BEREA — Baker Mayfield is fighting human nature.
He wants to be the starting quarterback but knows his time hasn’t arrived. He wants to rush his personal development but understands patience is required.
“I want to have it all figured out but that’s just not how it works,” the No. 1 pick said Wednesday during minicamp. “So, yeah, it’s about realizing we’re going to have to take baby steps right now to get to where I want to go.
“You don’t build a great castle just all at once. You gotta build it block by block and so, for me, that’s how I need to handle it.”
Mayfield’s first seven weeks with the Browns have been all about adjustments. The biggest is not being the starter.
He was moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart for the final week of OTAs and remained there for minicamp but doesn’t appear to have closed the gap on starter Tyrod Taylor, who’s taken command of the locker room and huddle and consistently makes the right decisions on the field.
“It’s human nature, yeah, you want to play, but I wasn’t brought here to just start,” Mayfield said. “I was brought here to help turn this thing around and whatever my role is that’s what I need to do, whether that’s playing scout team or being the best backup possible or playing. So for me I’m not worried about that.
“I need to be prepared for when I do get my shot to be ready to play, but other than that I just gotta continue getting better and improving this team.”
Coach Hue Jackson has seen progress and said Mayfield needs to keep working over the break before training camp.
“He’s one of those guys that’s always itching to be the best at what he does and you like a guy like that,” Jackson said. “He’s not shying away from anything. He wants it every opportunity he can get and he’s going to keep improving, so I think from Day 1 to where he is now I think I’ve seen a lot of improvement.”
The learning curve in the NFL has been steeper than Mayfield expected and he’s searching for consistency. He noted the biggest difference from college is the knowledge of the game, and he’s working on mastering the protection schemes.
“Everybody knows the game, and you have to know your job inside and out if you want to have success, because the skill level is all so similar,” he said. “Knowing where to go with the ball in my position, knowing how to execute your job to the highest level.”
The Browns signed 12-year veteran Drew Stanton to mentor Mayfield and serve as insurance in case he’s not ready and Taylor gets hurt. He’s been impressed with Mayfield’s processing speed.
“He’s asking questions that are relevant,” Stanton said. “He’s engaged and he’s doing it the right way. He has all those tools that you’re excited about. Obviously, there’s a reason why he was drafted No. 1 overall.
“It’s next-level thinking, and you can see his football knowledge is very high. The nice thing about it is, when you play this position, you’re going to make mistakes. We all are, but learning from those mistakes and not repeating them, he’s done a really nice job of picking stuff up, getting a comfort level within this offense in a very short period of time.”
Mayfield, who said it’s too early to worry about where he is on the depth chart, saw improvements as the offseason practice schedule concluded.
“The game is starting to slow down a little bit, starting to recognize a little bit more, being more tuned in with my protections,” he said, “and that just comes with continuing to learn the offense, learn our guys and just in every aspect know where to go with the ball.”
Taylor’s job isn’t to mentor Mayfield. He’s focused on running the offense and preparing to play the season. But Mayfield (6-foot-0 5/8) watches Taylor (6-1) for clues on how to succeed in the NFL as a short quarterback and singled out his footwork.
“Being not the biggest guys, he makes it work with his feet,” Mayfield said. “He’s always in an athletic stance. He’s balanced, able to get the ball out quickly, but he’s so detailed in that he’s always in a position to throw or escape the pocket. He’s very good at it.”
Mayfield will return to California during the five-week break before training camp. He trained there before the draft and expects to continue studying while throwing to some of his teammates as camp nears.
Mayfield is a Texas kid who won a Heisman at Oklahoma and spent a lot of time in California. He said Cleveland’s won him over.
“I love it here,” he said. “Cleveland as a whole is a great sports town. People love the Browns here. It’s a great spot to be, people that care about it that much, it means that much more to them.”
He attended a Cavs playoff game but didn’t get to meet LeBron James — “He was a little busy and focused,” Mayfield said. He appreciated the magnitude of the moment.
“It’s much more than just a game, how much the people care about the Cavs and the Browns around here,” he said. “It’s a huge deal, so it goes far beyond the win-and-loss record. It goes to affecting families around here, bragging rights to traditions to the history of this town, and it means just that much more.”