Much has been speculated about the relationship between Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski and Baker Mayfield but the skipper wished his former QB well in his first comments on the situation since the trade.
The Browns went through an extended, ugly divorce with Mayfield this offseason after trading for Deshaun Watson. Mayfield was eventually dealt to the Carolina Panthers, who the Browns will see in Week 1. Stefanski wished Mayfield well with his new squad but would not speculate on if they’ll be seeing him for the opener.
“I think [Browns GM Andrew Berry] and Carolina worked really hard on that over the course of weeks. Like a mentioned to you guys, that was a unique situation. I wish him well, I think he’s in a really good spot,” Stefanski told reporters from training camp on July 27. “We’ll see — I’m not going to speak for coach Rhule on who plays. We’ll have time to talk about those things.”
While Stefanski is never one to air his grivances publicly, reports following the trade of Mayfield pointed to some significant tension behind the scenes.
After the Browns were thrashed by the Patriots 45-7, Stefanski missed a meeting with his QB, with the Browns skipper instead tending to a pressing situation with Myles Garrett, who took a very public shot at the coaching staff for a lack of adjustments.
“In one of those ‘careful what you wish for’ moments, Stefanski never missed another meeting and privately shined a glaring spotlight on his quarterback during film sessions from that day forward,” Jason Lloyd of The Athletic reported.
Baker Mayfield in Competition With Sam Darnold
Mayfield is currently in competition with Sam Darnold for the starting gig in Carolina. Darnold — the No. 3 pick in the same draft Mayfield was taken No. 1 overall — was the starter last season for the Panthers. Mayfield said he was looking forward to competing.
“My intention is to become the best quarterback I can be and help this team win and that’s why I’m happy to be in Carolina,” Mayfield said in his introductory press conference with the Panthers. “I feel like the team is very close to being really good. We just have to put the pieces together and come together as a team, and however that happens, I’m going to do my job and fill whatever role is to be expected of me and be a great leader and a great teammate.”
Mayfield is looking for a bounce-back year after he completed 60.5% of his passes for 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. While Mayfield was inconsistent, at least part of it can be attributed to a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder he suffered while trying to make a tackle in Week 2 against the Texans.
Stefanski Sends Clear Message on Starter if Watson is Out
While Mayfield is now out of the picture, the Browns still have a bit of turmoil at the quarterback position as they wait out the NFL’s decision on Watson’s possible suspension.
If Watson is out, the Browns plan to start veteran Jacoby Brissett, who was signed this offseason with the intention of being the top option if Watson was unavailable.
“Jacoby is our backup quarterback. If Deshaun is unavailable, Jacoby’s the starter,” Stefanski told reporters.
The Browns are still trying to integrate Watson into the offense but will try to balance the practice reps with the first team in preparation for the possibility that Brissett has to start.