Baker Mayfield didn’t expect to start for the Browns’ season opener, but he certainly didn’t expect to be third on the depth chart either.
It might be time for the Baker Mayfield hype train to slow down a little bit. The Browns have been clear that Tyrod Taylor would be the team’s starter Week 1, but almost everyone expected Mayfield to be his backup. According to Hue Jackson, that’s far from a certainty.
Instead, the Browns’ head man claims he hasn’t decided whether or not Mayfield or Drew Stanton will start the year as the team’s No. 2 option. Jackson believes he has a “heck of a decision” on his hands if Taylor suffers an injury. The idea that Stanton is in the same ballpark as Mayfield in the coaching staff’s opinion isn’t good news for Browns fans. Experience certainly is a point in Stanton’s favor, but it doesn’t bridge the talent gap between he and Mayfield.
Of course, it could be more of an indictment on Jackson’s ability to serve as an NFL coach than Mayfield’s ability to be an NFL quarterback. The No. 1 overall pick has looked pretty good for the Browns during the preseason. He certainly isn’t ready to lead this team to the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean he should be inactive when the season begins either.
The best case scenario for Browns fans is that Jackson is just trying to take some pressure off Mayfield. The worst thing that could happen to his rookie quarterback would be for fans to chant his name from the stands whenever trouble befalls the Browns in 2018. Floating the idea that Stanton might be ahead of him on the depth chart might serve to dial down fan expectations a little bit.
If there is any accuracy to Jackson’s evaluation of his quarterbacks, it’s a really bad sign for the Browns’ future. Taylor is a nice bridge to the team’s next franchise signal-caller, but John Dorsey and company need that player to be Mayfield. If they missed on him as the No. 1 selection in a pretty strong draft, it could set the franchise back for multiple years.
The most likely truth here is that Jackson is just trying to take some of the spotlight away from his rookie quarterback. Mayfield is still going to be Cleveland’s starter sooner, rather than later. Stanton certainly isn’t good enough to keep him off the field for any meaningful game.