The Cleveland Browns will be without Baker Mayfield for their season finale on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski announced the news on Tuesday, just a day after an already injured Mayfield was sacked nine times in a 26-14 loss to the Steelers.
“Baker won’t play in this last game,” Stefanski told reporters on Tuesday, January 4. “We’re going to hold him out. He’s going to get surgery as soon as possible so that he can get back healthy as soon as possible.”
Mayfield has been dealing with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder since trying to make a tackle in Week 2 against the Texans following an interception. Mayfield didn’t sound too optimistic about playing in the team’s final game, especially considering there is nothing on the line but pride.
“I’ve continued to lay it out on the line when I haven’t been healthy and tried to fight for our guys,” Mayfield said after the loss. “Now it’s time for me to start looking at what’s in the best interest of me and my health.”
Mayfield Expected Back for OTAs After Surgery
There were some questions if Mayfield playing down the stretch was in his — or even the team’s — best interest, especially since veteran backup Case Keenum was waiting in the wings. While gutting through multiple injuries was respectable, he was obviously compromised and it only got worse as the season wore on. Stefanski said he felt comfortable running Mayfield out there.
“Throughout this thing, we have tried to make the right decision based on all of the information available to us — constant dialogue with our medical staff, with Baker, all those type of things,” Stefanski said. “Throughout, we have really felt comfortable based on that information that he was able to play.”
Stefanski said he did not have a timeline for Mayfield’s return, although ESPN Browns beat reporter Jake Trotter reported that Mayfield could potentially be ready to go for OTAs.
Stefanski Responds to Mayfield’s Criticism
Mayfield was frustrated following another tough outing against the Steelers, which came as an encore to his four-interception performance against the Packers last week. He completed a season-low 42.1 percent of his passes — which included 10 consecutive incompletions — for 185 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Mayfield was a pinata for the Steelers’ defense, in particular TJ Watt, who notched four sacks. Watt worked against Browns rookie backup James Hudson III, who didn’t get a lot of help with chips or double teams, something Mayfield was critical of.
“Obviously their front’s pretty good, has been for years,” Mayfield said after the game. “But when you’ve got T.J. Watt over there and we’re not giving our rookie tackle a whole lotta help, it’s not going to be good for us.’’
Mayfield also noted that he thought the offense could have been put in better positions during the year.
“There’s been a lot of ups and downs [this season]. Do I believe I could play better? Absolutely. Do I believe there’s positions that we, as an offense could have been put in that are better? Absolutely. There’s so many critiques throughout the year. If there wasn’t, we wouldn’t be sitting here at 7-9.”
Stefanski responded to Mayfield’s comments on Tuesday, admitting that the disappointing season has many people frustrated.
“I think it is just something when you do not accomplish what you want to accomplish, people are certainly frustrated. We will always look at what we could do better. There were plenty of times that we did have a person in location to chip and those type of things,” Stefanski told reporters. “Other times protection held up, and ultimately, whether it was we did not get the ball out, guys were not open or whatever it was, it is always a multifaceted-type thing. That is our job to look at and try to find a way and be better.”
It’s safe to say the Browns will have a very interesting task this offseason of evaluating if Mayfield is the best option going forward for the long-struggling franchise, which has struggled to wrangle a franchise quarterback for nearly two decades.