The notion that a rookie quarterback needs to sit and learn, especially when that quarterback was taken first overall, is a relic from a bygone NFL era.
Except in Cleveland, where the Browns seem dead set on giving No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield a redshirt season.
Mayfield will play against the Philadelphia Eagles in a game that can be seen on the Yahoo Sports mobile app (IOS and Android) Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET, but Tyrod Taylor will start. Mayfield won’t get any reps with the starters this preseason, coach Hue Jackson said this week.
Since 2005, only two quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall haven’t started every possible game as rookies. JaMarcus Russell held out until after the regular season started, and Jared Goff was stuck with a Los Angeles Rams coaching staff that didn’t know what it was doing. Every other No. 1 overall pick since then — Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Jameis Winston — started every game they were healthy for as rookies.
Yet the Browns, who are as rebuilding as rebuilding gets, won’t even let Mayfield practice with the first team. Mayfield has spent every day of practice since training camp started with the second team.
Mayfield with the starters? “No, no, no, no, no.”
Not only do the Browns not want Mayfield practicing with the first team, coach Hue Jackson treated a question about him getting preseason reps with the starters like it was ridiculous. Again, over the past decade-plus, the only No. 1 overall quarterbacks to not start were a holdout (Russell) and someone who was held back by a coaching staff stuck in the past (Goff).
“No, no, no, no, no,” Jackson said when asked if Mayfield would get any first-team reps, according to Cleveland.com. “Everybody’s asked me that a ton of times. Why? I’m going to tell you the reason why. We are learning a new system, and I think Tyrod needs every rep that he can get with the ones.
“I think Baker’s doing outstanding with the twos. If something happens and we need to put him there, we will. Right now, that hasn’t happened.”
Guys like Stafford, Luck and Newton have gone on to become some of the league’s best quarterbacks after being named the starter right away. But a team that has gone 1-31 the past two seasons is sitting the No. 1 overall pick because its short-term veteran starter needs to learn a new system.
Mayfield has played well with the backups
Playing with the backups, Mayfield has mostly done well through two games. He has completed 18-of-33 passes for 287 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s a tidy 104 passer rating.
Not only has Mayfield put up good results, he passes the eye test too. He doesn’t look like a rookie. He is good at keeping his eyes downfield while buying time in the pocket, and delivering passes with accuracy. He’s showing why he was the No. 1 pick of the draft. We saw the same skills when he was at Oklahoma, winning the Heisman Trophy last season.
Yet the Browns won’t budge. Mayfield, the most important player in their organization right now, won’t get any time with the starters this summer.
Why won’t the Browns use Mayfield with the starters?
Cynically you wonder if Mayfield would be playing more with the starters, and maybe even be the clear-cut starter already, if the Browns weren’t coming off an 0-16 season. Jackson might not be able to survive another slow start, and he probably feels the best chance for some early wins is the veteran Taylor.
It doesn’t seem like this plan is best for the organization, but Goff survived being mismanaged his rookie season to emerge as a good quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams. Mayfield has the talent to overcome the suboptimal development strategies being employed by the Browns.
It’s just a strange method being used by the Browns, one that isn’t the norm anymore.
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