Baker Mayfield

Hue Jackson Discusses Firing, Dorsey, Quarterbacks

The Browns unceremoniously fired head coach Hue Jackson earlier this week. Jackson ended his Cleveland tenure with a 3-36-1 record, including a 2-5-1 record this season. As the Browns prepare for their matchup against the Chiefs tomorrow, Jackson will be sitting out an NFL weekend for the first time since 2000 (when he was USC’s offensive coordinator).

Jackson has naturally appeared in a number of interviews over the past week, including a sit-down talk with Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. We’ve compiled some of his notable soundbites below, although the entire interview (in which Jackson also discusses the power struggle over the offense) is worth reading in full:

On if he was surprised by his sudden dismissal:

“I was surprised. I’m not going to say just totally blindsided because there was just so much noise out there about what was going on with our football team that I thought was not true. But anytime there’s all these undercurrents going, there’s something in there. 

“I was surprised when both Jimmy and John walked in my office and let me know that they’d be relieving me as being the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

“That’s a hard pill to swallow when you’ve given it your all, and you’ve worked extremely hard and you do everything you can to try to put the place in the best position to move forward. But again, it’s their decision. I have to respect it and move on.”

On if there was any “discord” within the organization/coaching staff:

“I didn’t perceive it (that way). I think you can disagree with people and not have it be discord. Discord to me is a strong word. It means there’s always infighting. That’s a pretty hot word. 

“I know there was disagreements and rightfully so. Who doesn’t disagree? But I think the term internal discord was a little much.”

On his relationship with general manager John Dorsey:

“If there was a guy who could flip a roster and acquire talent at the rate we needed, it was John Dorsey. I also knew that if we didn’t start winning, with John Dorsey on board, that changes were going to have to be made. This is why I chose a veteran OC in Todd Haley. It’s why I chose Greg Williams as well.”

“There is no such thing as a clean start, or total rebuild, or a reset. The faster you move on from people, the longer it could take from the next person to turn it into their vision. I believe the constant changes only compound the difficulties for the next person to have the time and patience to be successful. 

“I strongly believe that I did a lot of work in a short time of laying the foundation for turning the place around. It’s unfortunate that they took the approach they did the first two years because those were two years that I couldn’t get back from a record and value standpoint.

“Had we been doing in year one what I was able to get us to do in year three, there’s no question we would already be a winning football team. You can’t go 1-15 or 0-16 and have people like you unless you come out and explain to everyone that you’re going to lose. And you can’t say that publicly.”

On the Browns’ decision to pass on Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes:

“We passed on three franchise QBs the first two years in Wentz, Watson and Mahomes. We played with a QB room with zero wins in the league. We played with street free agents and practice squad players in WRs. Yet our offense was the same or better than what we were doing this year. There is no way that should happen.

“You can’t pass on quarterbacks. You never pass on a potential franchise quarterback because you don’t know who’s going to be there in the future. I think Baker Mayfield is going to be a sensational player if they surround him with the right people, but they’ve got to give him help and run a scheme suited to his skill set.” 

On what’s next for his career:

“I learned a lot from this experience. But just as important, I never lost what I knew from my previous experiences and successes. So I grew significantly as a coach over the last three years through this process. I went in assuming that it would be a simple transition of just getting to coaching and it being all about playing ball. I learned early on that this wasn’t an accurate assumption.

“When there’s such a deep history of losing, it compounds and impacts everything. So this experience has allow me to grow and be even more prepared for the next experience. 

“I’m the same coach from three years ago. As you’ve seen with other coaches who have went on to have success after their time in Cleveland, I expect nothing less of myself as well. So we’ll see. But I’m looking forward to it.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Fallout: Jackson, Staff, Mayfield

In firing Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, the Browns axed the top two voices behind their offense on Monday. This came after reports of friction between the two, accounts that turned out to be very real and ones that could’ve been envisioned for anyone who saw Hard Knocks.

The message today is we’re not going to put up with internal discord,” owner Jimmy Haslam said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “… We had some concerns going into the game, obviously (Sunday’s) performance was disappointing. We had several of our key people involved in this conversations last night and this morning and did what we think’s best for the organization.”

