ALAMEDA – The city of Cleveland already loves Baker Mayfield. The rookie quarterback got its citizens free beer, after all.
The No. 1 overall came on for a concussed Tyrod Taylor late in the second quarter and blazed a comeback trail to secure the Browns' first victory in 635 days. That's when the Bud Light folks unlocked the victory fridges, and Mayfield's performance became legend.
The victory was nice. Having a potentially dynamic quarterback show such moxie may have been the real reason to celebrate.
His second-half performance didn't teach the Browns much. It confirmed a few high hopes for the University of Oklahoma product.
"We saw that he can really play. That he has great poise. That he loves to play football. That's why we took him as the No. 1 overall draft pick," Browns head coach Hue Jackson said Wednesday in a conference call. "That's why the young man won the Heisman trophy. He's a talented player, but this is the NFL and it can be humbling in particular for guys at his position. He knows he has a lot to learn, and there will be a growth spurt for him this week. It'll be different this time, not coming off the bench."
Mayfield will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Raiders at Oakland Coliseum, after sitting behind Taylor the first two-plus games. Despite leaving those games winless, Jackson doesn't regret waiting to put Mayfield in the mix.
"I'm happy with the way things went," Jackson said. "I think a young player needs some time to get used to his environment. Through the preseason and the first two-and-a-half games, Baker was a student. Some people don't take it all in. Some people get frustrated by not playing. I think he took it as an opportunity to grow and learn so, when his time did come, that he would nail the opportunity. That's what he was able to do."
The Raiders will surely have some unscouted looks in an attempt to confuse Mayfield. They'll try to pressure him mentally and physical to force errant throws and bad decisions. That may prove difficult, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden says, considering Mayfield's similarities to a signal caller from Gruden's past.
"He makes a lot of plays when nothing's there. He makes plays when there is something there and the pocket's clean," Gruden said. "But, when nobody's open and he has to move around, he has a lot of Jeff Garcia in him. He'll dive for first downs. He'll extend plays. He has a really good competitive spirit about him. I love the way he plays. I know he'll be very excited for his first career start. We have to do a great job giving him some looks and put pressure on him with the pass rush."