There’s plenty of blame to go around for the Cleveland Browns’ failures this season, as the much-hyped squad has stumbled to a 6-8 record and have been all but eliminated from the postseason.
While much of the blame has come down on head coach Freddie Kitchens, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith believes it’s quarterback Baker Mayfield who deserves the lion’s share of the criticism.
“The ultimate indictment is against [Mayfield],” Smith said on First Take. “He’s the one who wanted Freddie Kitchens, they put Freddie Kitchens in that position because of him, and ultimately, you have two all-world receivers telling everybody ‘get me out of here.’ That’s a indictment against the quarterback. What receiver did you know that played with a quarterback they believed in and wanted to leave.”
Baker Mayfield Under Fire for Sophomore Slump
Mayfield coming under fire is far from foreign and his sophomore slump in the NFL has been exaggerated due to some major expectations entering the year. After setting the rookie record for touchdown passes in a season and adding star wide receiver Odell Beckham via trade in the offseason, some had Mayfield in their MVP conversation.
His 2019 campaign has been far from that: 3,356 yards, 17 touchdowns and 17 interceptions with a 78.7 overall quarterback rating. Just for a contrast, lat season as a rookie he finished with a 93.7 rating.
Mayfield completed 69.8 percent of his passes for 247 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against the Cardinals last week, although those numbers were skewed a little by a fourth quarter touchdown drive in trash time.
Mayfield acknowledges the passing game needs to be better, especially with running back Nick Chubb leading the way as the NFL’s top rusher.
“When we get in a rut, we try and establish the run game, and we did that in the second quarter. We know we just fell behind after that,” Mayfield said after the loss in Arizona. “A few critical plays we need to look back on with third down conversions we didn’t make that ultimately could’ve turned this game around. That’s the frustrating part about not being able to execute in the pass game.”
Freddie Kitchens: Baker Needs to be Better
As Stephen A. Smith pointed out, much of the reason Kitchens was brought on as the skipper in Cleveland was because of the synergy he and Mayfield had in the passing game a year ago following the firing of Hue Jackson.
But the offense has been inconsistent this year and at times downright uncreative. From stuffed goal line stands, to overall lack of production, there are more questions than answers right now about the Browns future.
“Every year is different. Every situation is different. Every road game is different. Every home game is different. You can’t just pinpoint it on one thing,” Kitchens told reporters on Monday. “It is a bunch of little things, and we are working to clear those things up and continue to get better. There is a lot we can gain. We can still gain a lot these last two weeks. It starts by this first week. We have a big game this week, and we have to get ready to play.”
While Kitchens has been critical of Mayfield at times, he threw his support behind the 24-year-old QB, knowing his best days are ahead of him.
“Baker needs to play better. The guys around him need to play better. He understands that. We know who we drafted, and I am happy as hell that we drafted him. He is going to be our quarterback for a long time, and he needs to continue to get better, just like we all do. I need to get better at calling plays. I need to get better at a lot of things – so does our right tackle, our left guard, our safety, our corner – everybody needs to get better.
“Baker is not a finished product. He understands that, but that is the guy we drafted, that is the guy we believe in and that is the guy the locker room believes in and this organization believes in. I am not worried about Baker. He is going to continue to get better. Every year is different. Don’t just judge stats to stats.”