Haslam said he met with John Dorsey on Sunday night, and actions came down Monday morning. Although Jackson went 1-31 in his first two seasons with the team, Haslam opted to give him a third year because the aggressive rebuild — put forth by former GM Sashi Brown — put Jackson in a “difficult spot” (Twitter link via Cabot). Gregg Williams was the only person the Browns considered to be the interim HC, Haslam said (per Nate Ulrich of ohio.com, on Twitter).

Some Browns began to question Jackson’s credibility, as a result of the third-year HC following through on his intent to give Haley autonomy to run the offense, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. After running the offense in 2016 and ’17, Jackson wasn’t nearly as involved this season. Jackson, in turn, was frustrated Haley would “do his own thing,” Breer adds. Jackson’s message grew stale as the losses mounted, per Yahoo’s Terez Paylor. This is obviously not uncommon for teams in losing situations, and that descriptor might not be strong enough to describe the state of the Browns under Haslam. The seventh-year owner’s now fired four head coaches, and the Browns have won more than five games just once under his watch.

Baker Mayfield‘s development shifts to front and center, and Breer notes the Jackson firing probably won’t bother the rookie quarterback much. They didn’t exactly see eye to eye, per Breer. Though, the No. 1 overall pick now has to finish a season without a proven offensive voice in the building and will have to learn a new offense in 2019.

Williams is technically still defensive coordinator, in addition to becoming a first-time head coach at age 60. But some around the league believe he will promote his son, Blake Williams, to that post, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Blake Williams has been Cleveland’s linebackers coach for two seasons.

As far as a possible Jackson/Williams successor, Breer points out Dorsey has “the highest respect” for what Iowa State coach Matt Campbell‘s done. Campbell, 38, is from the Cleveland area (Massillon, Ohio) as well. While Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley may well get a look, since he’d be a natural fit given his mentoring of Mayfield with the Sooners, he doesn’t envision leaving Oklahoma (video link). Gregg Williams will also be a candidate for the full-time job, Haslam said (via Cabot, on Twitter). But such a scenario would be hard to envision.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Name Baker Mayfield Starting QB

As expected, the Browns have named Baker Mayfield their starting quarterback. Browns coach Hue Jackson announced the news to his team this morning, days after Mayfield led the Browns to a come-from-behind victory over the Jets. 

I informed the group this morning that we’re going to start Baker Mayfield and Tyrod will be the backup if healthy,” Jackson said (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com). “Baker understands there’s still a lot of work to do. … Now the other added pressure of being out there first is there. But I think he can handle it. He’s demonstrated that.”

This year’s No. 1 overall pick will become the 30th QB to start for the Browns since 1999 when they take on the Raiders this week. The decision was something of a no-brainer after Tyrod Taylor struggled early on against the Jets before being forced out with a brain injury. When Mayfield took over in the second quarter, he led the Browns on a thrilling comeback from a 14-0 deficit to a 21-17 victory on national television.

If Mayfield can lead the Browns to victory against the Raiders, he’ll give the Browns their first winning streak since 2014 and their best start since 2001.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns To Announce Baker Mayfield As Starting QB Monday

The Baker Mayfield era in Cleveland has begun. After Mayfield guided the Browns to a victory over the Jets on Thursday night in relief of Tyrod Taylor, it appeared that the writing was on the wall for Taylor, who struggled mightily before being lifted with a concussion. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports that head coach Hue Jackson will formally announce Mayfield, this year’s No. 1 overall pick, as the team’s starting quarterback on Monday after he has had the chance to speak with both Mayfield and Taylor (Jackson gave his team the weekend off).

The original plan was for Mayfield to sit out for much, if not all, of 2018, and serve as Taylor’s backup while learning the professional game. However, as Cabot writes in a separate piece, Jackson and GM John Dorsey really just wanted to make sure the team around Mayfield was strong enough to support him. Indeed, she says if future Hall-of-Fame left tackle Joe Thomas had not retired this offseason, Mayfield may have started right away. But now that the team seems solid enough in all three phases — the Browns could easily be 3-0 right now — Cleveland brass is comfortable putting their prized rookie under center.

