Tyrod Taylor wears jersey No. 5, but to Cleveland Browns fans he’s No. 29 – the franchise’s 29th starting quarterback since 1999.
The Browns’ historic quarterback problems have become so prevalent they’ve spawned a cottage industry in Cleveland, were T-shirts screen-printed with all 29 quarterbacks names are hot sellers.
Factor of Sadness, indeed.
Taylor hardly inspired confidence that he is the club’s quarterbacking savior in a 21-21 tie last week against the Steelers. He completed only 15 of 40 passes for 197 yards. His passer rating of 51.8 ranks 28th in the league after one game.
Taylor could change that perception by leading the Browns to an upset of the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at the Superdome. The last time he faced the Saints he passed for 56 yards and a 33.6 passer rating in an ugly 47-10 rout in Buffalo in Week 10 of last season.
It’s no wonder the Saints are 10-point favorites today despite dropping their season opener last week against Tampa Bay.
But hope beckons for the Browns.
Baker Mayfield was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft last April. The idea is that he will eventually become the 30th starting quarterback of the expansion-era Browns and end the long run of futility at the game’s most important position.
Thanks to @cavs #NBAFinals win, the infamous @Browns jersey has been retired. #NBA #NFL #Believeland #ClevelandRocks pic.twitter.com/Kk8GyIsbfH
— Jess (@ProSportsChick) June 21, 2016
The Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma will try to do what Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden, Brady Quinn and Tim Couch couldn’t do before him: Lead the Browns to their first Super Bowl.
The Browns are one of just four franchises to never play in the Super Bowl. And along with the Detroit Lions, they are one of just two original cubs to not make an appearance in the big game.
They hope Mayfield is the man to lead them there. The Browns had their choice of franchise quarterback prospects and bypassed prototype Southern Cal gunslinger Sam Darnold to take Mayfield.
The citizens of Believe-land might be feeling uneasy about the selection after watching Darnold light up the Lions in his NFL debut. The unrest is understandable. In 2004, as every Browns fan can tell you, Cleveland took Kellen Winslow Jr. instead of Ben Roethlisberger with the No. 6 overall selection. A dozen years later, the Browns traded the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 draft to Philadelphia and watched the Eagles select future star Carson Wentz.
But so far, in Baker, the Browns trust. Sooner rather than later, he will take over the starting job and the hopes and dreams of Browns Nation will rest on his shoulder pads.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees said Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield “can be a lot better than me” before his career is over.Paul Sancya, AP
Mayfield has one true believer in New Orleans. Saints quarterback Drew Brees praised him during a conference call with Cleveland-area reporters this week, saying “I think he can be a lot better than me” before his career is over.
That’s high praise from the future Hall of Famer. Brees’ affinity for Mayfield is understandable. Both are Austin, Texas natives. Both were Maxwell Award winners in college. Both are members of “the 6-foot-and-under (quarterback) club,” as Brees puts it.
“Man, he’s got all the tools,” Brees said of Mayfield. “He’s more athletic. He probably can run around better. He’s got a stronger arm.”
Time will tell on Mayfield. If he’s half the player Brees is then the Browns will be in good hands.
If anyone can relate to the plight of Browns fans, it’s Saints fans. After all, the pre-Brees Saints were essentially the modern-day Browns.
The Saints cycled through 44 starting quarterbacks in the 39 seasons before Brees arrived. Of those, only one – Archie Manning – played in a Pro Bowl. Before Brees, there was Gary Cuozzo, Mike Buck, Doug Nussmeier and the Billy Joes, Hobert and Tolliver.
In fact, until Brees arrived, the Saints, along with the Browns and Chicago Bears, owned the most undistinguished quarterback history in the NFL.
So while the Bears and Browns continue their search for a savior under center, the Saints have enjoyed the most successful run in franchise history. In 12-plus seasons with Brees, the Saints have won 58 percent of their games, the fifth best record in the NFL. In that span, Brees has passed for more yards than any quarterback in the NFL, played in 10 Pro Bowls and missed only one game because of injury.
And amazingly, at 39, he continues to play at an elite level, as he proved last week, completing 82 percent of his passes (37 of 45) for 439 yards and three touchdowns while singlehandedly keeping the Saints within striking distance.
Sunday’s matchup with the Browns will serve as a timely reminder for all of us. Don’t ever take Brees’ greatness for granted. Life on the other side isn’t pretty. As Browns fans. They can give 29 reasons why we should enjoy No. 9 for as long as possible.
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