Tyrod Taylor puts the Browns in a rare position to compete now and plan for the future. Could he be key in a turnaround in Cleveland?
By the end of the 2018 season, Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor will be living proof that not all heroes wear capes. Some wear the blame for the past franchise failures of a Buffalo Bills team that struggled every year to find enough offensive help.
The light at the end of the tunnel for the Browns is through Taylor.
That very idea might come as a surprise to those that were ready to anoint rookie Baker Mayfield as the immediate franchise quarterback, but all of that early excitement is best reserved for when he’s ready to be the answer to the Browns’ problems.
Head coach Hue Jackson, who is fortunate to still have a job after going 0-16 last season, won’t get much out of duplicating the same quarterback carousel he’s played the last two seasons with guys like DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan, Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown and Cody Kessler.
He’ll be much safer putting the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner on ice and riding with the former Pro Bowler this year.
Taylor threw for 2,799 yards, 14 touchdowns and only four interceptions last season with a running back and tight end as his most productive receivers. Despite a clear lack of offensive firepower and playing in the same division as the New England Patriots, he still managed to help carry the Bills to their first playoff berth in 18 years.
All that earned him was a first-class flight to Cleveland and a rare chance to save a moribund franchise most believe is beyond saving.
The Browns now have the luxury of spending more time developing Mayfield, while Taylor takes the reins of the offense for the next year or two.
No one is expecting the veteran quarterback to deliver a Super Bowl or even a playoff berth in his first season with the team, but the general hope is that he can somehow do better than last year, while also instilling confidence and growth in his teammates for the foreseeable future.
“The most talented quarterbacks I’ve seen come through here — by far,” Browns star wideout Josh Gordon said on Tuesday, via Cleveland.com. “…All I can do is make sure that I’m doing everything I can do to try to match Tyrod’s level of intensity, his focus every morning. He’s the first guy in, he’s the last guy to leave. I don’t know a quarterback that works harder than Tyrod. He’s definitely set the bar.”
Resetting the bar isn’t that difficult when the bar is sitting at the ankles. That’s likely to be the thought of every football aficionado heading into another season with a team that hasn’t won eight games in any of the past 11 seasons.
However, there are valid reasons to believe this year will be different.
Taylor is coming into a situation where he will be surrounded by the most offensive talent he’s ever experienced in his career as a starter.
Gordon could return to elite form with a full offseason under his belt, and the addition of two-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry gives the Browns perhaps the best receiving duo in football. There is also hope that some of the green will fall off a potential diamond at tight end in second-year player David Njoku.
Along with a bevy of receiving targets, the Browns have made sure to fortify the offensive backfield by bringing in a pair of 230-plus pound thumpers at running back in Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb.
Throwing an experienced signal caller like Taylor, who has less career interceptions than Kizer had last season, into the mix of the newly-constructed offense gives the team an opportunity to compete right out the gates, while bridging the quarterback gap to perhaps an even brighter future with Mayfield at the helm.
There is also the possibility that Taylor takes off in the offense and never looks back.
Don’t think for one second the Browns would simply throw away a third-round pick for a player they have no intention of taking a long look at as a starter.
“Tyrod walked in here, I made a commitment to him and he’s held up his end of the bargain with not just the way he works but the way he plays and the way he leads,” Jackson told Cleveland.com at the end of Wednesday’s minicamp practice. “He’s earned the right to be the starting quarterback here.”
Winning is an acquired taste, but once it touches the lips and rolls around on the tongue, there is nothing in the football world more addicting.
If Taylor delivers even the slightest bit of hope the tables can be turned in Cleveland, his position as a starter will be safe, leaving Mayfield with only two options: Learn quickly or get used to being the backup.