After a stellar showing as a rookie, Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield stumbled to the finish line of his second NFL season, drawing out the critics he naturally attracts as an outspoken quarterback.
Last year was humbling for the former No. 1 overall pick, to say the least. Mayfield finished the season with 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, ranking next-to-last in both passer rating (78.8) and completion percentage (59.4%) despite having both Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry at his disposal.
“It was a different year for me,” Mayfield told reporters at the end of the season. “Definitely didn’t have it all figured out. A lot of learning lessons, life lessons for me. I’m going to come back a different animal come spring time. …I love this game. I play it because it’s hard to play, it’s hard to have success. It’s the process you have to enjoy. The ups and downs. There was a lot of that this year.”
Now with a rebuilt offensive line and another weapon in his arsenal in Austin Hooper, there are no excuses for Mayfield in his third season to not put up numbers similar — or better — than his rookie year, when he set the record for touchdown passes by a rookie QB.
Browns Will Draft QB if Baker Mayfield Fails to Improve: Analyst
Not everyone is confident that the former Sooner standout can pull it off. In fact, Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports thinks Mayfield former backup Tyrod Taylor has a shot to have a better season with the Chargers.
“We’re in a situation now where Tyrod, who plays for the Chargers, could conceivably have a better 2020 than Baker Mayfield does,” Wilson said. “That would lead to this conversation: who are the Browns going to take with the top five pick at quarterback. You know it will happen. The honeymoon is over in Cleveland if Baker doesn’t catch fire and return to the glory we saw his rookie season.”
Former Browns quarterback and first-round pick Brady Quinn did not take too kindly to the hot take from Wilson.
“@OldTakesExposed go ahead and log the take above for 2020. You’re welcome.”
Since Mayfield took over for Taylor in Week 3 of the 2018 season, Taylor has thrown just six passes for 33 yards. He backed up Phillip Rivers last year and is assumed to be a placeholder for first-round pick Justin Herbert with the Chargers this season — similar to his role in Cleveland. So it’s conceivable that Taylor starts just a handful of games, making the take even more ridiculous.
Quinn went a step further, saying: “Don’t come at my Browns like that! Playoffs this year baby. Take that to the bank!”
The Browns have a 46 percent chance to make the playoffs according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, with a projected win total of 8.2. Cleveland ranks third in the AFC North in terms of chance to make the postseason.
Browns Believe in Baker Mayfield Turning it Around
Mayfield has wasted little time this offseason getting to work for a bounce back. He’s been showing off some of his workouts on social media and gathered some of his pass-catchers in Texas for workouts. Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Damion Ratley and Rashard Higgins all attended.
Browns and Stefanski have been bullish that Mayfield will turn things around in his third season, and getting some early work in with his teammates will only help.
“It’s just a matter of the players rising to the occasion,” Stefanski said, per ESPN. “I think Baker has done that throughout his lifetime. He’s won in high school. He’s won in college and he’s won some games in the NFL. … I have a lot of confidence in Baker, but I’m not going to speak it into existence, and neither will he. It’s going to be a matter of hard work from Baker, from our coaches and from our entire offense.”