Last Thursday night, Baker Mayfield entered the lineup for the Browns for the first time and captivated a primetime national audience. The number one overall pick came in for the injured Tyrod Taylor an ressurected a Browns offense that was floundering against the Jets.
The exciting rookie led the Browns to their first win in two years. In the process he ignited Baker mania in Cleveland and setting the stage for him to make his first career start in Oakland this Sunday.
The Raiders will have his hands full with Mayfield. With just that half of football of NFL tape along with a lot of highly successful college tape, earning him the 2017 Heisman Trophy. Gruden knows what he’s up against.
“He just makes a lot of plays when nothing’s there. He makes plays when there is something there, the pocket it is clean, he can hit the open receivers,” Gruden said of Mayfield.
Gruden likes his ‘Grinders’ and Mayfield has that in him. So much so that he invoked the name of a gritty quarterback who played under Gruden for his final two seasons in Tampa.
“He has a lot of Jeff Garcia in him,” Gruden said of Mayfield. “He dives for first downs, he’ll extend plays. He’s got a really good competitive spirit about him. I love the way he plays. I know he’ll be really excited for his first career start. We’ve got to do a great job giving him some looks and getting some pressure on him.”
Garcia earned his way into the NFL at the age of 29 after several years in the CFL. Garcia would play 11 seasons in the NFL, making four Pro Bowls. His final Pro Bowl coming under Gruden at the age of 37. So, that’s a hell of a compliment to Mayfield coming from Gruden.
Even though Garcia hasn’t played in the NFL since 2009 — while Derek Carr was still in high school — he made the same comparison as his head coach. Though he swears he wasn’t copying him.
“He reminds me of Jeff Garcia,” Carr said of Mayfield. “Just very athletic, very competitive, can make all the throws kind of a thing. He’s a really good player and I think the sky’s the limit for him. As long as he keeps his head down and keeps working, I think that he can do a lot of great things for their organization.”
Coming out of college, Mayfield was compared a lot former Browns top pick Johnny Manziel, who was selected 14 spots ahead of Carr in the 2014 draft. Mayfield appears at this point to have the positive traits of Manziel without all the negative off the field traits.
Make no mistake, Manziel was highly talented. He won a Heisman Trophy too. And Gruden sure liked him coming out of college.
Mayfield will bring those abilities and excitement to Oakland on a team that Gruden noted could easily be 3-0 as opposed to 1-1-1 if they had a decent kicker the first two weeks. This is a very different Browns team from last season, that’s for sure. And Baker Mayfield’s presence takes them to another level.