"I have known that the Browns were not bad since the second I stepped foot into this franchise," Mayfield said of the team that has a chance to go over .500 on Sunday for the first time since Dec. 7, 2014. "We had a special team from the get-go."
That approach should not be surprising from a guy who didn’t blink when the Browns were at their own 5-yard-line late in overtime on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Mayfield went on to guide the Browns to a game-winning field goal, which has unleashed pent-up hope.
Still, it’s wise to keep the "special team" reference in some perspective. (Not that it can’t happen.)
This Browns team stands 2-2-1 after an overtime win over Baltimore. Twelve teams have a better record, five other teams are at .500 and 14 teams are worse. Which puts the Browns right in the middle of the pack.
They could be 5-0, they also could be 0-5. But coming off three seasons when the Browns were a combined 4-44, any wins are good wins and any steps forward are huge steps.
Mayfield’s confidence goes back to his final season at the University of Oklahoma and to a statement he made at the NFL combine, when he said: "If there’s anyone who would turn that franchise around, it’d be me."
Bold? Yes, but Mayfield believed he would be the one to get it done.
Johnny Manziel promised the moon while practicing throwing in ocean waves. Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden arrived as first-round picks. Brian Hoyer hoped to be the feel-good guy who was returning home. Colt McCoy talked about putting hay in barns. Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb had high hopes in the years after 1999.
Mayfield arrived with first-overall-pick hype, and just one relief appearance and two starts behind center has shown reason to believe.
He said he could never accept being the backup while still accepting he would start the season behind Tyrod Taylor. Mayfield took the field against the New York Jets firing crisp passes, and he continued that level through the victory over Baltimore.
Mayfield lost at the Oakland Raiders when the Browns could have won -- the offense got nothing done with a possession that started at their own 40 -- but he came through against Baltimore when Cleveland could have lost. Ravens safety Eric Weddle complimented Mayfield but added that Mayfield could have thrown three or four interceptions.
Which might well be true. But Mayfield didn’t. And with that overtime win against the Ravens, he now has a second chance to put the Browns over .500.
The bottom line isn’t what could have gone wrong, but what actually happened -- and Mayfield and the offense got the last drive finished against the Ravens when they had no choice.
"Some got it, some don’t," said Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins, who will miss Sunday’s game with a sprained MCL.
While there have been ups and downs -- four turnovers against Oakland -- the one thing that has never wavered has been Mayfield’s attitude. He said he believes the Browns' offense can score 30 points each game. He was asked about the Los Angeles Chargers' defense in advance of Sunday's home tilt and said, "We will see what they will try to do to a rookie quarterback." He shrugged at bad field position against Baltimore, saying, "That is also more yards for our offense to pick up if you drive a long way." He doesn’t even shy away from questions about the playoffs.
"We are at a one-week-at-a-time mindset," Mayfield said. "We have moved on from the first four games of the season. Now, we are on to the second quarter. We are looking at a chance to go 2-0. If you win each quarter, you are looking at a great possibility of going to the playoffs. We just have to take care of business one game at a time. Obviously, the end goal, yes, is to win the division and make the playoffs, but you do not do that unless you take it one week at a time."
Higgins expanded on his thoughts on the signal-caller.
"He gets it," Higgins said. "He knows what to do. He’s not all riled up. He’s poised. He’s embracing the moment. And he lives for moments like this. In college, he did the same thing, and it just so happened it’s carried on to the NFL."
The Browns' post-1999 history is full of hyped quarterbacks who didn’t work out. In a short time, though, Mayfield has earned the respect of opponents and teammates. He insisted that he believed from the first day.
"From the people they are putting together in this group, but then also the belief I have always had in myself," he said. "I said it back at the combine when everybody said I was a short quarterback that could not do much, I said if anybody is going to do it, I believed in myself to do that.
"That is something that I carry with me, and I hope our guys believed in themselves, as well."
How does he keep confidence from seeping into cockiness?
His answer: "Have to do your job."