For the first time since Christmas Eve 2016, the Cleveland Browns have won a true, honest NFL game. They beat the New York Jets on Thursday, largely thanks to the performance of rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, who replaced starter Tyrod Taylor towards the end of the second quarter after Taylor suffered a concussion. The Browns lost 14-0 when Mayfield stepped onto the field, but he immediately began to tap passports on receiver and jumped to a comeback, which ended with a 21-17 win. Is it time to overwork? Of course not, it was just a wiCut to Cleveland cavaliers protect J.R. Smith celebrating with no shirt on,
It's tempting to say, "The Browns are back!" But that would ignore the neutral baseline Browns exist. No franchise lost more than Cleveland in the 21stst Century and their current 1-1 record mean that they have been in their most successful season since 2015. The Browns are not back; They are breaking new ground because of their modern incarnation. I mean, when was the last time you saw a guy in an orange helmet?
Mayfield went 17-for-23 and threw for 201 yards. He even caught a ball in the end zone for a game-binding two-point conversion in the third quarter.
The Browns picked Mayfield with the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but the Oklahoma quarterback was not the obvious choice. He's a bit under-dimensioned and wore some euphemistic luggage (a public snatch attack in 2017), but all measurable measurements indicated he may be a star. He impressed so much with training camp and preseason that outsiders like New Orleans quarterback drew Drew Bree's notice. "I think he can do a lot better than me," said the Super Bowl winner last week. "He has all the tools, he's more athletic, he can probably walk around better, he has a stronger arm." That really is a big compliment!
Mayfield is also a cheeky and charismatic guy, and he's a good interview that has shown he does not fool. If he was not a quarterback, you get the feeling that he has reason enough to deal with the Kettle Run in less than 12 parsecs. These things do not really have anything to do with winning or losing football games, but they make it easy for him to take root. This is a hell of a start for the Browns.
Assuming he gets the nod next week, Mayfield will be the 30thth Quarterback for the Browns since 1999. All he has to do to succeed in Cleveland is a series of mediocre seasons together. The bar is lovably low, but fortunately for Mayfield, he will not have to raise her alone. The Browns have quietly put together a young and terrible defense. Myles Garrett is one of the league's top pass rushers in his sophomore year and rookie cornerback Denzel Ward quickly became a playmaker in one of the toughest positions in football. If Cleveland manages to win a few more games this year, that unit will earn all the credit you can afford.
Now is the time to remember who we're talking about here. Brown's victory is the definition of small samples. The team had only two victories since their return to Cleveland in 1999. Mayfield played well for about half of a game. He still has fewer victories in a Browns uniform than Johnny Manziel, the type everyone considers Mayfield's worst-case scenario. There is still plenty of time for the Browns to destroy Baker Mayfield, provided he does not save the franchise before they get the chance. Seeing if he can do it will be the fun part, and it makes Cleveland worth seeing for the first time in decades.