For the first time in what seems like a century, the Cleveland Browns are relevant once again and that is in big part thanks to the man the team drafted number one overall in last years NFL draft. The Browns have finally found their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield after 28 failed attempts dating back to the 1999 season when they came back to the league.
The polarizing young passer has injected a shot of adrenaline in the arm of every Browns player, fan, front office executive and just about every native of Ohio heading into the offseason after the Browns ended the 2018 season as one of the hottest teams in the league.
In week three of this past season when Mayfield entered the game for an injured Tyrod Taylor during a Thursday night game against the New York Jets, he rallied the Browns back in the second half to deliver the Browns and the city of Cleveland their first win in 635 days, and he wasn’t done there.
It wasn’t until his former Head Coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were fired that the storm that would be referred to by some as “Mayfield Mania” would pour out of Ohio and sweep the nation.
He would lead the once-woeful Browns to a 5-2 record over the final month of the season, keeping them in playoff contention until week 16 and nearly finished with a winning record which would have been the team’s first since the 2007 season when they finished 10-6.
Baker would be on of the hottest quarterbacks down the stretch of the season and would light up the leagues top-ranked defense in the season finale against the Baltimore Ravens to the tune of 376 yards and a trio of both touchdowns and picks.
While the game ended in a 20-26 defeat for the Browns, Mayfield would break the rookie passing touchdown record despite not making his first start until week four and finish in as a close second to Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
He was also vital in the resurrection of the careers of a pair of first-round picks that were labeled and widely recognized as busts on their former teams. Wide receiver Breshad Perriman was a consistent deep threat for Mayfield after he joined the team in week seven and offensive linemen Greg Robinson was inserted into the lineup in week nine.
Following an injury-riddled career that that led to his exodus from Baltimore after being the 25th overall pick in the 2015 draft, he finds himself in a prime position to be a key member of what now appears to be talent-laden receiving core at Baker’s disposal.
Robinson was a top 10 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, but his career didn’t start off the way he or anyone anticipated after the then St. Louis Rams selected him second overall. He could never find his footing with the Rams and after a brief stint with the Detroit Lions in 2017 that came via trade, he found himself on the Browns roster last season. After an injury to rookie left tackle Desmond Harrison prior to the team’s bout with the Chiefs, the team turned to Robinson and he didn’t look back or relinquish the position.
Robinson solidified that position for the Browns and even got a ringing endorsement from franchise legend and former blindside protector Joe Thomas who expressed his confidence that Robinson could hold down and excel at that spot for years to come after watching him perform over the last leg of the season.
The young Mayfield exudes tremendous swagger and radiates confidence that elevates not only the play of his teammates but it also permeates throughout the entire franchise from top to bottom and has revitalized the Dog Pound with new hope of playoff contention and realistic championship aspirations.