Cabot adds that, when it became clear that Taylor was not getting the job done through the first two games of the season, the Browns were likely eyeing next week’s game against the Raiders as a target date for Mayfield’s debut anyway. But Taylor’s concussion — which Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believes may have been a ruse to get Mayfield in the game — allowed them to expedite the process.

Cabot says Jackson has not yet made a formal announcement because he wants to be respectful towards the veteran Taylor and to speak with him before going public. As Adam Schefter of ESPN tweets, Taylor is expected to clear the concussion protocol this week, so assuming Cabot’s report is accurate, Taylor will serve as Mayfield’s backup going forward.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Mayfield, Steelers, Moore

Browns fans enjoyed the chance to see a matchup between the quarterback most assumed they’d select vs. the one they actually did on Thursday, and Baker Mayfield won the first round between he and Sam Darnold. The USC-developed passer loomed as the frontrunner to go No. 1 overall for months, until Mayfield buzz increased during draft week. However, it wasn’t that tough of a decision for John Dorsey, with Terry Pluto of cleveland.com noting the new Browns GM had a “far higher” grade on Mayfield than Darnold. Both Pluto and cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot write that a return to Tyrod Taylor as the starter doesn’t make sense, with Cabot adding the months-long stance to start Taylor over Mayfield was made by both Dorsey and Hue Jackson. After the Browns’ 21-17 win over the Jets, Dorsey, per Cabot, was overheard saying to owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, “I think I picked the right one,” appearing to reference the controversial Mayfield-over-Darnold selection.

Here’s the latest out of the North divisions:

  • Sterling Moore has a workout scheduled with the Bears for next week, Jane Slater of NFL.com tweets. A former Saints, Cowboys and Buccaneers starter, Moore failed to make the Lions’ 53-man roster out of training camp. The 28-year-old cornerback played six games with the Saints last season, his second stint in New Orleans.
  • The Steelers‘ corner situation will see a boost in a bigger-than-expected spot Monday night. Joe Haden appears set to return for Pittsburgh after missing Week 2, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM Radio tweets. Haden practiced fully on Saturday. Morgan Burnett, however, doesn’t look likely to suit up Monday. The Steelers listed their recently signed safety as doubtful to face the Buccaneers.
  • Pittsburgh’s reeling on its offensive line. David DeCastro will miss his second straight game because of the fractured right hand he suffered in Week 1. Marcus Gilbert is doubtful for Week 3 because of a hamstring malady. The Steelers declared DeCastro out, and the Associated Press notes B.J. Finney will start in his place. Matt Feiler is in line to start at right tackle for Gilbert, per the AP. The Steelers struggled to produce much on the ground in Week 2 without some key pieces, with James Conner being held to 17 rushing yards after a 135-yard debut in Cleveland. Of course, the Chiefs’ 21-0 start forced the Steelers to pass much more often than they would have otherwise done.
  • The Ravens did not make a move to adjust their cornerback situation on Saturday, meaning they’ll be down to four healthy players at this spot against the Broncos on Sunday. Rookie Anthony Averett will miss Week 3, Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun notes. This may force rookie UDFA Darious Williams into action. Although, Baltimore’s still in relatively good shape despite Averett and Jimmy Smith‘s absences. Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr and Tavon Young are available.

Browns Notes: Mayfield, Dez, Gonzalez

This does not come as a great shock, but 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield will open the season as the Browns’ backup signal-caller, as Jeff Schudel of the News-Herald tweets (though head coach Hue Jackson wants to inform his team of his decision before making it official). It was always understood that Tyrod Taylor, whom the Browns acquired in an offseason trade with the Bills, would serve as the team’s starting quarterback at least until Mayfield is deemed ready, and we recently heard that Cleveland is allegedly open to extending Taylor’s contract (he is eligible for free agency at season’s end).

The decision to name Mayfield the No. 2 QB, then, is actually more about the battle between Mayfield and Drew Stanton — Jackson said last week that he was still undecided as to which player would serve as the backup — than the “battle” between Mayfield and Taylor. Stanton, the long-time second-stringer who signed a two-year pact with the Browns in March, will be the team’s No. 3 quarterback, assuming Cleveland elects to keep three QBs.

