Heisman Winner, Number 1 pick, and the next Chosen One for the city of Cleveland. Two years later, and Baker Mayfield has most definitely not lived up to expectations. Hell he’s underachieved more than he has achieved. I mean the man had more Insurance commercials than he did wins last year, that’s how pathetically he performed.
Let’s take a look at what he “accomplished” in his first two years in the league. In year one, Baker debuted in a winning effort during week 3 after starting QB Tyrod Taylor went down with an injury, and then proceeded to finish the season with a 6-7 record leading the Browns to a 7-8 record one year after going 0-16. Not a bad start for a rookie.
Statistically, his season was somewhat overrated as he had a completion percentage of 63.8%, threw for 3,725 yards, 27 touchdowns, 14 interceptions with a QB rating of 93.7. Like I said, not a bad start at all especially for a rookie, but people used these stats to elevate Baker Mayfield into a conversation he didn’t belong in without seeing a larger sample size of what he is able to do.
Some started to put him in early MVP races while others expected him to be a heavy contender in the AFC the following year. Then all of a sudden, the Browns land star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., one of the most talented players in the NFL, in a blockbuster deal with the New York Giants. More talent on the team = more pressure on Baker Mayfield’s shoulders.
As soon as they landed Odell, some critics started to discuss whether or not the Browns would be AFC favorites and potentially Super Bowl contenders as well. The hype train for the Browns started to build up as they had one of the most stacked depth charts (on paper) within the entire league.
They had a receiving core that consisted of two former college teammates and Pro-Bowlers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr, David Njoku returning at tight end, and a running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (Hunt didn’t play until Week 8 due to suspension). With all that talent, everyone expected the Browns to succeed, including Baker himself, who is known for having a big personality throughout his life.
Overconfidence, inflated egos, and high expectations all caused the Browns to regress more than they had succeeded from the previous roster despite having much more talent. They finished with a 6-10 record as a team, which was one less win than the previous year. They had two key star players in Kareem Hunt and Myles Garrett miss significant time due to suspension. But, the biggest reason for their downfall was Baker Mayfield’s regression from the previous year rather than ascending along with greater talent.
Mayfield started all 16 games, but had a lower completion percentage (59.4%), less touchdowns (22), more interceptions (21), and a lower Quarterback Rating (78.8). The only category which he had a statistical improvement in was his total yards on the season (only 102 more) which is mainly due to the fact that he played more games.
All in all, the 2019 season for the Cleveland Browns was a complete and utter failure despite having more talent on paper than the team did in 2018. Going into 2020, Baker Mayfield has absolutely zero excuse to have another failure of a season. The two biggest problems other than Mayfield’s regression were:
- The Browns hired Freddy Kitchens who had no prior NFL head coaching experience prior to last year (whom Baker Mayfield wanted as head coach so it draws even more negative attention on Baker).
- The Browns had a weak Offensive Line that couldn’t protect Baker very well, as he had an increase in 15 sacks from 2018 to 2019 from 25 to 40 sacks in a single season.
Well the Browns addressed both of those problems during this off-season. They hired Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski to be their new head coach. His “Yankee” passing scheme will be extremely beneficial to Baker Mayfield as it puts pressure on the safety’s and makes them commit to one receiver and leaving the other one open.
On a team with not one but two Pro-Bowl caliber wide receivers, there should be a tremendous improvement in the passing game for Baker Mayfield and Cleveland’s offense should be functioning much better. Their offensive line situation was solved in both free agency and the draft as the Browns potentially grabbed the two best offensive lineman available during the off-season to add to a weak O-line.
They signed Jack Conklin, who was the best available offensive lineman in free agency to a 3 year/$42M deal and drafted Jedrick Wills Jr with the 10th overall selection, who I believe is the best offensive tackle from this past draft class. With both of the two primary contributing factors to the Browns’s failure solved, the last one that needs to be solved is whether or not Baker Mayfield will succeed.
If he does, great for him, but success is to be expected with all the help he is surrounded with. If he doesn’t succeed; however, the Browns have a backup plan in Case Keenum, who they signed during free agency to a 3 year/$18M deal ($10M guaranteed). That’s a lot of money for a backup, but I am beginning to suspect the Brown’s themselves are doubtful of Baker’s potential otherwise they wouldn’t give a backup such a large contract.
All in all, with all the talent Baker Mayfield will have around him entering the season, an early slump just may lead to the end of the Mayfield era in Cleveland.
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