Be­ing Baker May­field:

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Upon Fur­ther Re­view Mike Jones USA TO­DAY

The rookie QB wel­comed the chal­lenge of turn­ing around the Browns. He’s al­ready de­liv­er­ing.

Baker May­field wanted the chal­lenge. Months be­fore the Browns made him the first pick of the 2018 NFL draft, he didn’t flinch at the prospect of join­ing the long-suf­fer­ing fran­chise, which be­fore his ar­rival had no­to­ri­ously ro­tated through 28 start­ing quar­ter­backs since 1999.

May­field made it known in Jan­uary at the Se­nior Bowl that he be­lieved if any­one could end the Browns’ run of fu­til­ity, he could. He re­it­er­ated this be­lief a month later at the NFL scout­ing com­bine. Now, hav­ing played in just three games and taken the reins of Cleve­land’s of­fense, the former Ok­la­homa star is mak­ing a be­liever out of his team­mates, coaches and fans.

On Oct. 8, May­field di­rected the Browns to a gutsy 12-9 over­time win over Bal­ti­more. The tri­umph not only gave the Browns their se­cond vic­tory of the sea­son but also their first against a di­vi­sional op­po­nent since 2015. And again, May­field im­pressed those clos­est to him.

“I ain’t been around you a long time, but one thing I know about you — you don’t flinch,” Cleve­land coach Hue Jack­son told May­field in front of the rest of the team in his postgame locker room speech. “You keep play­ing, and you keep bring­ing the guys in.”

As is ev­i­dent by the fi­nal score, points were dif­fi­cult to come by for Cleve­land. May­field threw for 342 yards and one touch­down. He also threw an in­ter­cep­tion and com­pleted just 25 of his 43 throws.

How­ever, when the pres­sure peaked, he dis­played re­mark­able poise. May­field led his team all the way from its 2-yard line and into range for the win­ning field goal. A 13-yard scram­ble and a 39-yard com­ple­tion proved crit­i­cal on the drive.

Dur­ing that per­for­mance, Jack­son and Browns play­ers wit­nessed an­other dis­play of May­field’s re­silience and de­ter­mi­na­tion. But this wasn’t new news to ev­ery­one within the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

May­field’s men­tal makeup drew the Browns to him, and it was what sep­a­rated him from all of the other ta­lented quar­ter­back prospects.

When gen­eral man­ager John Dorsey and his staff eval­u­ated quar­ter­backs lead­ing up to the draft, they chose not to put great stock in May­field’s phys­i­cal at­tributes. They didn’t care that he’s con­sid­ered un­der­sized at just un­der 6-1 and 215 pounds. They didn’t worry that he didn’t have the same pure arm strength as some of the other quar­ter­backs avail­able did. The con­fi­dence with which May­field car­ried him­self both on the field and dur­ing pre-draft in­ter­views made Browns brass fall in love.

Dur­ing their talks with peo­ple from Ok­la­homa, they learned that May­field pos­sesses a knack for get­ting his team­mates to rally around him. Some of it stems from his com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and his abil­ity to find ways to iden­tify with team­mates re­gard­less of their dif­fer­ing back­grounds. His body lan­guage and pres­ence in the hud­dle are also fac­tors.

The Browns learned that Ok­la­homa team­mates found May­field’s swag­ger con­ta­gious. They also found his re­fusal to hang his head af­ter mis­takes or losses in­spir­ing and mo­ti­vat­ing. No mo­ment seemed too big for May­field in col­lege, and the Browns thought the same would ap­ply in the NFL. Jack­son and his as­sis­tants still planned to groom the rookie grad­u­ally, but once he shined in place of in­jured Ty­rod Tay­lor in Week 3 and di­rected Cleve­land to its first win since 2016, they re­al­ized it was im­pos­si­ble to keep him on the bench any longer.

Af­ter fly­ing high in that come­back vic­tory, May­field came back to earth last week at Oak­land. He threw for 295 yards and two touch­downs, but he also tossed two in­ter­cep­tions and lost two fum­bles in a 45-42 over­time de­feat. May­field blamed him­self for the loss and vowed to do bet­ter.

De­spite the dis­ap­point­ing re­sult for a rein­vig­o­rated Cleve­land team, some close to May­field saw the ben­e­fits of the rookie hav­ing en­dured such an out­ing. The nar­row mar­gin of de­feat served as a valu­able les­son on the im­por­tance of ball se­cu­rity.

As May­field took the field against Bal­ti­more, he was de­ter­mined to show he could re­bound from the pre­vi­ous week’s dis­ap­point­ment. And he de­liv­ered.

Now, Browns team­mates are learn­ing May­field is the same guy they heard about and ob­served from afar at Ok­la­homa. They’re talk­ing about him the same way his Soon­ers team­mates and coaches did.

“When I first saw the video of him danc­ing when he was in col­lege at OU, that is when I knew that Baker was a dif­fer­ent breed,” Browns run­ning back Car­los Hyde said on a con­fer­ence call with re­porters Oct. 9. “He is not like most quar­ter­backs. He has some swag to him. I love it, es­pe­cially from the quar­ter­back po­si­tion. I say that be­cause of the way he plays and the way he car­ries him­self — a guy who has been here and done it be­fore like it is noth­ing new to him.”

Said wide re­ceiver Jarvis Landry: “It’s his at­ti­tude and charisma. Like I said, he didn’t budge. He didn’t flinch. He con­tin­ued to find ways to get the ball in peo­ple’s hands and let them make plays, and that’s the big­gest thing. It shows the amount of trust he has in every­body.”

Now 2-2-1, the Browns find them­selves squarely in the race for the AFC North. Yes, there are 11 games left. But May­field has given the Browns rea­son to be­lieve that their re­build might pro­ceed at a quicker-than-an­tic­i­pated pace.


The Browns are 2-1 in games rookie quar­ter­back Baker May­field has played.

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