Baker Mayfield’s time in Cleveland finally came to an end on Wednesday, when he…to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a fifth-round parole. The #1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayfield’s stay in Cleveland was just four years and 62 games.
Mayfield joins the list of former first-round quarterbacks selected by the Browns since returning to the NFL in 1999. Although his Cleveland career clearly left something to be desired, Mayfield undoubtedly enjoyed more success with the Browns than the four previous first-round quarterbacks who pursued him. Now that his time at Cleveland is over, let’s rank Mayfield’s Browns career position against the team’s other first-round picks over the past two decades.
1. Baker Mayfield (2018-21)
No surprise here. Mayfield scored a 6-7 start as a rookie while quarterback for a team that had a combined 1-31 the previous two seasons. His 27 touchdown passes that year were the rookie record until it was surpassed by Justin Herbert in 2020.
Mayfield and the Browns underperformed in 2019, but they more than made up for it in 2020. Despite Odell Beckham being absent for most of the year due to injury, Mayfield realized the potential that became apparent during his rookie campaign. In addition to throwing for the second most yards in Browns history in a single season (only Bernie Kosar’s 1986 season was more productive), Mayfield threw more than three times as many touchdowns (26) than interceptions (8) during the regular season while in the lead. the Browns to 11 wins, the most since the 1994 season. Mayfield then threw three touchdown passes in Cleveland’s wildcard win over Pittsburgh, the franchise’s first playoff win in more than a quarter of a century.
Like 2019, the 2021 season was an ordeal for Mayfield and his teammates. But despite dealing with multiple injuries, Mayfield made 14 starts (six of which were won) while throwing more than 3,000 yards with more touchdowns (17) than picks (13).
2. Tim Bank (1999-03)
The No. 1 pick in the ’99 Draft, Couch had the unenviable job of leading an expansion franchise. What made the task more difficult was the fact that Couch and the Browns shared a division of two teams—Baltimore and Pittsburgh—with up-and-coming defenses that would dominate the league well into the next decade.
The Browns won just five games in the first two years, with Couch being the starter for all but one of the wins. Things quickly turned around in 2001, when Butch Davis was hired after leading the Miami Hurricanes back to national prominence. Couch led the Browns to a 7-9 record in 2021, becoming the fourth QB in franchise history to throw more than 3,000 yards in a season.
Couch and the Browns were even better the following season. Couch, who recorded the second-highest single-season completion rate in franchise history that season, led the Browns to the franchise’s first playoff berth since returning to the NFL. But with Couch sidelined with an injury, backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb threw for 429 yards in a 36-33 playoff loss to Pittsburgh.
Holcomb’s performance that day sparked a controversy over a quarterback that was never fully resolved. Neither player played to their potential in 2003, which led to the Browns sputtering to a 6-10 record. Couch was released after the season and would never play in a regular season game again after a rotator cuff and shoulder injuries.
3. Brady Quinn (2007-09)
Quinn arrived in Cleveland after an award-winning career at Notre Dame. He mostly sat on the bench as a rookie before making three starts in 2008. In 2009, Quinn found himself embroiled in a quarterback controversy with Derek Anderson. Quinn made 10 starts that season, 2-8 before suffering a season-end injury in Week 14.
Quinn had three memorable moments during the ’09 season. In a Week 10 loss to the Lions, Quinn became the first Browns quarterback to throw three touchdowns in one quarter. Two weeks later, he threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to the Chargers. The following week, Quinn started in the Browns’ 13-6 win over the Steelers that essentially knocked Pittsburgh out of playoff contention.
Cleveland eventually decided to tie up with Anderson (who led the Browns to a 10-6 record in 2010) while trading Quinn for the Broncos. Quinn never started in Denver, but made eight starts in 2012 as a member of the Chiefs. He would later have short spells with the Seahawks, Jets, Rams and Dolphins.
4. Brandon Weeden (2012-13)
A former minor league baseball player, Weeden was 28 when the Browns made him the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He went 5-10 that season as the starter for the Browns, throwing 3,385 yards with 14 touchdowns and 17 picks.
Weeden won the base job from Brian Hoyer in 2013, but injuries limited him to just five games in 2013. Weeden went 0-5 as a starter the following season, throwing as many touchdowns (9) as interceptions. Weeden was released the next offseason, making three starts in Dallas and one more start for the Texans over the next two seasons. Weeden failed to attempt a pass for the Texans in 2018, his last year in an NFL uniform.
Johnny Manziel (2014-15)
The polarizing former Heisman Trophy winner made just eight starts in two years with the Browns. After two terrible rookie starts (he was inexplicably thrown into the starting lineup late in the year despite Hoyer leading the Browns to a 7-6 start), Manziel won his first game as a starter in Week 2 of the 2015 season. a 30-9 loss at Pittsburgh in Week 10, Manziel set career highs by completing 33 passes for 372 yards. He won his next start four weeks later, a 24-10 win over the 49ers that saw him throw 270 yards in one touchdown and one interception. This would serve as the pinnacle of Manziel’s NFL career.
In the next two games, Manziel completed only 50% of his throws as the Browns lost both games by a combined score of 47-26. Manziel was inactive for the Browns regular season finale with a concussion, but reports quickly surfaced that he was in Las Vegas the weekend of the game instead of being with the team. Further off-field problems led to his off-season release. Manziel was never picked up by any other NFL team.
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