CLEVELAND — Second-year Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has lacked the kind of consistency and production this season that made him a finalist for the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and Pro Bowl alternate in 2018.
But through all of the struggles, first-year Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens is confident that Mayfield will persevere and become the kind of quarterback and leader the team thought it was getting by selecting him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“He has to have the mindset of: ‘The game of football is tough. It’s a tough game played by tough people,’” Kitchens said.
“Baker’s a tough individual, mentally and physically. Baker will be fine. He just has to understand to stay in the moment. I think he does. You come out of bad situations, a lot of times, better off personally and professionally, and he just has to keep his focus on today and what he’s doing.”
Mayfield comes into this week’s game against the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland hungry to put the Browns back in the win column. Although Mayfield did not play poorly in last Sunday’s 24-19 loss to the Denver Broncos at Empower Field in Denver, at critical times in the game, he was unable to make a big play, either.
Although the Browns cleaned up some of the mistakes that had been haunting them through the first seven games of the season, namely penalties and turnovers, they were unable to make plays in the red zone, getting just one touchdown in five trips inside Denver’s 20-yard line, and those missed opportunities added up to the five-point loss.
“I think Baker’s got a unique ability that a lot of good quarterbacks have,” Kitchens said. “They have short memories, just like corners have to have short memories. They’re not worried about the last play. They’re just worried about the next one.
“I think playing quarterback in the National Football League is one of the most difficult things there are to do, especially in this business. I think he’s going to continue to work. He’s always evolving. He’s going to be better this week than he was last week, and just continue to grow.”
Through eight games this season, Mayfield has completed 159 of his 271 attempts for 1,963 yards and seven touchdowns against a league-high 12 interceptions. Mayfield threw 14 interceptions through 14 games last year.
Additionally, Mayfield has rushed for 75 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries.
“Protecting the football is the No. 1 job of the quarterback,” Kitchens said. “The No. 2 job is to continue to play fearlessly because you’re never going to make those plays until you do. I think he does a good job of putting things behind him and moving forward.
“All the interceptions are not on him. There’s a lot that goes into that. I’ve told you guys that before. I don’t think he bats an eye or is thinking about the last throw. He only thinks about the current one. Some of those situations are dictated by the situation. I think everybody just needs to be more consistent.
“I think everybody realizes that. We need to execute better. We need to be where we’re supposed to be. We need to throw the ball where we’re supposed to throw it. We need to run and block the way we’re supposed to run and block. We need to have gap responsibility on defense. We need to have coverage responsibility on defense, and we need to hold each other accountable for that.”