Todd Haley admitted Thursday what most who watched last week's win over the Jets came away thinking. Baker Mayfield, the Browns offensive coordinator said, did a "terrific, terrific job" in his first NFL action.
Haley just knows all too well about the week-to-week, Jekyll and Hyde nature of the league. The circumstances Sunday won't be as chaotic or pressing as they were when Mayfield entered for an injured Tyrod Taylor late in the second quarter with the Browns trailing by 14. They'll just be … different, and that's enough to throw a rookie for a loop if he's not properly prepared.
And that burden falls on more than just Mayfield. It's the rest of the offense that needs to elevate its game around the former No. 1 pick when he makes his first NFL start at Oakland.
"Now, this is the real test," Haley said. "I know that a lot of people are covering the bust for Canton already, to steal one from my old pal (Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill) Parcells. He set the bar high. I do not know that every week is going to go like that went. I will say this, as an offense, we need to execute better earlier."
Haley's focus with Mayfield and the offense as a whole centered how it starts Sunday's game against a Raiders team that has played well in the first halves of games. Cleveland's offense, meanwhile, has not yet scored a touchdown in the first half, instead settling for three field goals.
The Browns were particularly sluggish at the start of last week's game. Taylor was hit on the first five plays of the game "through no fault of his own" and Cleveland's offense labored to move the chains through the game's first 28 minutes. The group came to life with Mayfield under center during a two-minute drill, which resulted in a field goal, and played its best half of the season to close out a 21-17 comeback victory.
When Haley spoke after Cleveland's Week 1 tie with the Steelers, he said the Browns offense committed 18 mental errors. That total was down significantly against the Jets, but what remained concerning was that most were occurring in the first half.
"If everybody is not doing their job, it is not going to go the way that it went," Haley said. "He obviously has to play his position to the best of his ability, and everybody else has to do their part, also.
"I just want everybody to know that I think Tyrod has done nothing but a tremendous job and has done nothing but put us in a position to win the first two games. I have been very clear when talking about things that are not always comfortable talking about that we have made too many mental errors. A coach is never proud to say that of his group. That is what we need to do as a group because if we make some of the errors that we have made in all three games, it is not going to matter who is playing."
Haley called Mayfield a "completely different kind of quarterback" than Taylor, and it's on he and the team's offensive staff to create a game plan that caters to the rookie's strengths. Haley described Mayfield as more of a "gunslinger," and the Browns' saw the good side of it against the Jets, as Mayfield was accurate on nearly every throw and finished 17-of-23 for 201 yards.
The ball went in the right place at the right time most of the time against the Jets. It's on Mayfield, the players around him and the coaches guiding him to ensure that happens again and again as Mayfield takes over as the team's starter.
"I just want to see him, like everybody else, continue to get better," Haley said. "That little sample size, throwing for 70-plus percent and making big plays, catching a ball for us, I think that was a small sample size. I have been around long enough to understand that there are going to be ups and downs. We just have to get him as much as possible without taking away that gunslinger attitude to make sure that he is doing smart things, not reckless or careless things. He did a couple in the game and got away with them. That is what we will be working on.
"It is great that he set a high standard. At the same time, I think that we are realistic."