Jon Gruden says Baker Mayfield has ability to “be great”

Raiders coach believes Browns finally found their franchise QB

Daryl Ruiter
September 26, 2018 - 5:55 pm
Baker Mayfield Cleveland Browns New York Jets

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Berea, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Raiders head coach Jon Gruden grew up a Browns fan and remembers watching his favorite player Leroy Kelly.

He still has an autographed picture of Kelly hanging in his office.

Although his professional pursuits have taken him away from the Browns, Gruden knows how difficult it has been for the franchise to find its footing in the expansion era – and why.

Baker Mayfield will become the 30th different starting quarterback since 1999 Sunday when the Browns travel to Oakland to take on the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders, which has Gruden excited and nervous at the same time.  

“They have had a lot of veteran backup quarterbacks in Cleveland or the last 20 years,” Gruden said. “What they have not had us a frontline starter that really can make all of the plays. I think Mayfield, if you draw a line under that name, he is the man. He is the story that I think right now is going to become bigger and bigger in Cleveland this year.”

Gruden’s first look at Mayfield with the Browns came in the preseason against the Giants, and to say he came away impressed would be an understatement.

“That first impression was awesome,” Gruden said. “I think that guy has the it factor. He has the charisma. He has the competitiveness. He has the feel. He has the ability to be great. What he did the other day coming off of the bench, down [14] and bringing his team back at home in front of his fans in his debut was awesome.

“It will be a challenge for us. He is a great young prospect.”

Mayfield’s regular season debut last Thursday night was even better.

Setting aside the 17 of 23 completed passes or the 201 yards passing or 4 scoring drives in 6 possessions (not including the 2 kneel downs to end the first half and then game), Gruden saw the same spark get lit that we all did when Mayfield took the field.

“I think that those are the intangibles that you look for that are hard to find,” Gruden said. “Do they like the pressure? Do they like the big moment? Some guys come alive. Some guys do not. Some guys can bring out the best in their teammates. Some guys struggle to do that.

“Mayfield has a magic about him. He has the charisma about him that just really allows everybody on that team, defensively included, to play at a higher level. They know that if we can get the ball back to this kid, something good is going to happen.”

Mayfield also caught a 2-point conversion that tied the game at 14 from receiver Jarvis Landry.

From Tim Couch to Brady Quinn to Brandon Weeden, the Browns have had promising rookie after promising rookie but none had what Mayfield does, including a strong supporting cast around him.

 “He does an excellent job keeping plays alive,” Gruden said. “He has incredible vision down the field. That guy has eyes on the back of his head. You have to know that he is a great creative player.”

Gruden made a name for himself as an ESPN analyst with his ‘quarterback camp’ episodes that saw him put the top rookie quarterbacks coming out in the draft through a workout and film session. He also became famous for showering players around the league with praise from the broadcast booth.

Rarely was there a player that Gruden did not like while calling a game.

But what Gruden had to say about the 2018 No. 1 overall pick Wednesday did not sound or feel like meaningless platitudes, especially because he now has to find a way to prevent Mayfield from lighting up his defense.

“The system that they run in Cleveland involves a lot of skilled people that they did not have last year,” Gruden said. “You better get to know [Antonio] Callaway. He is a problem for people. Landry has been a problem for a lot of people around the league and Duke Johnson [Jr.].

“They have some arsenal in this system that can do damage. We know that Mayfield is a great competitor and a very competitive player indeed.”

Gruden gets a front row seat Sunday.