Now let’s take a look at several more notes out of Cleveland:

  • Josh Gordon will not play in the Browns’ preseason finale due to hamstring discomfort, but Jackson says the embattled wideout — who is expected to be ready for Week 1 — is “getting close,” per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (via Twitter).
  • In her weekly mailbag, Cabot says the Browns have not ruled out signing Dez Bryant, who recently rejected the team’s contract offer. She says Bryant liked the Browns and clearly the team had interest in him, so things could change at any time.
  • Cabot also suggests in her mailbag that Shon Coleman, who was given the first chance to succeed Joe Thomas at left tackle, could well be on the roster bubble.
  • Jackson says he “thinks” Zane Gonzalez is in the lead in the Browns’ kicking battle, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (via Twitter).

Extra Points: Keim, Cardinals, Breeland, Colts, Beal, Giants, Mayfield, Browns

Steve Keim became the rare GM to be suspended when the team announced his punishment for his “severe DUI” arrest from earlier this month. Speaking to the media, team president Michael Bidwill shined a light on how the team will proceed with out Keim, who is banned for the next five weeks and not allowed to have any contact with the team. Although the suspension was announced as five weeks, along with a $200k fine, “Bidwill made it clear that Keim won’t return that soon unless he meets other requirements, including counseling” according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.

Bidwill was highly critical of Keim’s actions, saying flatly “there is no excuse to drink and drive.” Despite his harsh words, Bidwill indicated the team is still Keim’s to run when he returns and that they will be operating under his vision during his absence. While he conceded that training camp is “obviously not a great time to not have your general manager”, Bidwill insisted there won’t be any “drop-off here with his absence.” He said the team’s recent signing of safety Tre Boston, along with their other recent moves, were all made with the belief that they’re what Keim would’ve wanted.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Free agent cornerback Bashaud Breeland visited the Colts recently, but the team is unlikely to sign him according to Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). Holder says there’s “no indication that Bashaud Breeland will land in Indianapolis” and that his “sense is they’ll stand pat with the group of corners they have”, adding he’d be “surprised” if the team ends up bringing in Breeland.
  • Injured rookie cornerback Sam Beal will not be able to return this season notes Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com. If the Giants had wanted to have Beal eligible for one of their IR/return slots, they would’ve needed to wait until their roster was down to 53-men to place him on inured reserve. The third round supplemental draft pick will redshirt his rookie year and look to return strong in 2019.
  • Browns coach Hue Jackson acknowledged that number one overall pick Baker Mayfield has “exceeded expectations” so far in camp, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Kay Cabot notes that Mayfield “has yet to throw a pick in camp.” Jackson has insisted all along that Tyrod Taylor will be his starter, but it sounds like Mayfield could be pushing for the job sooner rather than later.

Browns Sign Baker Mayfield

The Browns have signed quarterback and No. 1 overall selection Baker Mayfield, the club announced today.

According to Over the Cap, Mayfield’s four-year deal should be worth roughly $32.683MM in total, and will also give Cleveland a fifth-year option season in 2022. Mayfield will collect a ~$21.849MM signing bonus, and count for approximately $5.942MM on the Browns’ 2018 salary cap.

Mayfield had been one of only six 2018 draft picks without a contract in place, and offset language was reportedly holding up the deal. Players with offset language in their contracts who are cut before the end of their rookie deals have their remaining guaranteed money reduced by what they earn elsewhere. Mayfield’s pact does indeed contain offset language, tweets Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.

Even after using the first overall pick on Mayfield, the Browns have been adamant that veteran Tyrod Taylor — whom Cleveland acquired from Buffalo for the cost of the 65th overall selection — will be the club’s Week 1 starter. Still, the Browns, who face a difficult opening schedule, could conceivably insert Mayfield under center later in the season.

