"Obviously Baker has worked extremely hard, put himself in position to be the backup and obviously in this game was able to go out and play well," Jackson said. "He nailed it. Did really well. Helped lead the team to victory, which I thought was really important."
Mayfield's insertion into Cleveland's thrilling come-from-behind win served as all the proof needed to make the rookie The Guy(TM) in orange and brown. The quarterback quickly changed the mood of the entire stadium, which was left to wallow in more familiar misery before Mayfield became a human adrenaline shot, quickly moving the Browns into range for a field goal just before halftime.
Mayfield pinpointed a few passes that served as a (very small) sample of what could be ahead. First, his completion to Jarvis Landry at New York's 1 set up the game-tying touchdown; later, his dart down the seam to Landry in a very tight window set up the game-winning score. Both came after Taylor failed to complete (or for the most part, even attempt) downfield passes and receded from veteran hope to business as usual for a struggling Browns offense.
In between, the rookie was quick with his decisions and accurate on most of his throws, looking wise beyond his years under duress much like he did in leading Oklahoma to a College Football Playoff berth. He left Browns fans in blissful shock as they poured out of FirstEnergy Stadium late Thursday, raving about the future under center, which suddenly seemed brighter than ever (with jersey sales reportedly reflecting the surge in confidence).
"It's humbling. It's an honor," Mayfield said Monday of his promotion. "That's what I wanted to be, though. I wanted to be the starting quarterback. I wanted to play. It's just human nature. I'm happy, but it's just the beginning."
Where Mayfield goes from here is anyone's guess, but after leading the Browns to their first win in 635 days in front of a packed house on primetime television, the move was a no-brainer -- and perhaps wise to prevent an uproar. Cleveland's offense is notably better (the bar was low) with him on the field, which is somewhat necessary with an immediate slate that includes trips to Oakland and Pittsburgh, and home games against Baltimore and the Los Angeles Chargers.
"Baker understands there's still a lot of work to do," Jackson said. "He's got to continue to grow in the National Football League, continue to understand our system better and even execute it more. And now, the added pressure of being out there first is there. But I think he can handle it. He's demonstrated that. He's shown me at every opportunity that he was working at it to be ready for when his time was called, he would make the best of it. He's done that."
Mayfield steps into a role notoriously occupied by 29 men before him. He's officially Cleveland's 30th starting quarterback since 1999. With that comes the pressure those same 29 once felt: Is this the savior for whom Cleveland has clamored for so long?
A reporter couldn't even finish the question about it before Mayfield dismissed the thought of the past Monday.
"It's 2018," Mayfield said. "I don't really care."
While growing pains typical of a rookie are expected, the ceiling is higher with Mayfield, who has quickly made the Browns an intriguing team to watch after three weeks. We'll see if he can keep it up.