I’m not asking for much. A little patience, perspective and regard for the plan.
Northeast Ohio knows bad quarterback play better than any other location in the world. So when Tyrod Taylor went 15-for-40 (37.5 percent) for 197 yards with a touchdown, an interception and a 51.8 rating in his Browns debut, alarm bells went off.
Sure, the Browns tied the Steelers 21-21, stopping a six-game losing streak to the rivals and a 17-game skid overall. But it would’ve been a demons-exorcising, culture-changing, statement-making, free-Bud Light victory with a competent performance from Taylor.
That doesn’t mean it’s time to turn to No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield. No matter how thrilling and tempting the option is.
You can make a legitimate case that Mayfield should’ve started the season, or at least been given the chance to win the job. The argument got stronger when No. 3 pick Sam Darnold led the Jets to a 48-17 victory Monday night in Detroit.
But Browns general manager John Dorsey and coach Hue Jackson have been clear about their plan at quarterback, and the reasoning behind it, for months. With that as the backdrop, it would make no sense to change course after one game — which wasn’t even a loss. I don’t care if this is the perfect time for overreaction in a league of overreactions.
The case for status quo is simple. Let’s start with Taylor.
That’s about as bad as he can play. All the warts Bills management couldn’t overlook were on full display.
He didn’t see the field well, which affected everything. He was unsettled in the pocket, overly conservative, late to make decisions and underthrew a handful of balls when he got the matchup he wanted. The only bright spots were his running (eight carries, 77 yards, a touchdown) and back-to-back fade throws down the right sideline to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
But it’s worth remembering it was his first game with a new team and a ton of new teammates and didn’t play much in the preseason. The weather conditions were miserable. The play calling questionable. The protection unacceptable.
Taylor’s track record shouldn’t be forgotten because of a poor first impression. He won 22 games in three years as the starter in Buffalo and took the Bills to the playoffs last year.
The quality games — 17 with a passer rating above 100 — really happened even if they didn’t take place with the Browns. And they more than offset the three starts with a worse rating and four more in the ballpark.
Taylor certainly needs to play better and will be motivated to do so Sunday in New Orleans. But talk of replacing the man who was installed as the starter in March, took ownership of the locker room immediately and was voted captain less than a week ago is premature, at best, and irresponsible, at worst.
The other half of the situation is even more important.
Dorsey and Jackson decided they didn’t want to play any rookie quarterback at the beginning of the season. They traded for Taylor with that in mind and informed Mayfield when he was just a candidate to be the No. 1 pick.
Dorsey believes in letting a quarterback learn from the sideline. Jackson is scarred from starting rookies Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer on the way to 1-31.
I don’t believe this is the right approach for all rookies. And don’t think it applies to Mayfield.
If the player is talented enough, smart enough and, most importantly, mentally tough enough, throw him into the fire. The more game experience the better. Mayfield fits all three requirements.
Of course, the other 52 men on the roster must be considered. And if the veteran provides a better chance to win, then the rookie should sit, especially early in the year.
But that’s not the argument of Dorsey and Jackson.
“We all know the complexities of that position … and I think it is unfair to just throw somebody into the fire right away,” Dorsey told me last week. “You can’t do that. Does it give him a chance to succeed long term?
“If you put him right into the fire right away, it’s like baptism under fire.”
Handling quarterback situations is different in Cleveland. Dorsey inherited baggage from his predecessors and there will be intense pressure to play Mayfield if Taylor continues to struggle.
How committed are the Browns to sitting him?
“You know what, every year is different,” Dorsey said. “And that’s a hypothetical, because I believe in going one game at a time and dealing with it like that.”
If the organization truly believes Mayfield is better served by watching, he shouldn’t be forced into the lineup regardless of Taylor’s performance.
That may not be realistic. But it should keep him on the bench for a while.
And Taylor should get the chance to redeem himself.