Baker Mayfield says Cleveland Browns quarterback competition won’t create tension between himself and starter Tyrod Taylor
BEREA, Ohio — Baker Mayfield is here, practicing with his new Cleveland Browns teammates. Tyrod Taylor is not, because it’s rookie minicamp and Taylor’s not a rookie. Taylor is currently penciled in as the Browns’ starting quarterback. Mayfield was, just last week, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
This is the kind of situation that can create tension. Mayfield insists it will not.
“It’s not about individuals,” Mayfield said Friday morning. “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. So 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 we just want to win.”
The Browns didn’t win a single game in 2017, which is why they were in position to take Mayfield with the top pick in the draft. They are 1-31 over the past two seasons, and new general manager John Dorsey and his new front office have understandably overhauled the quarterback position this offseason.
Gone is DeShone Kizer, who was overwhelmed last year as a rookie starting quarterback. In is Taylor, the former Ravens backup and on-again/off-again Bills starter who’s still trying to solidify his own NFL QB bona fides. And now comes Mayfield, a clear threat to Taylor’s ability to do that here.
Mayfield said he has heard nothing but positives about Taylor and looks forward to being his teammate. He said he spoke with Bills coaches about Taylor during his pre-draft visit to Buffalo, because when they broke down Bills game film it was Taylor they were watching.
“They said the same things about him — that he’s just an unbelievable guy,” Mayfield said. “So when you get a guy like that who helps out the locker room in just the best way possible, it’s great. He’s a grinder. He comes in early, he’s the last one to leave, and I can only aspire to be like that.”
When the Browns traded for Taylor, they (and he) knew they’d likely take a quarterback with the No. 1 pick, so the situation isn’t a surprise. But the way it’s handled will be a summerlong story and could stretch into the season.
“I think it matters because, as I’ve said before, Tyrod Taylor is the starting quarterback of this football team, and that won’t change,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “He’s welcomed Baker. He’s willing to work with him. And that’s where it starts. You’ve got to develop a friendship. I’ve seen the two of them together, and it’s natural. That’s how you start to build a relationship that will teach Baker what it’s like to be a quarterback in the NFL. Baker doesn’t know. He’s got a lot of work to do.”
At this point, Mayfield still says he has a long way to go.
“I have the full playbook, but right now they kind of separate it,” Mayfield said. “You have a rookie minicamp playbook, and they kind of separate it so we’re not totally overwhelmed. But right now, I’m just trying to get it down. Trying my best to get it down so that, when we go out on the field, I can command those guys and be that guy that they can ask questions and bounce that off of.”
Mayfield’s leadership qualities, demonstrated at Oklahoma, are among the reasons the Browns drafted him No. 1 overall. Rookie minicamp offers him a chance to showcase those while the veterans in front of him on the depth chart are absent. In a few weeks, he’ll be working with the second- or third-team players as he learns the skills he needs to translate his game from the college to the professional level. As of now, he retains his trademark confidence while also working to project a humility appropriate to his new circumstances.
At the NFL scouting combine in February, Mayfield said that if anyone could turn around a franchise, it was him. He was asked Friday whether he still felt that way.
“It’s a mentality,” he said. “It’s a mentality that you’re not going to take no for an answer. It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past, it’s about what are you going to do for it now? How are you working towards making this team better? That’s why you go out and bring in the kinds of guys this organization has been bringing in.
“You change the culture in the locker room, you get some belief in it, and now, we don’t have to talk about it. We know what we have in there, and we’ll just handle it from here.”