After watching from the sideline, Baker Mayfield shined when Browns needed him most

The morning after his rookie quarterback rallied the Browns to their first win since Christmas Eve 2016, coach Hue Jackson found himself unable to single out a favorite throw from Baker Mayfield. 

There were too many. 

"I had quite a few of them," he said Friday, laughing. "Too many to talk about."

Mayfield was brilliant in his regular-season debut in Thursday night's 21-17 win over the New York Jets, completing 17-of-24 throws for 201 yards while coming off the bench for an injured Tyrod Taylor. 

It was a storybook kind of night for Mayfield, who snapped a 19-game winless streak and offered reason to believe he can be Cleveland's ever-elusive franchise quarterback. The first-overall NFL Draft pick helped the Browns overcome a double-digit deficit and stirred a raucous crowd at FirstEnergy Stadium in the process. 

When Jackson went back and studied the game further, he saw a performance that matched his memory from the night before. 

"It was as good as I thought live. He made some tremendous throws. Obviously, he was able to move the team. Played with some rhythm. Got the ball into the playmakers hands and gave them chances to make plays," he said.

"There are some things that he has to clean up obviously. We can't have the ball out on the ground. There are some progression things that we will work through. Overall for his first game out under the lights in that environment in that situation, he handled all of that extremely well and played well."

Indeed, while the Browns have always had faith in Mayfield's ability to deliver, this wasn't necessarily part of the plan. 

Cleveland had made clear they wanted Mayfield to sit behind Taylor, who left in the second quarter with a concussion, this fall and learn from the sideline. 

When Taylor went down, the Browns believe Mayfield's chance to watch the team's first two games from afar played a pivotal role in his success this past week. 

"I think he learned that this game is played at a fast pace, that there's a rhythm that you have to get an offensive team into," Jackson said.

"I think he saw all of those things first hand over the first two weeks, and obviously, he was able to demonstrate some of that for us last night."

Jackson will announce a starting quarterback Monday once he has a chance to address the team after a weekend away from the facility. 

Regardless of what happens, Mayfield lifted up his teammates — from defensive end Myles Garrett to left guard Joel Bitonio — in the process. The youngster has a way of instilling confidence within everybody in his orbit. 

"He came in after we were struggling a little bit in the first half and rejuvenated the offense," Bitonio said. "His energy was awesome. He took care of the ball and did some good things out there."

"Of course I wanted to watch, but I see it almost every damn practice. He's a winner," Garrett added. "That guy has a chip on his shoulder and none of this surprised me. I knew he was going to go out there and have a hell of a game whenever it was."

Jackson echoed a similar sentiment. It is, after all, partly why they tabbed the former Oklahoma star and Heisman Trophy winner in the first place. 

"There's been confidence in him since he's been here," Jackson added.

"I think to a man, everybody understands who Baker is and what he brings to the team, just like I think everybody understood what Tyrod Taylor was and what he brought to the team.

"I think what's most important is that these players be the best version of themselves, and they keep being as good as they can be each and every day because I think as the quarterback you are the leader."
Mayfield, at the very least, lived up to that standard Thursday night.

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