BEREA — The Baker Mayfield fans expecting the No. 1 pick and Heisman Trophy winner to make a run at the starting job once training camp begins shouldn’t get their hopes up.
“That is yet to be determined,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Thursday when asked if a preseason push was possible. “He has a long way to go.
“I would say it is clear that Tyrod is the leader of this team. That is a big component of that position also.”
Haley was next in a long line of coaches and teammates to gush over Tyrod Taylor, who was acquired in a March trade and immediately installed as the starter. Coach Hue Jackson said he’s earned it since with his performance on the field and off it, and Haley agreed completely.
“I thought that Tyrod has done a tremendous, tremendous job of establishing himself as the leader of this offense,” he said. “His car is there every morning in his spot when I get here in the morning, and it is there when I am leaving. That is what you are looking for in the leader of the offense.
“He has done a great job with understanding the terminology, the concepts and all of the different things. We threw a lot at him. Through hard work — he is more of a show what to do more than by talking — I have really been impressed and encouraged by him.”
When Haley was done talking, quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese took the baton and piled on the praise.
“I’m so excited to have him. I just can’t tell you how excited I am to have him,” he said of Taylor. “The standard that he sets and the consistency every day, from the time he’s in until the time he’s out, I have not seen a guy keep those hours in the springtime.
“It just brings some comfort level. You know you can trust him.”
Taylor, 28, is widely viewed as a placeholder for Mayfield and not a franchise quarterback, despite a 22-21 record in Buffalo. Zampese sees much more.
“Tyrod’s just hitting his stride. He’s just coming into his own and this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “We haven’t seen the best from him.”
In three years starting for the Bills, he completed 62.6 percent with 51 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a 92.5 rating. All solid numbers.
“I’m a kid in a candy store,” Zampese said. “There’s no limitations with him. He can throw it down the field, he can run the zone read stuff, he can run a conventional offense. Anything you want him to do, he can do those things.”
Taylor’s leadership covers the whole team but starts in the quarterback room with Mayfield and 34-year-old Drew Stanton.
“You have guys who are not real interested in helping other guys through the years, and you have guys who are interested in helping. He is interested in this team being as good as it possibly can be,” Haley said of Taylor. “He obviously wants to be the quarterback, and he is working his butt off to do that from an on-the-field standpoint. But off of the field, he is a great character really. This guy is a unique teammate, and one that I am very excited about.”
Haley has coached Hall of Famer Kurt Warner in Arizona and likely future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. Some eyebrows might shoot toward the sky after this comment.
“Probably in my career this is one of the best if not the best quarterback rooms in general that I have had,” Haley said. “I think that it is an intelligent, intelligent group with ability to throw the football and make plays with their legs, some of them.”
While Mayfield’s march to the starting role might not be moving as fast as some would like, including himself, the coaches are happy with his development.
“He has made very good progress, but any time that you are a young player coming into this league, especially a quarterback, it is going to take time,” Haley said. “You have a lot of different things that you are dealing with at that position. I am happy that we have training camp because young quarterbacks need all of the time they can get.”
Mayfield said Wednesday he’s taking “baby steps” as he makes the many adjustments to life as an NFL quarterback. He said the key is gaining as much knowledge — of the playbook, protections, defenses — as fast as he can.
“He’s got plenty of mental capacity,” Zampese said. “The key is, can you digest the words and process it fast enough while guys are running at you to get the ball to the right guy, and it’s just a process of doing it over and over again. We’re very, very happy with where he’s at mentally and it just takes time to get through all of that and see enough reps.”
He said Mayfield won’t rest until he’s improved by leaps and bounds.
“The best part about Baker is he’s hungry,” Zampese said. “He’s not satisfied with where he’s at. There’s always another level for him. He’s trying to find it each day.”