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 continuing the countdown with one of the best, recent moments in Browns draft history.
As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took the stage inside AT&T Stadium, the noise from the 100,000 fans in attendance quickly turned to silence.
Everyone in the stadium and millions of other football fans tuned into the draft were ready to hang onto Goodell's every word. The Cleveland Browns were on the clock with the first overall pick of the 2018 draft, and they were expected to select a quarterback they hoped could turn the franchise back to winning ways.
"With the first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft," Goodell said," the Cleveland Browns select Baker Mayfield, quarterback, Oklahoma."
In Dallas, the pick was met with cheers and roars. In Austin, Mayfield's hometown, the quarterback rose from the couch, turned around and fist-pumped with friends and family as he received the life-changing phone call.
In Cleveland, members of the front office celebrated together in the war room, but the work for everyone involved wasn't done — Mayfield needed to prove they made the right pick.
Three years later, the results have been promising: He's passed for more than 3,500 yards in each of his three seasons and, with 75 passing touchdowns, has recorded the most passing touchdowns by a Browns quarterback in their first seasons in franchise history.
Mayfield's biggest goal in Cleveland, however, was to take the team back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and win a Super Bowl, and he was confident he could do it even before he was drafted.
"First things first, (the Browns) would get a winner," he said at the 2018 Scouting Combine. "If anybody's gonna turn that franchise around, it'd be me. I'd be able to put it in the right direction. They're close. They're very close. They have the right pieces. I think they just need one guy at quarterback to make that difference."
In 2020, Mayfield met part of his vision.
The Browns clinched a trip to the playoffs for the first time in 18 years and won a playoff game for the first time since 1994. Mayfield's 26 touchdowns, 3,563 passing yards and superb ball-protection — he threw just eight interceptions — was one of the biggest reasons toward the success.
With Mayfield at the helm, the Browns offense hummed despite injuries to top receiver Odell Beckham Jr., a slew of late-season injuries to the offensive line. His four-touchdown performance, all of which came in a record-setting first half, in Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans was one of the most unforgettable moments of the regular season. In the Wild Card game versus Pittsburgh, he threw three more touchdowns, including two in the Browns' record-breaking 35-point first half, to take down the Browns' AFC North rival and seal one of the best wins in franchise history.
For the first time in over two decades, the Browns have found consistency at the quarterback position.
"He did an excellent job this year," Berry said in January. "He led us to our first playoff appearance in eons. We got 12 wins, played winning football and he developed a really strong relationship with (head coach) Kevin (Stefanski) and the offensive staff. He really thrives on a weekly basis both on and off the field.
"We would not be where we were at the end of the season without his performance."
The future appears brighter than ever for the Browns and Mayfield, who will return in 2021 with the same offensive starters and nearly the same coaching staff from 2020. Mayfield's bond with Stefanski in his first season at head coach was evident every week, and the duo has already reviewed all layers of last season in hopes of building an even better Browns offense next season and beyond.
"I think the time we put in for not just things on the field but culture-wise and setting a standard is finally coming into fruition," Mayfield said last month. "When it comes into terms of looking back three years ago to this day, a life-changing moment for me, my family, friends and being surrounded by a lot of teammates and lifelong friends now, I think it has been a good journey.
"But it is nowhere close to being done. I think that's the best part."
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
71. Browns draft Baker Mayfield 1st overall in 2018
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.