It has always been simply a matter of time before the Cleveland Browns elevated quarterback Baker Mayfield to the starter’s role.
Heading into the regular season the team made the right call in letting veteran Tyrod Taylor open the season as the starter. No one wanted to see a repeat of the 2017 season when head coach Hue Jackson mismanaged the situation and Taylor was the safe choice for a team coming off an historic two-year run of futility.
It was clear that Taylor would be the starter unless he was injured or became ineffective, and both of those criteria intersected on Thursday night against the New York Jets.
Taylor was just four-of-14 for 19 yards while taking three sacks before leaving the game late in the second quarter with a concussion. Everyone knows what came next: Mayfield entered the game and energized a crowd that may have been poised to leave at halftime, and led the Browns to a win.
With the Browns not playing again until September 30 against the Oakland Raiders, the coaching staff has a few extra days to ponder the matter, but it seems inevitable that the time has come to name Mayfield the starter, which should come on Monday, as Jackson told clevelandbrowns.com:
“We’re all going to know soon enough on Monday. At the end of the day, every player in our locker room knows that everything we do is about winning. How you present things, how you put things out and how you prepare the guys for the decision that you make, are very important to a locker room.”
There is a scenario where Jackson could decide to keep Taylor as the starter. The extra days off will help Taylor deal with his concussion, and having a rookie make his first start on the road could be seen as being “risky.”
But that is a nightmare scenario that not even Jackson would be willing to risk. If Jackson were to stay with Taylor, he would have an extremely difficult time selling that to the players in the locker room.
The bigger fear is that the Browns will name Mayfield the starter but then waffle on the decision if he has a bad game. Taylor gives the team a security blanket on the bench, but once Mayfield takes over, Taylor should not see the field again unless Mayfield gets hurt.
It might not be fair for Taylor to lose his job in part because of an injury, but he was never the longterm answer at quarterback for the Browns.
The time has come for the Browns to become Baker Mayfield’s team.
It should be one heck of a ride.