Cleveland still has one more draft pick to sign in cornerback Denzel Ward, the fourth overall pick in April’s draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Only Seven Unsigned NFL Draft Picks Remain

The overwhelming majority of this year’s NFL draft picks have signed their rookies deals. As training camp gets started, only the following seven players are without contracts:

For Mayfield, Darnold, Ward, Allen, and Smith, the holdup is reportedly tied to offset languagePlayers with offset language who are cut before the end of their rookie contract have the remaining guaranteed money reduced by whatever they earns elsewhere. Without offset language, players get to double dip. Top 10 picks expect to complete their rookie contracts, but it’s an important issue for agents nonetheless. There’s no sign of real acrimony between any of the Top 10 picks and their respective teams, though Smith has been staying away from the Bears.

In Edmunds’ case, it’s likely that his agent is haggling over guarantees in the fourth year of his rookie contract. First-rounders selected near the end of the first round often don’t get the entirety of their fourth season base salary guaranteed, but that’s an area where agents can press for a bit extra in talks. Seahawks rookie running back Rashaad Penny took less in fourth-year guarantees than last year’s No. 27 overall pick, talks dragged for several other players near the back end of the round. Others, such as Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley and Jaguars defensive tackle Taven Bryan have signed, but the Virginia Tech product is still in limbo.

Pettis is believed to be in line for a significant role this season, so it would behoove the Niners to get a deal done sooner rather than later.

AFC Notes: Verrett, Raiders, Browns, Stephenson

Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett has appeared in five totals games over the past two seasons. The 27-year-old is excited to head into the 2018 season fully healthy, and he’s ready to return to his Pro Bowl level.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit more juice, just dealing with the fact that I lost two seasons,” Verrett told Hayley Elwood of Chargers.com (via Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com). “I’m hungry. I’m going to grind. I’m going to grind, grind, grind. They’re going to see the Pro Bowl player they saw in 2015.”

The former first-rounder had a breakout season in 2015, compiling 42 tackles, 12 passes defended, and three interceptions en route to a Pro Bowl nod. However, the cornerback has recently been battling through a torn ACL that he suffered during the 2016 campaign.

Starters Trevor Williams and Casey Hayward will still be around next season, but Verrett will be given every opportunity to contribute if he’s healthy.

“We can be real special,” Verrett said. “I know it’s a tough for the coaches to make a decision on who’s going to go out there, just because of how deep we are. But I think just how tight we are as a group, it’s going to allow us to keep feeding off each other. Everyone’s going be wanting to get better each and every day because you know the guys behind you are going to want to be where you are.”

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC…
  • The Raiders brought in a number of new players and coaches this offseason, and Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area takes a look at the five additions with the most to prove. Head coach Jon Gruden naturally leads the list, with linebacker Derrick Johnson ranking second. Bair notes that Johnson is expected to provide Oakland’s defense with some much-needed leadership, and the signing will be a win if he can prove to be a three-down linebacker. Running back Doug Martin, wideout Jordy Nelson, and cornerback Rashaan Melvin also earned spots on the list.
  • Former NFL agent (and current CBS Sport contributor) Joel Corry observes the “interesting dynamics” between the Browns pair of first-round picks (Twitter link). As Corry points out, cornerback Denzel Ward, who was selected fourth overall, doesn’t have any incentive to sign his contract until the team inks their first-overall selection, quarterback Baker Mayfield, to a deal. If Mayfield ends up receiving guaranteed money without any offsets, Corry believes Ward can push to get similar advantages on his contract. For what it’s worth, 2017 first-rounder Myles Garrett does have offsets in his deal.
  • After being suspended for the first two games of the upcoming season, Browns offensive lineman Donald Stephenson decided to retire yesterday. As Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com points out, coach Hue Jackson was set to fine the player after he was a no-show from mandatory minicamp. Now, the team presumably won’t hit Stephenson with any fines, especially since he gave up his $1MM in guaranteed money by deciding to retire.
  • Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer believes the Browns have improved, but he’s wondering if Jackson will be able to take a step forward. The writer notes that the head coach had a built-in excuse (“rebuild”) during his 1-31 start with the organization, but there will now be actual expectations for the squad. The hiring of offensive coordinator Todd Haley will certainly help, but it will ultimately be up to the head coach to lead the Browns to success.