CLEVELAND — When quarterback Baker Mayfield went through the NFL Scouting Combine in 2018, he stated that if there was one player who could turn around the fortunes of a Cleveland Browns franchise coming off of an 0-16 season in 2017 and a 1-31 record over the previous two years, it would be him.
Mayfield got his opportunity when the Browns took him with the No. 1 overall pick, and although there have been successes along the way, neither the quarterback nor the team are where they want to be heading into Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
“I never thought it was going to be easy, but it is definitely a very big process,” Mayfield said following Thursday’s practice in Berea.
“Down the road looking back on it through the struggles and everything that we endured and it is going to continue to have bumps in the road, I think that is going to be the beauty of it -- me wishing that I was going to be here and having that come true and just seeing where it is going to go from here on out.”
The Browns officially were eliminated from postseason contention with their 31-15 loss to the AFC North Division champion Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland Sunday, a game that allowed Baltimore to clinch home-field advantage for as long as they remain in the playoffs.
The Browns (6-9) last qualified for postseason play during the 2002 season and have the longest active playoff drought in the National Football League.
In addition to missing the playoffs for the 17th straight time, the Browns will finish the 2019 season with a sub .500 record for the 12th consecutive year. The best the Browns can do record-wise is 7-9 if they beat the Bengals, which would be a half-game worse than the 7-8-1 mark they posted in 2018.
The Browns last finished above .500 when they had a 10-6 record in 2007.
“For us, we are trying to get as far away from what it has been at this place as quickly as we can,” Mayfield said. “Seven wins is not good enough for us, and that is why people are frustrated around here, within this locker room. We understand that. It is not about the past. It is about right now and what can we do to get better for the future.”
For the Browns, the 2019 season did not yield a playoff appearance or a winning record and only a third place in the AFC North Division, but Mayfield has learned important lessons along the way that hopefully, will benefit both him and the team in the long run.
“It comes down to all the little things,” Mayfield said. “First and foremost, I have to do my job to the best I can. I have to communicate and make sure everybody is on the same page. Being myself, being the leader that I know I can be and making sure everybody is on the same page because if it is one unified message, a lot of good things can come from that.
“Consistent. The same message throughout every day and throughout this building, being that same person every day. Letting people know what they can expect from me, and if I am not doing that, they can call me out for that. Just knowing that I am going to be there for them continually and be a leader for them.”
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