To continue our celebration of the franchise's 75th anniversary, we're launching "Browns Countdown: Top 75 Moments" presented by Bridgestone. Over the next month, through videos, articles and more, we'll be highlighting the top 75 moments in Browns history. Our video tributes, which will be available at ClevelandBrowns.com, the Browns' mobile app and the Browns' official YouTube Channel, will dive deep into the top 20 while our articles will put the spotlight on a number of different moments that are sprinkled throughout the top 75.
We're moving down to No. 44, which highlights the relieving end of one of the most difficult stretches in franchise history and beginning of the Baker Mayfield era in Cleveland.
As Baker Mayfield strapped on his helmet and walked on the field beneath the bright lights at FirstEnergy Stadium, the 67,431 fans in attendance rose to their feet and filled the air with claps and cheers of enthusiasm.
Then, they were quiet.
Mayfield, the Browns' 2018 first overall pick, needed to spark Cleveland's offense. The Browns were mired in a 19-game winless streak and losing to the New York Jets, 14-0, in the second quarter of a nationally televised Thursday Night Football game in Cleveland.
Tyrod Taylor, the Browns' starter, exited the game with a concussion, which led to Mayfield's Browns debut and an opportunity to leave an unforgettable first impression on his new NFL home, starving for their first win in 645 days.
Mayfield filled the remainder of the game with a plethora of plays that left the city of Cleveland excited about its future with the quarterback. Every time Mayfield touched the ball — from his first pass, a 14-yard completion to Jarvis Landry, to his last play, a kneel-down to seal the 21-17 win and officially shed the winless streak — the stadium was on edge, with Browns fans ready to seize every reason possible in getting behind their new quarterback.
"Tonight was his night," head coach Hue Jackson said of Mayfield in his postgame interview. "It was his coming-out party."
With a strong arm and nimble feet to make plays under pressure, Mayfield provided the Browns with the quarterback play they've waited to witness for decades. He finished 17-of-23 for 201 yards, solid numbers considering he entered with under two minutes left in the first half.
His first touchdown pass didn't arrive until the following week in Oakland, but he did provide one of the most exciting moments of the game via a pass — he caught a throw from Landry for a 2-point conversion to even the score 14-14.
But what Mayfield did between the end zone lines was plenty good enough for Cleveland.
"This crowd deserved to see that first win at home. And so that's the thing I'm most proud of, we put it together for the fans at home," Mayfield said while on NFL Network following the game. "I felt the energy. That was an unbelievable feeling."
With the winless streak over and a young, promising quarterback at the helm, the Browns progressively took improvements the rest of the season and marched to a 7-8-1 record, their best in a season since 2007. Mayfield was one of the main catalysts with 3,725 passing yards and 27 touchdowns, which broke the NFL's rookie touchdown record previously held by Peyton Manning.
After the difficulties endured throughout the previous 19 losses before Mayfield's arrival, every win was cherished to the max. By winning five of their last seven games, the Browns even put themselves in position for possible playoff contention, a scenario that seemed far from likely at the beginning of the year as they attempted to end their winless streak.
That first win, however, is the one to be remembered for years to come. For the Browns, it was turning a page on 19 games full of heartbreak and disbelief.
For Mayfield, it was the start of his first chapter being written in Cleveland.
Earlier this year, the Browns commissioned a panel of historians, alumni and journalists to rank the top 75 moments in Browns history. The group met multiple times to discuss the moments and each member submitted their own final rankings, which were averaged against each other to create the ultimate list.
Building the Top 75 from the bottom up
44. Browns break 19-game winless streak with 21-17 victory, led by rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield over the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football on Sept. 20, 2018.
45. Kevin Stefanski named NFL Coach of the Year as first-year head coach, becoming the second coach in franchise history to receive the honor.
46. Browns defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 51-0 in the 1989 season opener on Sept. 10 the most lopsided result in the 79-game series between the teams at that time.
