Ugly tie: Browns coach: Taylor, offense must 'play better'
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Don't blame Ty for the tie.
Browns coach Hue Jackson defended starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor on Monday as Cleveland's players, coaches and fans digested how a season opener that could have ended with the team's first win since 2016 turned into a painful 21-21 draw against the Pittsburgh Steelers — the NFL's first Week 1 tie in 47 years.
Of course, because this is Cleveland, where quarterback criticism is passed down through generations, much of the postgame blame was directed at Taylor, who completed just 15 of 40 passes, got sacked seven times and missed a few open receivers in his first start for the Browns.
But despite Taylor's struggles, Jackson crushed any speculation he's ready to turn his offense over to rookie Baker Mayfield anytime soon.
"He is the quarterback," Jackson said of Taylor.
Jackson stiffened when he was asked what kind of leash he intends to have on Taylor, who was acquired in March from Buffalo and will start until the Browns feel the No. 1 overall pick Mayfield is ready.
"Leash?" Jackson said. "We are trying to win. His job is to get the offense to play the best that it can play, but it takes more than just him. I know the sentiment I am getting here is that it is him. It is not.
"It is the offensive unit as a whole. Got to play better. Whether that is newness or whatever it is, I do not want to get caught up in all of that."
Taylor had moments of indecisiveness Sunday, but that may have had as much to do with Pittsburgh's pass rush and an offense with several new faces, including rookie left tackle Desmond Harrison.
But while supporting his QB, Jackson acknowledged that Taylor underthrew receiver Josh Gordon on a potential big play and he needs to be more accurate.
"Improve, complete the ball," Jackson said when asked what Taylor needs to do for the Browns to win on Sunday at New Orleans.
"Complete the ball. Complete the ball. I mean we have got to play better offensively, it is not just him. We have got to play better around him. He has to play better. We have to play better as an offensive unit.
"We did not play very well yesterday, let's just be honest. We need to play better."
It's almost inconceivable the Browns didn't win.
Coming off a 0-16 season, they became the first team not to win with a plus-5 turnover differential or better since Arizona was beaten at Atlanta in 2012. And, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams with a plus-5 turnover differential or better are 132-4-1 since 1999.
The beleaguered Browns have two of those losses and now the tie.
For now, Taylor has the team's unwavering support. But it will be interesting to see if that commitment can withstand another subpar performance or two.
One of the knocks on Taylor in Buffalo was that he often missed throws he should have completed, and that he was afraid to attempt passes over the middle.
Jackson wouldn't pinpoint Taylor's problems in the opener — he led the team in rushing and ran for a TD — but made it clear the 28-year-old had better step up his game.
"Not good enough," Jackson said. "What I am also saying in there is that it is not all him. Sometimes guys got to be in the right spot. Protection has to hold up for him. All of those things in a passing game make a difference. It is not just him. Does he have to do his job better? Yes. I think everyone around him has to do their job better, too."
NOTES: Jackson said a "miscommunication" resulted in Gordon starting Sunday after the coach had vehemently expressed there would be consequences for the receiver missing three-plus weeks of training camp to address his sobriety. But on Cleveland's first play, Gordon lined up wide in a three-tight end personnel package. "The game's over with now, so to talk about it, what's it going to do? Nothing," said Jackson, who has turned play calling over to coordinator Todd Haley this season. "I've dealt with it. We move on." Gordon played 68 snaps, but was only targeted three times. His only catch was a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter.
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