Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, but he leads the rookie group in completion percentage (60 percent), touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.43), passing yards per game and game-winning drives (2).

Overall, Mayfield has thrown for 1,768 yards and 10 touchdowns in seven games. Despite his relatively diminutive stature, he’s shown athletically he can compete, he can make timely decisions, and he can step in when his number is called (i.e., the Browns game against the Jets). But he has yet to prove that he is on the level of a Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or even second-year star Patrick Mahomes, who in comparison has thrown for 2,901 yards and 29 touchdowns in nine games in his first season as a full-time starter.

Part of Mayfield’s appeal is his grit and mental toughness. He took an unlikely path from college walk-on to Heisman Trophy winner. It’s his ability to beat the odds and endure a tough road to success that made many think he is well equipped to withstand the endless adversity that comes with being a member of the Browns. 

From a mental toughness standpoint, he appears to be confirming his supporters’ intuition. After former Browns head coach Hue Jackson received his pink slip, Mayfield called it his “Welcome to the business moment.” But he didn’t blink when he said it and seemingly went about his duties as a consummate professional.

However, the 23-year-old isn’t without emotion — far from it. In Week 7 against the Tampa Buccaneers, Mayfield got in the face of the Bucs' Jordan Whitehead after a hit to the head. Mayfield’s reaction was well-received by his teammates, who appreciated his fire. His consistent demeanor in the locker room coupled with his passion and energy on the field appear to be translating into respect from his teammates and even fans.

Even so, I am not sure yet either way on Mayfield. With only two wins on the season and a small sample size of his NFL abilities, I think many have added faith in the quarterback because of his draft status. By now Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, along with Browns fans, should know a high pick doesn’t mean a bright future. For evidence, the Browns don’t have to look far into their history. The long list of first-round disappointments includes: Johnny Manziel (QB 2014), Corey Coleman (WR 2016) and Justin Gilbert  (CB 2014). In fact, none of the first-round picks prior to the 2017 draft are currently on the Browns roster.

Mayfield has shown a glimmer of success, which many inside and outside of the organization have turned into the silver lining of hope. But only time will reveal if Mayfield can prove he has enough of a spark to add light to a franchise that's consistently been on the dark side of the NFL.

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BROWNS 2020 SCHEDULE

Preseason

WEEK 1 · Aug. 13-17 · At Chicago Bears - CANCELED

WEEK 2 · Aug. 20-24 · At Green Bay Packers - CANCELED

WEEK 3 · Aug. 30 · Minnesota Vikings - CANCELED

WEEK 4 · Sep. 3-4 · Tampa Bay Buccaneers - CANCELED

Regular Season

WEEK 1 · Sun 9/13 · 1:00 PM EST at Baltimore Ravens (CBS)

WEEK 2 · Thu 9/17 · 8:20 PM EST Cincinnati Bengals (NFL Network)

WEEK 3 · Sun 9/27 · 1:00 PM EST Washington Football Team (FOX)

WEEK 4 · Sun 10/4 · 1:00 PM EST at Dallas Cowboys (FOX)

WEEK 5 · Sun 10/11 · 4:25 PM EST Indianapolis Colts (CBS)

WEEK 6 · Sun 10/18 · 1:00 PM EST at Pittsburgh Steelers (CBS)

WEEK 7 · Sun 10/25 · 1:00 PM EST at Cincinnati Bengals (CBS)

WEEK 8 · Sun 11/1 · 1:00 PM EST Las Vegas Raiders (FOX)

WEEK 9 · BYE

WEEK 10 · Sun 11/15 · 1:00 PM EST Houston Texans (FOX)

WEEK 11 · Sun 11/22 · 1:00 PM EST Philadelphia Eagles (FOX)

WEEK 12 · Sun 11/29 · 1:00 PM EST at Jacksonville Jaguars (CBS)

WEEK 13 · Sun 12/6 · 1:00 PM EST at Tennessee Titans (CBS)

WEEK 14 · Mon 12/14 · 8:15 PM EST Baltimore Ravens (ESPN)

WEEK 15 · Sun 12/20 · 1:00 PM EST at New York Giants (CBS)

WEEK 16 · Dec. 27-27 · TBD at New York Jets

WEEK 17 · Sun 1/3 · 1:00 PM EST Pittsburgh Steelers (CBS)