Tyrod Taylor wasn't projected to be a starting quarterback out of college. Many quarterbacks were taken in the NFL Draft before Taylor in 2011, but only a couple remain. Just ask his position coach, Ken Zampese: Taylor is successful because of his leadership and cerebral ability, not just his skill.
"I like his leadership and the way he's aggressively going about being the leader of this team, completing balls and moving us down the field," Zampese said Sunday.
Zampese and Browns coach Hue Jackson have admitted they're tired of saying it, but again Sunday didn't hesitate to provide another reminder.
"Nothing has changed," Jackson said. "Tyrod Taylor is our starter."
While Baker Mayfield deservedly garnered plenty of positive reactions after his two touchdown passes in his preseason debut, Taylor quietly went 5-for-5 for 99 yards and a touchdown of his own. The drive that Zampese was most impressed with was Taylor's four-play, 66-yard drive, knocking just 66 seconds off the clock and putting seven points on the board.
Zampese had a word for it.
"I mean, he looked comfortable," Zampese said, "he had command and the guys responded."
Taylor's never been recognized as one of the NFL's standout quarterbacks but he's always produced. He was a backup to Joe Flacco in Baltimore before relocating to Buffalo, where he was largely scrutinized. He was a three-year starter in Buffalo, and he snapped the franchise's first playoff appearance since 1999. He's been to a Pro Bowl.
Even with all those accolades and achievements on his resume, he's often overlooked and doubted. Taylor was benched in Buffalo last season for Nathan Peterman, who threw five interceptions in the first half of his start in lieu of Taylor.
Cleveland's coaches, though, see a quarterback that is still becoming the best version of himself.
"I think it is the tip of the iceberg for Tyrod," Zampese said. "I think he is an untapped player in the league. He has done some really nice things so far in the league, and I think it is only going to get better."
There's a buzz around the Browns, and Mayfield, as the No. 1 pick, is understandably at the center of it. And then there's Taylor, who comes into the team facility at 5 a.m. every morning, does his work and, as Zampese said, sets the bar extremely high. Zampese knows what he's got with Taylor. He puts the work in on the field. He's a student of the game in the classroom. Zampese cites Taylor's preparedness as a cardinal trait, among others.
"He is an untapped player in the league," Zampese said. "He has done some really nice things so far in the league, and I think it is only going to get better."
As far as the notion of Taylor getting better, Thursday's preseason opener was a good sign.
"He was accurate," Zampese said. "He pushed the ball down the field. He is smart. His progressions went smoothly. Those things give you confidence."