It’s tough being a Cleveland Browns fan.
I’ve been one for only one game, so maybe it’s not so tough. The Brownies are 1-0 on the young preseason thanks to a good first drive by Tyrod Taylor and two super solid quarters from No. 1 draft pick Baker Mayfield, resulting in a 20-10 win over the New York football Giants.
For the record, I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan by birth, but I’ve wandered like Jimmy Swaggart over the years. I’m currently following the Los Angeles Rams because I like their uniforms, the Jacksonville Jaguars because of their unis and the fact that they nearly dethroned the Patriots last year.
And the Browns.
Because I’m a Sooner, and that dude was the greatest Sooner of them all.
Was he a better quarterback than Sam Bradford? Don’t know about that.
Was he a better passer than Jason White? Don’t know about that.
But Oklahoma fans had prayed and prayed for somebody with a transformational spirit about him, somebody whose energy was as contagious as Tim Tebow’s — and we got him in Baker Mayfield. I’d guess that 95% of all Cleveland Browns fans are in Ohio (where Baker’s flag is already planted, ha ha).
The other five are in Oklahoma. Seriously. There’s Browns gear in every sports store in the Sooner State.
What makes Baker a hell of an NFL prospect was on display tonight. The dude can place the pig where nobody else but you can catch it, and he can do it in a way that doesn’t risk your body and that leads you into the clear.
Mayfield’s first touchdown pass came with 6:43 to go in the half, a 10-yard strike to David Njoku, who caught two touchdowns against the Giants. The tight end from the U was all about the scores Thursday night, finishing with 46 yards on two receptions, both scores. However, it was Mayfield’s pass into triple coverage that attracted all the attention.
He put it where only Njoku could have gotten it.
Baker Mayfield throws his first NFL exhibition touchdown pass.#OUDNA #Sooners pic.twitter.com/3AaX8IpKs3
— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) August 10, 2018
It was the same deal when Mayfield fired an across-the-middle strike to Antonio Callaway for a 54-yard touchdown with 13:37 left in the game to give the Browns their final margin of victory, 20-10.
TOUCHDOWN, @BROWNS. #CLEvsNYG pic.twitter.com/YqC2lvlZiX
— NFL (@NFL) August 10, 2018
Sure, Baker showed off his legs a couple times on crucial third downs, but he didn’t look like Cam Newton running the ball.
And it’s hard to tell the extent to which Baker has the ear of the rest of the club. At Oklahoma, Mayfield had a way of getting everybody around him on board with the plan, and those guys would have taken a bullet for him.
That very well could happen in Cleveland.
Having watched HBO’s first episode of “Hard Knocks,” I’m not 100 percent sure Hue Jackson is the type of coach who’s going to turn around an organization like Cleveland. He’s not rah-rah enough. I recall watching the Cardinals’ season on “Hard Knocks” and thinking, “Bruce Arians is a guy who can affect change.”
What’s particularly exciting for Browns fans and even me, a first-time Cleveland Browns rooter, is that if they could get Josh Gordon back (and keep him off drugs) and if they could somehow lure Dez Bryant to the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland would be set up quite nicely at the receiving corps.
Njoku is solid, and Jarvis Landry is already fantastic.
I’m sure Tyrod Taylor is a talented dude, and he seems to be a terrific guy.
But Baker Mayfield demonstrated throughout his college career an uncanny ability to place a football precisely where it needs to go. And then he turns around and does it for two scores in his NFL debut, albeit preseason.
What will eventually separate Mayfield from his competition, however, is that he’s a transformational leader. People flock to him. They want to play with him, play for him and will get on board (eventually) with whatever he wants to do on the field.
Even though it was just a preseason game, tonight’s effort against the Giants was a fantastic start to the NFL career of Baker Reagan Mayfield.
I’m not crazy. I don’t have him booked for Canton already.
But of all the people on planet Earth, Mayfield is probably the last dude I’d bet against.
Cleveland should be very excited to have this guy on their team.