After a strong start by Baker Mayfield at the Cleveland Browns’ rookie minicamp Saturday, head coach Hue Jackson was unequivocal in reminding reporters that Tyrod Taylor is entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback.
“I am not going to back off of this and we can keep writing this narrative: Tyrod Taylor is the starting quarterback of this football team,” he said. “That will not change.”
It’s the same message Jackson has conveyed throughout the offseason since the Browns sent the 65th overall pick in the draft to the Buffalo Bills for Taylor, who went 22-20 as a starter over the last three years while making the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2015.
Jackson added that Mayfield had a “good first day,” on Friday but the coach also made an effort to manage expectations and the hype surrounding the No. 1 overall pick.
“Let’s make sure we pump our brakes a little bit because he has a ways to go and a lot to learn,” Jackson said of Mayfield. “I am very excited about him. He has a lot of characteristics that we love. That is why he is here.”
The 23-year-old Mayfield showed off his arm strength and accuracy in practice but also had some miscues, including an interception on a miscommunication with a receiver, a pass batted at the line and a pair of fumbled snaps from under center. He stayed after practice to take more snaps from center, something he did very little of at Oklahoma.
Mayfield shook off the idea of any animosity brewing between himself and Taylor, who he called “a grinder” and a hard worker.
“It’s not about individuals,” Mayfield told reporters before practice. “They brought him and I in because we’re both team-oriented guys. He’s the starter, and all I can do is help us out.
“… It’s not going to be something that separates the locker room. We’re not going to be fighting over who’s the man in the locker room. I’m a team-oriented guy and I just want to win.”
No Browns signal-caller has started all 16 games in a season since 2001 (Tim Couch), and only one quarterback taken in the first round in the last 10 years has not started a game as a rookie (Jake Locker), but all signs currently point to Mayfield having to wait his turn to see the field.
Meanwhile, Jackson affirmed that new offensive coordinator Todd Haley is installing his own scheme and is in full command of that side of the ball, despite Jackson’s offensive background. Haley worked closely with the quarterbacks during Saturday’s practice while Jackson moved around the field and spent more time watching defensive drills than he has in years past.
“It is not my playbook,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I have given Todd total autonomy with our offensive football team. He has been very respectful. Anything that I wanted to see or do, he is always asking and we are always communicating that way.
“You have to do it that way. He can’t go call my offense as more as I couldn’t call his offense. There is a respect level there as I said a long time ago when I hired him. He is one of the best in the business. That is why he is here.”
Jackson ran his own offense and called his own plays in 2016 and 2017, and the team didn’t have an offensive coordinator last season. Cleveland finished 31st in points and 30th in yards in 2016 before finishing dead last in points and 24th in yards last season.
Jackson also told reporters that cornerback and No. 4 overall pick Denzel Ward will be held out of the remainder of minicamp for precautionary reasons after he suffered a slight hip flexor strain during practice.
–Field Level Media