BEREA, Ohio -- Nothing has changed with the Cleveland Browns' quarterback plan.
Praise from Drew Brees for this year’s first overall draft pick has not shaken the team’s resolve. Nor has a 15-for-40 game from the starter. Or a winning effort from the third overall pick in his debut with the New York Jets.
The Browns maintain they are on the long and winding path with Baker Mayfield, and Tyrod Taylor is their starter -- even after he put up some poor numbers in the season-opening tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I wouldn’t want to live with 15-for-40 for a long time, because I do not think that we will be that again," coach Hue Jackson said Thursday. "I really don’t. I understand the question, [but] I think that’s a non-issue. Again, first [game], chalk it up to what it is."
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley pointedly emphasized the entire offense contributed to Taylor’s day, saying the group had 28 mental errors and gave the Steelers 100 yards with mistakes. Ten mental errors is not a winning effort, Haley said, and the 100 yards add up to seven points.
Taylor’s game was an aberration in one sense. He has started 44 games in his career. The tie with Pittsburgh was the first time in those 44 starts he’s been below 50 percent passing. Jackson is aware of the numbers, but they won’t prompt him to turn to the draft’s first overall pick when the Browns play the Saints in New Orleans.
"He’s our future, and if he is, you don’t have to rush this thing," Jackson said of Mayfield. "When everybody saw the numbers last week, I think everybody wanted to go, ‘OK, Tyrod’s out -- let’s go to the other way.’ Let’s slow down a little bit here."
Jackson said the Browns need to "let it all play itself out at the right time," which was a feeling general manager John Dorsey expressed a week ago: Let things happen naturally with Mayfield.
"It just doesn’t happen overnight," Dorsey said the week before the opener. "And that’s why we as an organization keep saying, for the betterment of the kid and the betterment of the organization, have a little bit of patience with this kid. He’s going to have some talent, but there’s no need to rush.
"I’ve seen when you rush too many of these guys in there; it’s not good. But If you have a degree of patience, it’s usually better in the long run."
On the opposite sideline Sunday will be Brees, a future Hall of Famer who was drafted in San Diego when the Chargers had Doug Flutie as the starter. As a rookie, Brees played in one game. His advice for Mayfield?
"You are just a sponge," Brees said on a conference call this week, pointing out Mayfield can learn from Taylor, Haley and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. "He has the opportunity to learn from a lot of good resources there."
Brees has never met Mayfield, but he took an interest because the two went to high schools about 12 miles apart.
"I love his competitiveness and playmaking ability," Brees said.
Brees then raised eyebrows by saying: "I think [Mayfield] can be a lot better than me."
It’s a claim that prompted Browns receiver Jarvis Landry to raise his eyebrows but had Jackson applying the brakes.
"I think when Baker plays, he will start carving out his career for himself," Jackson said. "I have said this since the day we have had him: He is going to have a great career here in Cleveland. Now what that turns into, hopefully it turns into what Drew Brees has done and then we will be able to talk about it.
"Until that happens, I do not think that we can."
Brees and Mayfield share a kinship besides their Texas roots. They are both players at a position where the prototype is 3 or 4 inches taller. Brees is listed as 6-foot, Mayfield 6-foot-1/2.
"I do not know any other way," Brees said. "I do not know what it is like to be 6-5 because I will never be 6-5 -- never have been 6-5. I will say it like this: If one of you closed your eyes, all of your other senses would be heightened, right? Your sense of smell. Your sense of hearing. All of that other stuff.
"Maybe because I am 6-0, that maybe there are certain things that I can’t see as well, but for that reason, maybe I can hear it and see it better because that is what I have had to do for my whole career. You find a way. You make up for it. You just get it done."
Brees talked about the 6-foot-and-under club, the group of quarterbacks who he said have a chip on their shoulder because they’re constantly told they can’t succeed because of their height. He happily welcomed Mayfield into that group.
"I just kind of chuckle at it," Brees said.
As they go forward, the Browns must balance principle and philosophy with wins and losses. The season-opening tie felt every bit like a bitter loss, and while Taylor may not have been responsible for all of the struggles, the Browns can’t live with 15-for-40 for long.
In a series of events that only seems to happen to the Browns, the night after Taylor struggled, Sam Darnold -- taken two picks after Mayfield -- started for the Jets and won easily. Jackson was asked directly about whether Darnold’s game affected the team’s thinking on letting Mayfield grow by watching.
"I like our young quarterback a lot," Jackson said. "But it did not change my mind in anything. Baker has been really good in practice. I have done for him what I said I was going to do, getting him some reps at the end at times. I think he is still growing. The thing that I love, he is so engaged in what we are doing. That is a fist bump to him."
With a week between games in the NFL, there is plenty of time to gnaw at a tough day. As the 29th quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999, Taylor has to understand the attention he’ll receive.
He will have more chances to play better. The Browns did not devote an entire offseason and training camp to getting him ready for 16 games to pull the plug after one.
But they also face another reality as they deal with life after a winless season and one win over the past 33 games.
They need to win. Desperately.