Dorsey risking Browns future, his reputation on undersized QB
After five months of discussion, debate and hype, the decision rendered left me a little cold.
With the first pick in the NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns selected Baker Mayfield.
The Baker Mayfield who was arrested in February of 2017 for public intoxication.
The Baker Mayfield who beat Ohio State in Columbus last fall, and then planted an Oklahoma flag at the 50 yard line.
The Baker Mayfield who made a vulgar gesture to Kansas players while on the sideline during a game.
The Baker Mayfield who — at one point last season — sported a mustache so unfashionable he reminded me of former pro wrestler Marcus “Buff” Bagwell.
OK, that last one doesn’t matter.
Actually, very little of it matters to me.
Well, except for one thing:
Baker Mayfield is 6 feet and ¾ inches tall.
Look, I didn’t like when Mayfield planted the flag, and I didn’t like the arrest. He also set a bad example with his gesture during the Kansas game.
But my biggest objection to the pick was Mayfield’s height. At not even 6-1, Mayfield is not a prototypical elite quarterback. There are always exceptions, but in the history of the NFL, tall quarterbacks have ruled the game. Players like Steve Young, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson are outliers.
There was no can’t miss player in this draft, but choosing Sam Darnold out of USC would have been safer. He’s 6-4. Same as Tom Brady.
But Browns General Manager John Dorsey has risked the future of the franchise — and his own reputation — on Mayfield.
The Browns took nine players in last week’s draft, but make no mistake, the success of the Dorsey regime is now tied to Mayfield.
I know people didn’t like Mayfield’s attitude, and compared him to another vertically-challenged QB the Browns took in the first round: Johnny Manziel.
But I think the comparisons to Manziel are unfair.
Manziel is likely to go down in history as one of the greatest flameouts in league history, and the Browns always will be tied to that.
Like Manziel, Baker has an edge. He’s cocky and not afraid to show people up. Like Manziel, he’s had brushes with the law. Like Manziel, Mayfield won the Heisman.
But unlike Manziel, Mayfield is praised for his work ethic and memory of a playbook. Unlike Manziel, Mayfield had to deal with plenty of setbacks. He was a walk-on at Texas Tech, then left the program and walked on at Oklahoma, losing a year of eligibility. He won the QB job there in 2015 and became one of the most decorated quarterbacks in recent memory.
Whatever concerns I had about Mayfield off the field were eased by his post draft press conference. He came across confident but not entitled.
That’s the attitude you want.
But no matter how hard Mayfield works, no matter how many interviews he aces, he’s not going to grow two inches before September. And it’s also possible he won’t be able to pay off for the Browns until 2019.
The Browns traded for Bills starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is a former Pro Bowler, but is not a franchise guy. Rather, he’ll start next year while hopefully mentoring Mayfield.
And, hopefully, Taylor will win some games along the way.
None of us know how this will turn out. But if anything gives me confidence, it’s the faith that Dorsey has put in Mayfield.
Dorsey is no novice. A former Packers’ linebacker, he was a college scout for the Packers, then was director of player personnel for the Seahawks.He then returned to the Packers front office, helping to make the Aaron Rodgers choice in 2005.
He then became a GM at Kansas City, helping to revitalize the franchise with coach Andy Reid.
How much say Dorsey had with the Chiefs is really in question, but with the Browns, he’s the man.
As the Browns GM, taking Mayfield was his choice. By bypassing other (and taller) players, Dorsey opened himself to second guessing from most analysts.
He knew he would. He also knows that if Mayfield fails, he fails.
He made the pick anyway.
I have faith in Dorsey, so I have some faith in the pick. And hey, Otto Graham was and Brian Sipe — two of the best QBs in Browns history — were 6-1. After all, after going 1-31, there’s nowhere to go but up.
And hopefully, those will be heights Browns fans can be happy about.
Zach Baker is the sports editor of The Advertiser-Tribune.
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or on Twitter at @zachthewriter.