CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield had a memorable first year in the National Football League, going from No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and Tyrod Taylor’s backup to emergency replacement and full-time starter, all of which led to his candidacy for Rookie of the Year.
And Mayfield believes his journey was possible because of the faith he has in himself and his skills as a football player.
“I am who I am because I believe in myself, and I expect to be able to do my job at a very high level,” Mayfield said after winning the Professional Athlete of the Year Award at the 19th Greater Cleveland Sports Awards Wednesday night.
“I work for that. I have the right people around me, and I trust them to do their jobs as well. Come Sunday, you’ve just got to go out there and do it. I believe I was put there for a reason. You go through practice during the week for a reason, and come Sunday, that’s the fun part.”
Mayfield broke the NFL rookie record with his 27th touchdown throw of the season with 3:24 to play in regulation of a 26-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC North Division clash at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on December 30.
After taking over the first-team offense in the second quarter of a Week 3 win over the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium, Mayfield completed 310 of his 486 attempts (63.8 percent) for 3,725 yards and the 27 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
Although Mayfield does not get official credit for the victory over the Jets because he came on in relief of an injured Tyrod Taylor, the first-year quarterback guided the Browns to seven wins and the greatest single-year turnaround in franchise history.
Under the direction of new head coach Freddie Kitchens, the Browns’ interim offensive coordinator for the final eight games, Mayfield completed 180 of his 263 attempts (68.4 percent) for 2,254 yards and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Mayfield averaged 281.75 yards and 2.375 touchdowns per game with Kitchens calling the plays.
Mayfield finished second in the AP Rookie of the Year voting and did not win the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year Award despite winning the weekly honor a league-best seven times.
“I’ll use it as motivation, but the more important thing is winning football games,” Mayfield said. “I’ll use it as motivation, and we’ll be better off in the long run.”
As part of that motivation, Mayfield will follow Taylor’s example and organize off-site team workouts after the conclusion of the offseason program in mid-June and ahead of the report date for training camp in late July.
“We’ll absolutely get everybody together,” Mayfield said. “No, I’m not going to have any guy swiping a broom at my feet in the ocean, that type of QB training. I don’t believe in that. I’ll go to a normal gym, where I trained last year. I don’t need some guy to teach me how to throw. I’ll have a guy that pushes me in workouts, has other athletes in there.
“The intensity’s up. It’s a working environment, and when I have the guys out there, it’s time to start that chemistry early, which I’m really excited about. The sooner we can build that timing, later on, we don’t have to worry about it. All of the details were fine-tuned out. It took till about September for us to get timing with them last year, when I was getting reps with them, so I’m looking forward to being able to do that early.”