Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 10: Browns’ future looks bright with Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb

The Browns have been swirling in a maelstrom of mediocrity for more than a decade. Cleveland is the NFL’s easiest punchline and has been for a while, but Sunday showed why it does not need to remain that way forever. 

In fact, as long as long as Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb continue shining on the field, the Browns’ future is undeniably bright.

That much was clear on Sunday, with Cleveland piling up its second-highest point total of the year before the third quarter even ended. Mayfield, who finished the game 17-for-20 for 216 yards as well as three touchdowns and zero interceptions, showed precisely why he was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, moving well in the pocket and efficiently operating Freddie Kitchens’ offense, freed from the constraints of the drama surrounding Hue Jackson and Todd Haley. 

The only mistake from the Browns and Baker in the first half involved the decision to take the ball out of Mayfield’s hands and let Dontrell Hilliard throw a pass in Mayfield’s direction that was easily picked off by the Atlanta defense. Credit Cleveland for not letting it affect the game too much: the Falcons marched down the field, Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for a touchdown and it looked like the Falcons could conceivably flip the script on the Browns. 

Instead, the Browns answered back with Mayfield touchdown pass to Chubb in the red zone that gave Cleveland a 14-10 lead going into the half. 

The dynamic duo promptly showed why they were highly selected and why we should be enthusiastic about the Browns’ situation for the long haul. Mayfield marched the Browns down the field and hit Duke Johnson for his third touchdown pass of the day. 

Less than two minutes later — after Cleveland shut down Atlanta on one of three third-quarter drives that went less than 25 yards — Chubb exploded for the longest rushing play in Browns history, a breathtaking 92-yard touchdown run that combined power and speed to put the Browns way up top on Atlanta.

With that score, Chubb became the first player in the NFL with three touchdown runs of 40+ yards on the season, a stat that showcases just how explosive Chubb is and how dangerous he becomes when he gets in the open field.

The victory gave interim coach Gregg Williams his first win since 2003. 

But more than anything, it was proof of how attractive this Browns job should be at the end of the season. The Browns clearly have a franchise quarterback in Mayfield, who played the best game of his young career Sunday, an outing that featured Mayfield showing off his ability to execute smart decisions and to make every throw asked of him. 

Mayfield and Chubb, along with rookie cornerback Denzel Ward, are the crown jewels of GM John Dorsey’s first draft class. And they’re excellent recruiting tools for Dorsey to approach a potentially high-profile coach. It would have ben unfathomable to consider someone like Lincoln Riley or John Harbaugh or Mike McCarthy taking the Browns job five years ago. It would be beneath them. 

But now? The Browns have struggled as a franchise and there’s work to be done. But it should be obvious to anyone with an eye for talent the Browns are capable of becoming a contender within the next several years if the right coaching infrastructure is put in place. 

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