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History has been made by someone who most of the media had deemed an unlikely player to do so, on a team that most didn’t think highly of. Yet in week seventeen of the NFL season, we saw the number one overall pick, Baker Mayfield, etch his name above Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning for the rookie touchdown pass record.
Coming out of the draft, most media outlets gave the Browns drafting Baker Mayfield no higher than a B to B+ due to maturity, size and an article by the NFL website, “needing to show that he can throw from inside the pocket.” Meanwhile the fan base was split, with one side wanting either Sam Darnold or Josh Allen and one side embracing Mayfield as Cleveland’s future.
After months of being told that he’d be the back up to Tyrod Taylor, he entered the preseason as the backup. He would leave a decent impression throwing for 501 yards with two touchdowns and interception in the preseason. All this while having the Hard Knocks cameras in his face. All this would be the precursor however, to what would come next.
After missing two extremely decisive games: one ending in a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the other ending in an overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints, Mayfield would get his first opportunity when Taylor sustained a concussion. Despite not throwing a touchdown, he lead the Browns on a comeback that saw the end of a historic 0-18-1 drought. Over the next few weeks, he threw eight touchdowns and six interceptions, before a major change happened.
Following a week eight loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were fired and replaced by Gregg Williams and Freddie Kitchens respectively. Following the firing, Hue Jackson would bash the entire team before heading to his old stomping grounds and Browns rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals. Meanwhile in Cleveland, bruised, battered and beaten, the Browns had work to do, as they hosted the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite a daunting defense, Mayfield would throw two touchdowns and only one interceptions but the stage was now set.
Baker’s three touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons would prove he had fire left in him. Coming out of the bye week, he would throw for 258 yards and four touchdowns against his former coach’s Cincinnati Bengals.
After a down week against the Houston Texans where he would throw for a touchdown and three interceptions. Baker would take the Browns on a three game winning streak against the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals. In that span, he would throw for 710 yards and six touchdowns with one interception.
On December 30th, 2018, Cleveland made the trip to Baltimore to take on the Baltimore Ravens. Mayfield, needing only two touchdowns to tie the record for most touchdowns by a rookie quarterback, went out with a chance at history. Despite an early interception, he would rebound to throw his first touchdown to former Raven, Breshad Perriman. After not throwing another for the first half, Baker would come out of the gate and tie the record with a pass to Cleveland’s other vocal leader, wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Baker was now tied with a future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning and one of the best in the modern era, Russell Wilson. Down by nine, Mayfield looked to lead a comeback and would make history in the process. He completed number 27 to wide receiver Antonio Callaway. While the comeback attempt failed, Baker went from the man who shouldn’t have been drafted first overall to the toast of the town.
While the Browns didn’t make the playoffs, they found that they have something they haven’t had since Bernie Kosar in the 80’s: a franchise quarterback. It’s even gotten to the point that the infamous “quarterback jersey” at Brokaw inc. on the corner of West 6th Street and West Lakeside Avenue has been replaced by the now iconic #6 jersey. With the rookie year chapter of Baker Mayfield’s career now over, its time to see what the next chapters have in store for the dangerous one.