CLEVELAND — Count former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar as a believer in current signal-caller Baker Mayfield.
Kosar spoke glowingly about Mayfield in a brief media session prior to the start of the 19th Greater Cleveland Sports Awards at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel Grand Ballroom Wednesday night.
“Baker, he’s been fantastic, phenomenal how he’s played,” Kosar said. “It’s amazing that a kid in his early 20s like this could command such leadership, the way the older guys and the younger guys look up to him. I’m looking forward to next season.”
Mayfield threw more touchdowns passes than any other rookie in the 99-year history of the NFL.
Mayfield broke the NFL record co-held by future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and multi-time Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl signal-caller Russell Wilson 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.
Mayfield completed 310 of his 486 attempts (63.8 percent) for 3,725 yards and the 27 touchdowns against 14 interceptions after taking over the first-team offense in the second quarter of a Week 3 win over the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“For a first-year quarterback to be able to visualize, to predict defenses, to anticipate like he does, his rhythm and his throwing on time is impeccable, absolutely,” Kosar said.
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.
Individually, Mayfield set franchise records for the most passing touchdowns and yards by a rookie, and his 3,725 yards rank as the sixth-best single-season total in team history, regardless of years of service. Additionally, Mayfield had three of the top five passing yards games by a rookie, as well as the fourth-most accurate season of any Browns quarterback ever.
Under the direction of new Browns coach Freddie Kitchens, who was the interim offensive coordinator for the second half of the 2018 regular season.
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.
“Baker having the same offense with Coach Kitchens, I think, is fantastic,” Kosar said. “Changing the systems constantly is tough for young quarterbacks, so to have Freddie Kitchens, to have continuity of the same system going into Year Two is fantastic.”
At 2-5-1 after a 33-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 28 and in the middle of an unprecedented midseason coaching staff upheaval, the 2018 Cleveland Browns looked to be anything but a team capable of the greatest year-to-year turnaround in franchise history.
But a 5-3 record over the last nine weeks and three-game winning streak have secured the Browns’ greatest-ever turnaround, as they were plus-7.5 in victories over last year’s winless campaign.
“For the Browns to finish out the season the way they did and to have Freddie Kitchens and John Dorsey leading our team, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but this is a team that’s ready to come on the national scene and we should be thinking playoffs.”