47. Browns defeat New Orleans Saints 21-16 with miracle "Hail Mary" on Oct. 31, 1999, for the team's first win as an expansion team.
48. Browns hire Romeo Crennel, their first African-American coach, in 2005.
49. Browns orchestrate the greatest road comeback (25 points) in NFL history in a 29-28 victory against the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 5, 2014
50. Brian Sipe breaks the Cleveland Browns franchise passing record held previously by Otto Graham (401) by throwing for 444 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-28 win over the Baltimore Colts on Oct. 25, 1981.
51. Browns defeat the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 29, 2002, to clinch playoff berth. William Green broke off a 64-yard run to seal the game away.
52. Baker Mayfield breaks NFL rookie record for most passing touchdowns in as single season (27) on Dec. 30, 2018
53\. Jerome Harrison breaks Jim Brown’s single game franchise rushing record on Dec. 20, 2009 with 286 yards rushing in a 41-34 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. In the same game Josh Cribbs becomes the second player in NFL history to have two 100-yard kickoff returns in the same game.
54. Browns defeat Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-22, on Jan. 3, 2021, to end NFL's longest playoff drought of 18 years.
55. Browns avenge their first championship game loss to the Los Angeles Rams in 1951 by crushing the Rams in a rematch 37-7 on Oct. 7, 1952.
56. Cleveland Browns draft Joe Thomas on April 28, 2007.
57. Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham is elbowed in the face by a Detroit Lions defender in the first half, and after receiving 15 stitches and a lucite face mask, he comes back in the second half to defeat the Lions, 23-21, on Nov. 15, 1953. Graham's injury helped kickstart the widespread use of facemasks in the NFL.
59. In the first meeting of Jim Brown vs. Johnny Unitas, the Cleveland Browns prevail in a 38-31 shootout against the Baltimore Colts on Nov. 1, 1959. The game also pits Weeb Ewbank against his mentor Paul Brown. Brown rushed for 178 yards and scored five touchdowns while Unitas threw for 397 yards in defeat.
60. Browns clinch a wildcard playoff berth on Dec. 18, 1988, behind backup quarterback Don Strock, who threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-23 victory over the Houston Oilers
61. Blanton Collier replaces Paul Brown as head coach. Collier coached the Browns when they won the 1964 championship.
62. Paul Brown debuts first radio helmet 1956 with QB George Ratterman.
63. Josh Gordon becomes first wide receiver in NFL history with back-to-back 200-yard games on Dec. 1, 2013.
64\. Nick Chubb breaks the Browns franchise record for longest run by scoring a 92-yard touchdown Nov. 11, 2018, in a 28-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The previous record was held by Bobby Mitchell.
65. Phil Dawson retires from the NFL as a Cleveland Brown. Dawson signed with the Browns in 1999 and kicked for the Browns for 14 years.
67. Bobby Mitchell rushes for 232 yards on 14 carries for an incredible 16.6-yard average in a Cleveland Browns 31-17 win against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 15, 1959.
68. Browns' fans create numerous music ballads that are played on Cleveland radio to celebrate the teams resurgence in the late 1980s. Songs include "Oh Bernie Bernie," "Super Bowl Browns" and "Born and Raised on the Browns."
69. Browns defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 21-20, on Dec. 8, 2002 with a 50-yard Hail Mary from Tim Couch to Quincy Morgan with no time left. Couch becomes the only quarterback to have two game-winning passes of 50 yards or more with no time left on the clock.
72. Browns clinch an Eastern Conference title by crushing the New York Giants 52-20 on Dec. 12, 1964.
73. Browns move into first place of the AFC Central Division after defeating the Houston Oilers on Dec. 15, 1985. The Browns would go on to win the AFC Central for the first time since 1980
74. Jeff Garcia and Andre Davis combine to tie the NFL record for the longest pass in NFL history of 99 yards in a Cleveland Browns 34-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 17, 2004.