Baker Mayfield prepares to plant a new flag in his first NFL start

Mayfield does things Taylor cannot do (1:49)

Louis Riddick and Charles Woodson break down why Baker Mayfield should be the starter and what the Browns should do with Tyrod Taylor. (1:49)

BEREA, Ohio -- Jarvis Landry watched on TV as the quarterback of the Oklahoma Sooners grabbed an OU flag and planted it with vigor on the Ohio State Buckeyes logo.

It was brash, it was bold and it went against every fundamental in sports. An opposing player is never supposed to walk on or celebrate on another team’s logo, not even after an emotional victory.

This -- which took place in Columbus, Ohio, early last season -- would have been viewed as insulting by the masses.

Landry’s reaction?

"Oh, I loved it," Landry said this week as his Cleveland Browns prepared to travel to Oakland, California, to face the Raiders on Sunday. "Especially from the quarterback position."

Landry’s coach agreed; he loved the fire Baker Mayfield exhibited in his haughty display after the Sooners' big victory at the Horseshoe.

"I like that about men -- men that especially play this sport -- because I think that is important," Hue Jackson said.

That competitive fuel might not have gone over well in Ohio a year ago, but it was one big reason the Browns made Mayfield the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. It was one big reason they were not doubting when Mayfield took over against the New York Jets in Week 3 and guided the Browns to their first victory since December 2016. And it is one big reason why the Browns are confident about Mayfield as they head to Oakland, where he will make his first NFL start.

"He walked it like he talked it," Landry said of Mayfield's maneuver in Columbus. "That’s something that I appreciate and I respect about him."

It feels like a brave new world for the Browns. The team is coming off a win. Mayfield threw for 201 yards in just more than one half, and the Browns erased a 14-0 deficit to win 21-17. Mayfield finished with a rating of 100.1 and completed 73.9 percent of his throws -- with three drops.

"He can make every throw," Landry said. "He can make every check. He can make every read."

Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who can be as crusty as any of them, even said that what Mayfield provided was "phenomenal stuff." But Haley quickly added caution.

"I know a lot of people are carving the bust for Canton already, to steal one from my old pal [Bill] Parcells," Haley said. "[Mayfield] set the bar high. I don’t know that every week is going to go like that went."

Haley said that game should not be the expectation for Mayfield.

"That little sample size, you know, whatever ... throwing for 70-plus percent and making big plays, catching the ball for us. ... I think that was a small sample size, and I’ve been around long enough to understand that there are going to be ups and downs," Haley said.

There could have been a couple major downs against the Jets. On his first drive, Mayfield was sacked and fumbled; the Browns recovered and went on to get a field goal. In the third quarter, Mayfield tried a third-down pass into the end zone that could have been intercepted but was dropped.

Games can be won and lost on those plays, and Mayfield and the Browns (1-1-1) came out on the winning side of both.

"Baker’s a little more of a gunslinger," Haley said. "He’s going to rip it around a bunch. What we got to do as a coaching staff and coaches is make sure those are going to the right places and the right guys most of the time."

The flip side of Haley’s argument: The first overall draft selection should have that kind of game, and he should do it while fighting through typical ups and downs. There might be blips or falters, but the expectations for the first pick will always be high.

"I keep saying, this is the ‘the Baker era,'" Cleveland receiver Rashard Higgins told Cleveland.com.

He wasn’t finished.

"If it pans out how it’s supposed to be, Baker might be the next big thing; he might be on the LeBron wall, what I like to call it," Higgins said.

Which of course is the side of the world headquarters of Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams, where the immense banner of LeBron James hung during his career with the Cavaliers in Cleveland. To think that Mayfield is headed for that banner after one half of one game of NFL play is a fair measure of the excitement generated by his debut performance. Mayfield’s play has buttressed belief that he might well be the chosen quarterback, the guy who could solve the Browns' long-unsolvable problem.

In a sense, Mayfield has done with the Browns what he did in college, when he walked on at two schools and went on at the second to win the Heisman Trophy. He began his NFL career with the Browns as the third-team quarterback, worked his way to backup by minicamp and earned the starting job with the way he played against the Jets.

"When you go in and have not had a lot of reps and you can go in and command the offense the way that he did and help lead the team to victory, I think that says that, ‘Hey, this guy can help,'" Jackson said. "I think players, to a man, all that they want is guys that can help them win."

Mayfield offered his take.

"This is kind of my story," Mayfield said. "There have been a lot of highs and a lot of lows. You have to find the happy medium. That is one thing why I have a tremendous respect for [Oklahoma] coach [Lincoln] Riley. He helped me learn that along the way. You have to find that happy medium. You have to have that same attitude each day. You have to show up to work. What got you here does not need to stop.

"Even though I had one good game, that is just a building block. I did not come here just to win one game, and I did not come here just to start the next. We are building a franchise here and we are turning it around. It is about culture, so being that same person every day, which means finding that happy medium, never listening to the outside noise."

The Browns thought Mayfield was unique when they drafted him. He generates the outside noise but doesn’t want to listen to it. He waited patiently as the backup and never once complained, but he also never once backed down from the belief he could start. He gets the hype of being the first overall pick, but he always finds a way to mention teammates when he talks -- including pointing out that Tyrod Taylor, a captain, had to be injured in the Jets game before Mayfield could play. Mayfield wants to live in that middle ground, but he isn’t afraid to plant his flag -- on anyone’s ground.

What do his teammates expect from him in his first start?

"Handle it like he handled it Thursday night," running back Carlos Hyde said. "Come in with that same fire. That same spark. Handle it like a pro."