Jackson: Some Coaches Wanted Baker Third On QB Depth Chart

A lot of Browns fans wanted Baker Mayfield to start as a rookie; some coaches, however, didn't even want him to be the backup

Zach Gelb
May 05, 2020 - 8:34 am
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Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018, entered his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns backing up Tyrod Taylor. Some fans and analysts questioned that decision. After all, if you’re going to draft a quarterback with the No. 1 pick, why not start him from day one?

Well, as it turns out, some members of Cleveland’s coaching staff didn’t even want Mayfield to be the backup.

“People don’t know [this, but] there was a group of people that at one time didn’t want Baker to be the backup,” former Browns coach Hue Jackson said on The Zach Gelb Show. “I made that decision that Baker Mayfield was going to be the backup quarterback because I could see him emerging in practice and getting better [with] each and every opportunity. No way was I going to have him not dressed as the No. 3 quarterback, which, that’s what he would have been doing. There’s no way. I made sure that this young man was the backup quarterback for our football team.”

Taylor, to his credit, kept Cleveland competitive. In Week 1, the Browns tied the Steelers 21-21; in Week 2, they lost 21-18 to the Saints in New Orleans. For a franchise coming off an 0-16 season, this was progress. 

Taylor, it seemed, had earned his stripes.

“This was no secret to Baker or anybody in our organization,” Jackson said of the plan to start Taylor that season. “We knew how this was going to unfold. I never kept a secret on how we were going to play the quarterback, who the starter was going to be, how it would unfold and that’s exactly what happened. [Taylor] got hurt, and that’s what I told everybody: If something happens to Tyrod, we’ll be playing Baker Mayfield.”

Taylor was injured in Week 3 against the Jets. Mayfield entered the fray and led Cleveland to a 21-17 win over the Jets. It was the Browns’ first win in over 600 days.

“The guy who was the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns that year, which was Tyrod Taylor to start, was the right person for the right opportunity at that time,” Jackson said. “There was no doubt about that. I thought Tyrod did everything that we asked him to do, and he was playing at a high level. When he got hurt, obviously Baker came in and played lights out in that first game and continued on for the rest of the year and the rest is history. But the players knew [the plan]. They knew it was going to be Tyrod, and if something happened, here comes Baker. You got to have that trust on your team.”

Mayfield, 25, struggled in 2019, throwing for 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, as Cleveland finished a disappointing 6-10. With Kevin Stefanski replacing Freddie Kitchens as head coach, Jackson expects Mayfield to play like he did as a rookie: confident, decisive, effective.

“I would be shocked if he didn’t,” Jackson said. “I really would. Obviously last year is behind them. I think he’ll work his tail off, and I’m sure the coaching staff will do everything they can to put the right offense and the right pieces around him to give him a chance to be successful. They’re as skilled as any team in the National Football League at the skill positions. There’s nobody that has better talent that way. Now it’s just up to Baker to go play the way Baker knows how to play, and the rest will take care of itself.”