Myles Garrett’s rookie season with the Browns was historic — and horrific.
The 0-16 nightmare left him scarred, but determined.
“It drives me a little bit, because I’ll never let something like that happen again,” the defensive end vowed Thursday as the Browns opened training camp with an infusion of talent and optimism following their forgettable 2017 season. “No matter how long I’m here, there will never be a season like that.”
Cleveland fans could never handle another one.
But in the months since last season ended, coach Hue Jackson jumped into Lake Erie to cleanse himself of the losing and new general manager John Dorsey retooled the Browns’ roster.
He acquired proven players such as quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry in trades, signed free agent linebacker Mychal Kendricks and drafted rookie QB Baker Mayfield, the top overall pick who may eventually lead Cleveland’s bruised franchise back to prominence.
With HBO’s “Hard Knocks” chronicling their every move over the next few weeks, the Browns are pushing the reset button.
“It is not the same team,” said Jackson, who held onto his job despite a 1-31 record the past two seasons. “John and his team did a tremendous job of adding key pieces to our football team. This is a competitive football team throughout.”
Unlike so many previous seasons, the quarterback job appears to be locked up. On Wednesday, Jackson made it clear that Taylor, who led Buffalo to the playoffs last season, is the starter and that Mayfield is “not ready to walk out there right now and play.”
“Tyrod Taylor is the starter,” Jackson said, getting an agreeing nod from Dorsey. “I don’t envision any situation where all of a sudden he is getting a bunch of first-team reps — unless, God forbid, something happens.”
Something always seems to happen to the Browns, so Jackson wrapped his knuckles on the wooden podium while discussing Taylor to ward off any bad luck.
The 27-year-old Taylor quickly won over teammates and coaches this spring with his team-first attitude and work ethic. Beyond his usual duties, part of Taylor’s role is to help the Browns forget 2017 — not just turn the page, but throw out the book.
“Let them know that it is a new year,” he said. “Even if you were a part of it last year, it is a fresh start now. Learn from last year. No matter how good or how bad the season was, this season is a totally new year and be excited about the opportunity we have in front of us to go out and win games, change the culture and change the perception of this team.”
Mayfield’s first NFL camp will test his football knowledge and patience. The Browns are in it for the long haul with the Heisman Trophy winner, who to this point has accepted the team’s decision to have him sit behind Taylor.
However, that doesn’t mean Mayfield is satisfied being a No. 2 quarterback.
“I would never get my mind right to be a backup,” he said before the Browns held their first practice open to the public. “That’s the second that I would be complacent. That’s the second that I would stop working. You’ve always got to keep working like you’re going to work to be the best and that’s the same thing Tyrod has done his whole life.
“It doesn’t matter the position you’re in. If you’re not going to work hard, then you’re not doing it right.”
While the Browns want Mayfield to wait, fans may be a little more impatient to see him.
It wasn’t long into practice that chants of “Ba-ker, May-field” filled the warm air on the green, manicured fields behind the team’s headquarters.
Mayfield’s accustomed to the spotlight — the star attraction. But for now he’s content with a supporting role, and doesn’t object to Jackson’s plan to give Taylor the majority of snaps with Cleveland’s starters.
“No, absolutely not,” Mayfield said. “They’re doing everything they think is right and I believe in that and I believe in them, so when it comes down to the stuff that they’re saying, that’s not going to change my work ethic and if it does, then something’s wrong.”
Unlike Garrett, Mayfield’s 2017 couldn’t have gone much better.
Once a walk-on, he climbed to college football’s summit, carrying the Sooners to national title contention.
And although he’s not leading the Browns, Mayfield can help point them in the right direction.
“When you talk about a new season, the record from the past year goes out the window,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you win the Super Bowl or you go 0-16, you start fresh and you haven’t done anything for this season. So we’re working to be the best team in the country and that’s our mindset.”