CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns invested heavily in quarterback Baker Mayfield when they selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft after his Heisman Trophy season of 2017 with the University of Oklahoma.
While Mayfield shined as a rookie in 2018, his sophomore season was a struggle to consistently move the ball down the field and keep possession, as he was intercepted 21 times in 2019, but those numbers do not worry new Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, who is excited to work with his quarterback.
“He’s the quarterback,” Stefanski said. “He’s the triggerman. That’s the exciting part for me. I’ve worked with a lot of quarterbacks, a lot of great ones over the years, and I’m looking forward to hunkering down with him and getting to work.
“Like any one of our players, when they walk in the building, we’ll have a detailed plan for them for how they’re going to improve, and Baker, as a young player, the sky’s the limit, but we’re going to put in the work to get it done with Baker. Certainly, when you’re talking about this job and this franchise and everything that goes with it, you think about the quarterback, and I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
Mayfield saw a significant drop in production in year two, as his completion percentage and touchdowns went down and the interceptions went up by seven as he became the franchise’s first quarterback in 18 years to start all 16 games.
Mayfield completed 317 of his 534 attempts (59.4 percent) for 3,827 yards and 22 touchdowns against 21 interceptions in 2019 after completing 310 of his 486 throws (63.8 percent) with an NFL rookie-record 27 touchdowns against 14 picks during the 2018 season.
“The skill set that our quarterback has is legit, and he’s as accurate as they come,” Stefanski said. “I think there are plenty of things that we’ll do schematically to hopefully make life easier on him, and I’m looking forward to the jump that this kid will take.
“He’s such a young player and the guys I’ve been around, when they put their mind to it and they start to grind on this thing and understand the whys, the concepts that we’re teaching, I really think this kid has a chance to take off.”
Stefanski will be Mayfield’s fourth head coach, interim or full-time, since he was chosen with the No. 1 pick two years ago, but the new on-field leader of the team is confident his coaching staff and quarterback will put in the work necessary to get the franchise going in the right direction.
The Browns last qualified for postseason play during the 2002 season. In addition to missing the playoffs for the 17th straight time, the Browns finished the 2019 season with a sub .500 record for the 12th consecutive year.
The Browns last finished above .500 when they had a 10-6 record in 2007.
“I have no doubt that a player like Baker and all of our players will understand that my job is to make them better football players,” Stefanski said.
“Baker, the kid is talented, and I’m excited to get to work with him. I’m excited for our coaches to get to work with him, but the operative word there is ‘work.’ We’re going to get them back in the building when it’s time, and we’re going to start to put a plan together.”