Cleveland Browns training camp officially gets underway on Thursday.
Head coach Hue Jackson and general manager John Dorsey met with media Wednesday ahead of camp and reiterated in no uncertain terms that there will not be a quarterback competition between Tyrod Taylor and rookie Baker Mayfield.
Browns: ‘This is Tyrod Taylor’s team’
“We’ve said this is Tyrod Taylor’s team,” Dorsey told reporters. “He’s taken a team to the playoffs and he has demonstrated that, you know what, he’s our starter.”
“Yes, he is,” Jackson added.
This has been the company line since the Browns drafted Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL draft.
With Mayfield signing a lucrative contract on Tuesday and practice starting on Thursday, the team felt compelled to hammer home Jackson’s May minicamp declaration that “Tyrod Taylor is the starting quarterback of this football team.”
Taylor part of long-term plan to ease in Mayfield
The Browns traded the first pick of the third round to the Buffalo Bills in March to acquire Taylor, who led the Bills to the playoffs and has one year and $16 million remaining on his contract. The Browns knew when they made that deal that they were drafting a quarterback at No. 1 and likely had Mayfield pegged at that point.
The team is presenting the strategy as part of a clear plan that involved a significant investment in providing a transition year for Mayfield, a decidedly old-school approach of having a high-profile rookie quarterback learn on the sideline rather than be thrown in the fire.
“There’s no question that we drafted Baker for a reason, and I think he’s the future of this franchise,” Jackson said Wednesday. “But Tyrod Taylor has demonstrated all offseason what he needed to show us and show me and the staff to be the starter. Baker Mayfield is working his tail off. He’s got a lot of work to do. He’s got to learn this league, understand it better.”
Mayfield won’t get ‘a bunch of first-team reps’
This strategy means that Taylor will be getting the first-team reps in training camp. At least most of them, according to Jackson.
“I don’t envision any situation where all of a sudden [Mayfield will be] getting a bunch of first-team reps unless, God forbid, something happens,” Jackson said. “But at the same time, there might be a day — please nobody hold me to it — where Tyrod all of a sudden maybe doesn’t go and Baker’s out there and people go, ‘Oh, my gosh.’
“It wouldn’t be that. You know what I’m saying? Let’s not turn that into, ‘Now [Mayfield is] going to be the starter.’”
Mayfield not starting would go against the norm
Mayfield starting on the bench would buck modern NFL protocol. As Yahoo’s Frank Schwab wrote when the Browns went into minicamp, 28 of the 30 quarterbacks chosen in the first round since 2006 have started at least one game their rookie season.
Of the last six No. 1 overall quarterback picks, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Jameis Winston started all 16 games. Matthew Stafford’s rookie year was cut short by injury while Jared Goff waited on the bench before starting and struggling in seven games during his rookie year.
Mayfield adjusting to playing under center
Mayfield does have a significant learning curve, having played exclusively out of the shotgun at Oklahoma, and seems a prime candidate to benefit from a slower transition to being an NFL starter.
So while it appears clear that, barring injury, Taylor will be the starter in Week 1, the question remains how long will that last?
Taylor is a proven NFL starter and probably gives the Browns the best chance to win now, which is certainly appealing to Jackson and his 1-31 record as Cleveland’s head coach. But if the team continues its dreadful ways under Taylor, calls for Mayfield will come swift.
If and when they do, will the Browns have the patience to stick to the gameplan or call an audible with their big-money rookie?
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