ROCKY RIVER (McClatchy) — As Tyrod Taylor walked into the movie theater inside Strongsville’sSouthPark Mall to see “A Quiet Place” last month on draft night, he learned the buzz surrounding the Browns’ quarterback situation would become infinitely louder.
Coach Hue Jackson had called Taylor to notify him the Browns were drafting Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Baker Mayfield first overall.
“I didn’t have necessarily a reaction or anything,” Taylor said Monday during the 19th annual Cleveland Browns Foundation Golf Tournament at Westwood Country Club. “I appreciate (Jackson) calling. My mindset doesn’t change. It’s not going to change.
“I welcome (Mayfield) to the team, but my mindset when I first came into the league is prepare each and every day as the starter and continue to keep pushing yourself.”
Jackson said he thought it was important to call Taylor and explain the team’s thinking.
“As I said when we brought him here, he’s our starting quarterback,” Jackson said. “Our quarterback should know exactly what we’re trying to accomplish and do, and he’s still the starter. I wanted him to know we’re going to bring Baker aboard, that Baker will compete but, at the same time, I wanted to make sure he knew he had my support, just as Baker has my support, just as every quarterback on our team has my support.”
The Browns plan to start Taylor when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 9 in the regular-season opener at FirstEnergy Stadium, but Mayfield has vowed to compete for the job in hopes of forcing the franchise to alter its strategy.
“He’s a competitor, as well as myself,” said Taylor, who introduced himself to Mayfield in the office of quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese shortly after the draft. “I think that’s what drives us. That’s what gets us to the point that we’re at now in our career. (Mayfield promising to compete for the job) doesn’t faze me. I’ve been put in a number of situations throughout my career, and I’m going to continue to keep being the same person and continue to keep, I guess you could say, proving people wrong.”
Taylor is still motivated by the fact that 10 quarterbacks were drafted in 2011 before the Baltimore Ravens picked him in the sixth round (No. 180 overall). After spending four seasons as a backup with the Ravens, he signed with the Buffalo Bills as a free agent in 2015 and became their starter. He went 22-21 in that role the past three years and helped the Bills end their 17-year playoff drought last season. Only two of the quarterbacks selected ahead of Taylor seven years ago are NFL starters: the Carolina Panthers’Cam Newton (No. 1 overall) and the Cincinnati Bengals’Andy Dalton (No. 35 overall).
In March, general manager John Dorsey traded a third-round pick (No. 65 overall) to the Bills for Taylor in an effort to give the Browns an experienced quarterback who could help them return to respectability after they went 1-15 and 0-16 the past two seasons.
“I was brought here to help win games and to turn around the organization,” said Taylor, who’s set to make $16 million this year and become an unrestricted free agent in March. “As far as the underdog mentality, yes, you can always say that’s always going to drive me.
“What drove me every day was remembering my mom and my parents’ faces and the feeling that I had on draft day, not being happy about that. So I’m going to continue to keep pushing, continue to keep working the way I do. (I’m) ready to take my game to the next level. I think that I’ve been able to take steps in the right direction each year that I’ve been able to play the game. So I’m excited about the opportunity that I have here. There’s so much talent on this team and guys that are in the right mindset.”
Speaking of mentality, Jackson said Taylor’s background makes him well equipped to handle the presence of Mayfield.
“Everybody else is creating all of the (Mayfield) buzz,” Jackson said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think Baker Mayfield is the future of this organization and a tremendous football player. But at the same time, he’s never played a game and never won a game in the National Football League. Tyrod has, so that’s the road we’re going to travel right now.
“I think (Taylor is well equipped because he has) been an underdog himself all of his life. I think people have always counted him out and people have always chased better, and he’s always proven otherwise. So I think he’ll get an opportunity.”
Jackson rejected the notion that the quarterback pecking order could somehow be influenced by HBO’s Hard Knocks chronicling training camp this summer.
“It’s not going to change because the show’s there,” Jackson said. “I don’t think that’s going to be our focus as a football team. Our focus will be to have a great training camp and get better and be the best football team we can be. It won’t be about the cameras. I’ve been a part of (Hard Knocks as the running backs coach of the Bengals in 2013), and it wasn’t about that then, so I don’t think it will be about that now.”
Veterans and rookies will begin practicing together when the Browns start organized team activities Tuesday. There won’t be a bona fide competition for the starting quarterback job unless Mayfield rallies enough to create one.
“You never know,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “I mean, a lot of teams have planned to not start guys and they end up starting guys, but we’re in a good position right there — the best position I’ve had at quarterback since I’ve been here — with Tyrod and what he showed me so far. I’m 100 percent behind that. You know me, I’ll block (for) whoever’s back there, but as of right now, we’re preparing for Tyrod to be back there, and he’s acting like it, too. He’s QB1 right now.
”(Taylor is) a stud, man. Everything he does, on and of the field, he works his tail off. When I think of quarterback in the NFL, that’s what he does. … He’s putting in the time, he has a quiet confidence about himself and once he gets on the field, he has command of that huddle. It’s really refreshing to be around a guy like this. You know he’s doing everything in his power to be as prepared as he can be.”
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