The Cleveland Browns haven’t had a quarterback who has started more than 3 seasons in a row since Derek Anderson in 2007-09. Baker Mayfield will be the third quarterback to do so in over 20 years for the Browns. The question entering this year is will the Browns just simply move off of Baker Mayfield if he doesn’t improve or will Baker punch his ticket for another year and beyond in Cleveland.
The pressure is definitely on the 2018 number one overall pick as he enters his third year. After a promising rookie season, the sophomore season came as a disappointment. His 2019 consisted of him throwing 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns, 21 interceptions (2nd most), and ranking 19th in total QBR. The expectations of a transcending quarterback that could be one of the premiere faces in the NFL turned into questions of if he is simply another miss by the Browns at the quarterback spot.
The team had a rebuilding offseason after a disappointing 6-10 year in 2019. Firing first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens and bringing in Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. The supporting cast led by Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt remained intact while Falcons tight end Austin Hooper signed a big deal to come to Cleveland to add to the arsenal. They also added new tackles in free agency and in the draft for an offensive line that struggled heavily keeping Mayfield up. The defense brought in 49ers assistant Joe Woods as team’s new defensive coordinator. They added some new pieces and Myles Garrett’s suspension is over.
Baker Mayfield is now entering 2020 will have played under 4 different head coaches and 2 general managers during his time in Cleveland. A new system that could feature more of a running attack may help Baker. He was know coming into this league with his skill of accuracy and that diminished with the inconsistent offense Freddie Kitchens was running. An elite running attack takes the pressure off of Mayfields shoulders and lets him establish a smooth rhythm. Stefanski’s offense did that last year for Kirk Cousins down the stretch as Cousins ranked 4th in QBR.
The pieces of a successful offense are there but the trend for the Browns in the front office isn’t in Mayfield’s favor. The Browns have proven that they don’t have any patience when it comes to establishing a franchise quarterback or even a coach and general manager for that matter. Mayfield needs to “ball out” this season to solidify his job in Cleveland. Not only just that, but the Browns need to find a way to make the postseason. Something they haven’t done in 18 years.
If Mayfield fails to improve and the Browns miss the playoffs, the front office could be looking into the future or sign a guy from the surplus of quarterbacks available. The new trend in the NFL is not so much developing quarterbacks. Teams feel like if a quarterback doesn’t show any improvement in two years, they’ll just simply move on and find another one. This has been very true for the Browns for decades. Baker could definitely find a job elsewhere but may fall under the Jamies Winston path.
Do I believe that Mayfield will have a better year this year? Absolutely. Does Cleveland? Who knows. The leash seems to be short on Baker in the Dawg Pound this year and if expectations aren’t met, the former number one overall pick maybe finding a new home in 2021.