Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
They don’t keep score, they don’t keep stats and they don’t give out awards for the portion of the football offseason from April through June.
Which is understandable, except when you consider that it is the time of year when the foundation of the coming season is laid. Screw up this part and another losing season is inevitable.
So if you are the new quarterback on a team begging for somebody to show it how to win some games, and you’re charged with changing the culture in the locker room, and then all of a sudden you’re faced with “competing” against the No. 1 pick in the draft – an uber-popular Heisman Trophy winner -- well, you have only one chance to make a first impression.
And Tyrod Taylor has knocked it out of the park.
“He’s a stud, man,” left guard Joel Bitonio said during OTAs. “Everything he does, on and off the field, he works his tail off. When I think of a quarterback in the NFL, that’s what he does.”
Running back Duke Johnson said, “He kind of shows what a vet quarterback is.”
Receiver Josh Gordon, who has become an authority on Browns quarterbacks going back to Brandon Weeden, said Tuesday that the trio of Taylor, rookie Baker Mayfield and veteran mentor Drew Stanton qualify as “the most talented quarterbacks I’ve seen come through here -- by far.”
And then focusing specifically on Taylor, Gordon said, “I’m doing everything I can do to match Tyrod’s level of intensity, his focus. Every morning he comes in first, [and is the] last guy to leave. I don’t know a quarterback that works harder than Tyrod. He’s definitely set the bar.”
The chip: Working hard – or harder than anyone else – has always been Taylor’s M.O. It comes from entering the NFL in 2011 as the 11th of 12 quarterbacks taken in that draft. Only two are starters like Taylor – Cam Newton and Andy Dalton – and the eight others are either out of the NFL or just hanging on to roster spots. Taylor keeps a running tab of his quarterback draft class.
“The underdog mentality? Yes, that’s always going to drive me,” Taylor said.
“He came into the league willing to prove that he belonged, that he could play in the National Football League,” said Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, who drafted Taylor out of Virginia Tech in the sixth round, 180th player overall, in 2011.
“I think that is something that’s going to continue. I don’t see him getting complacent or feeling that he has arrived.”
Newsome said that even as a seldom-used backup to Joe Flacco for four seasons, Taylor had the utmost respect of his teammates.
“No question,” Newsome said. “That’s earned by his work ethic. That’s earned in the locker room, that’s earned in the weight room, that’s earned during practice and after practice.
“He has an unbelievable work ethic. He studies the game, does the extra work after practice. He has all the intangibles that would lead you to be an NFL success.”
A month ago, Taylor was asked how long it would take for him to make the Browns “his” team.
“It is definitely an ongoing process,” he answered. “At the same time, the more that you show leadership on the field, in the locker room, even in the weight room and just in the building, I think the easier it is that you grab everyone and let them know that you are the leader. Understand, it is a new team with new teammates and new relationships that I am building with the coaching staff. I am working hard at it each and every day.”
Consider it mission accomplished.
“I think the players follow him,” said coach Hue Jackson. “If you ask our players, to a man—offensively and defensively -- who they look to, they look to him. He has done a good job in the building. He has done a good job on the field. I think he has kind of established himself.
“Obviously, he has the experience to back it up and the wins to back it up. I think he is showing and displaying what a pro starting quarterback should do at practice. He is making plays, directing things and doing all of that. To me, he has done a really good job.”
The dynamic: Off the field, Mayfield has said that he interacts mostly with Stanton, the former Cardinal and Lion, the prototypical NFL journeyman and designated mentor.
Taylor, meantime, is immersed in his task of changing the Browns’ culture by winning games.
“I was brought here to help win games and turn around an organization,” Taylor has said matter-of-factly.
On the first day of Jackson’s mandatory minicamp, Taylor showed on the field he has developed a chemistry with receiver Jarvis Landry, in particular.
They hooked up on the very first play of a team goal-line drill, as Landry did his one-handed Velcro thing in the right corner of the end zone over leaping Denzel Ward. Later in the practice, Landry received a Taylor pass in the middle of the field and squirted past the secondary, and then Taylor found Landry breaking to the left sideline for a 20-plus yard play.
Just by being himself and going about his job, Taylor is doing his part in developing Mayfield.
“To see how Tyrod is every day in the building … if you have guys on your team that can show a you’re a leader throughout -- not just in the locker room but throughout the organization—I think is invaluable,” Jackson said.
“I think what [Mayfield] is seeing is really going to help him, because he will look back on this time and really grow from it.”
The Browns are making players “earn” the stripes on their helmets this year. It seems to me that Taylor’s helmet should be the first adorned.