The Cleveland Browns are in the middle of their annual offseason hype parade, although this time around it feels like it might be worth watching, considering all of the impressive upgrades made by general manager John Dorsey this offseason. It starts with the quarterback position, where Baker Mayfield, drafted No. 1 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, is expected to push veteran Tyrod Taylor, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Bills.
Based on one report out of OTAs, that won't be the case, as Cleveland.com's Dan Labbe wrote from Browns OTAs and minicamp he doesn't see Mayfield as "ready to compete" for the starting job.
It's a small sample size, but Labbe believes the rookie is lagging behind Taylor.
"This is where I tell you that, based on the six practices of OTAs and minicamp that were open to the media, Mayfield, in my opinion, did not look ready to compete with Taylor for the No. 1 quarterback job," Labbe wrote.
He must have received some criticism on this, because he added an update/addendum to the numbered item that noted "I mean he simply wasn't ready to push Taylor for the job" and that his statement "was not a commentary on his preparation, which, by most accounts, has been up to par."
And while that drew a lot of attention, apparently, Labbe also noted in multiple bullet points later in the story that "plans in June can change by September" and that while the team's "history at the position shouldn't be a reason to sit Mayfield," "the reality is that recent history is a factor."
Also a reality: Tyrod Taylor is on the team. And Taylor, who Mayfield said has been an "unbelievable mentor," is also someone who clearly has an advantage over Mayfield in that he's played in NFL games before. He clearly has support from players on offense, too, such as Duke Johnson, who recently landed a new contract from Cleveland.
"It kind of shows what a vet quarterback is," Johnson said via Cleveland.com. "The way he handles the huddle, the way he anticipates throws, the way his knowledge is for the game. It just shows. I think the only other quarterback I've had like that since I've been here is probably Josh McCown, if I'm not mistaken. Definitely, Josh was another kind of vet quarterback that did everything that vet quarterbacks do. Tyrod is definitely a guy that we have a lot of trust in and we believe that he's always going to put the ball in the right places, as long as we protect him and keep him off the ground and keep him on his feet, we'll be alright."
That's the kind of phrasing that leads you to believe a core group of offensive players, most of whom have played with a lot of young quarterbacks and most of whom have not won a lot of games, are interested in seeing what happens with a veteran under center.
What seems the most likely to me is the Browns want Tyrod to start out of the gate because he gives them the highest floor in terms of winning games now. Hue Jackson needs to win games, because he's won only one of them in his tenure with the Browns, and winning games is important for being a football coach. If he doesn't win some games early in 2018, his job is far from safe. It wouldn't be surprising if Hue was telling people Tyrod had the job locked up and/or Mayfield wasn't ready.
GM John Dorsey stands to benefit from Taylor playing early as well -- if the Browns win games, he builds cache with ownership for turning the team around quickly and if Tyrod is able to make a playoff run, or at least keep the Browns in the playoff run, that looks good on the GM who brought him in. Worst case the Browns lose with Tyrod and Hue can go looking for a hand-picked coach. Certainly losing with Mayfield out of the gate is not what the Browns ownership or fanbase wants to see.
And, again: it is June. Don't believe anything you read about any player in June. The tropes are rolling in fast and furious. Mayfield can easily win this job. It just might not be what the Browns want to happen quite yet.