When the Cleveland Browns selected quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first pick of the 2018 draft, they initially said he would backup Tyrod Taylor.
That plan lasted until Week 3, when Mayfield went into the lineup after Taylor suffered a concussion against the New York Jets. All Mayfield did that Thursday night was help the Browns end their 19-game winless streak with a 21-17 victory over the Jets.
Mayfield has started the past six games. Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was Mayfield’s first outing since the Browns fired coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is the team’s interim coach, with Freddie Kitchens calling the plays.
The loss to the Chiefs is the focus of the fourth installment of the ESPN+ show Detail with Peyton Manning.
Here’s a quick recap of Manning’s breakdown of Mayfield:
Been there, done that
Manning, who was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft, knows how Mayfield feels being tossed into the lineup for a struggling team.
“Certainly not an ideal situation for a rookie quarterback, already having a new head coach and new offensive coordinator in the middle of a season,” Manning said. “First pick of the NFL draft, I know those shoes. People expect a lot. They expect you to come in and be this dominant player right away. There’s a reason you’re the first pick of the draft. You’re going to a team that has earned that first pick of the draft — you’re going to be the bad team.”
Manning’s Colts went 3-13 in his rookie season. He took every snap and threw what is still a rookie-record 28 interceptions.
Manning said Mayfield’s approach this rookie season has reminded him of “Brett Favre, for his enthusiasm and love for the game.”
Disregard the audible
Manning used an incompletion from the Browns loss to show how he would call a “dummy audible” or go in the huddle and tell the rest of the offense to “disregard the audible.”
It showed a side of Manning’s game that defenders said made him one of the all-time best. They had to try to determine at the line of scrimmage how much of Manning’s hand movements and cadence actually meant something and how much was just for show.
Talking about the “squirrel route” — the out, up and out — and how he doesn’t know why they call it a squirrel route, Manning showed his propensity to quote the movies he enjoys.
He used a reference to John Belushi’s character in “Animal House:” “Told the pledge in Animal House your nickname is Pinto, he said, ‘Why Pinto?’ and he said, ‘Why not?'”
“So it’s called squirrel. I don’t know why, but why not?”
Manning also stumbled a bit on “anticipatory” and offered, “I’m not even sure it’s a word,” but he made a quality point on how a Mayfield throw to Jarvis Landry required some patience.
The free hand
Manning pointed out Mayfield’s attention to detail with something Manning took great pride in during his career: making the play-action fake and the handoff look the same. Manning pointed out what defenders are looking for and explained why Mayfield’s was such a quality effort.
“I like the effort, and I like the discipline. Don’t be afraid, quarterbacks, to study good play-action quarterbacks,” he said.
I really like this throw
Manning also commended Mayfield’s footwork on a quick slant with a three-step drop out of the shotgun, something Manning remembered from the preseason.
Manning showed a drill for quarterbacks who want to learn how to get to the laces quickly on quick passes to the middle of the field.
About the nightmares
As he pointed out where Mayfield should have put the ball on a play, Manning also showed why, with his own interceptions by the likes of Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu, as he made a point about the range of the game’s best safeties.
“I’m going to quit bringing their names up — I won’t be able to sleep tonight,” Manning said. “ … You got to respect these safeties and their ability to cover ground.”
Manning also gave a shout-out to daughter Mosley’s fantasy football team, “The New Sheriff,” because he gave a shout-out to son Marshall’s team last week.
Manning zeroed in on another piece of technique near and dear to his heart: discipline with your hands as a quarterback.
As he gave Mayfield props in the run game earlier with his technique, Manning pointed out the other side of the coin. Mayfield had his hands at his side until he raised them just before the snap. Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford used the move as a tell to time the snap, get to Mayfield and knock the ball out.
“They study your pre-snap mannerisms,” Manning said. “ … Let’s be sure we’re doing the same things.”
Lesson on clock management
Spoken like a true quarterback, Manning used a completion by Mayfield in the two-minute drive to show how the receiver should have handed the ball to the umpire instead of leaving it on the ground and how it would have saved valuable time for the offense.
He also expressed his disdain for wasted timeouts, especially timeouts by the defense “because you don’t know the call.”
He went on to say, “I’m just gonna say it. Those are really the offense’s timeouts, OK? I know you have three timeouts a half, but it’s really the offense that has the three timeouts, all right? That’s just the way it is.”