What to Watch
1. The $100 million man vs. the 2-32-1 guy — Jon Gruden, who launched his coaching career by going 8-8 with the 1998 Oakland Raiders, is back in the saddle after a 10-year absence from the sidelines. (The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Gruden after consecutive 9-7 seasons.) Given his $100 million contract, it's a nice saddle.
Hue Jackson, who began his coaching career by going 8-8 with the 2011 Raiders, was fired after that season. He seemed at the end of his rope in Cleveland after going 1-31 through two years.
Gruden and Jackson are old friends in an odd meeting. If Jackson wins, his Browns will be 2-1-1, with a chance to send Northeast Ohio off the deep end if a win next Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens is added. Gruden, 0-3, is being kicked around like a cartoon character.
2. Gruden's QB Camp — Gruden was a Browns fan growing up. The way he went through quarterbacks in Tampa Bay stands as his humorous tribute to Cleveland QBs.
As the big Buccaneer from 2002-08, Gruden's starters were Brad Johnson, Rob Johnson, Shaun King, Brian Griese, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski, Tim Rattay, Jeff Garcia and Luke McCown. That's nine guys in seven years. (The Browns used 10 in that span, including Garcia, Gradkowski and McCown.)
Baker Mayfield, teh Browns' 30th starting quarterback in 20 seasons, will be a decade-plus fixture if he pans out as a No. 1 overall pick. Gruden is trying hard to like Derek Carr, whose $125 million contract extends through 2022. Carr is trying to prove his 28-37 career record and 0-7 slump are not reflections of why he fell to No. 36 overall in the 2014 draft. Mayfield aims to prove his stunning relief work against the Jets was merely a glimpse.
3. The one who got away (from both teams) — Khalil Mack was sitting there for the Browns in the 2014 draft when they made a crazy trade and wound up with Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel as first-round picks. In 2018, Mack was waiting to be paid by the Raiders, who instead swapped him out for two future first-round picks.
Passing on Mack is a reason the Browns stumbled into a No. 1 pick that became Myles Garrett, who shows signs of being in Mack's league. While the Browns are getting Emmanuel Ogbah back from injury as a help to Garrett, the post-Mack Raiders are struggling with a front seven that includes ex-Brown Frostee Rucker.
4. Air disparity: Youth vs. experience — Mayfield's receiving group has a proven player in Jarvis Landry, but even he is only 25 years old. The other primary targets (Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, David Njoku) have little meat on their NFL resumes.
Carr's pass-catchers have been around. Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook are 10-year men. Amari Cooper and Martavis Bryant are fourth-year pros who have helped Carr rank among NFL leaders with 936 passing yards. The Browns trail their opponents 747-663.
Both teams have young cover men from Northeast Ohio and Ohio State who are recent first-round picks. The Raiders' Gareon Conley, from Massillon, has played 152 snaps this season after appearing in just two games in an injury-plagued rookie year. Former Nordonia star Denzel Ward's rookie year in Cleveland could hardly be better, to date.
— Steve Doerschuk