Baker Mayfield: Making the Cleveland Browns Relevant Again

Baker Mayfield

For the first time since 2007, the Cleveland Browns will finish an NFL season with 0.500 or higher record. Currently at 8-3, Browns fans can almost taste playoff football, as the team edges closer towards the postseason. But despite the impressive record, third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t exactly sound enamored with his own performance:

“I know I can be better…and I will be”, he said in a Tweet shortly after Sunday’s 27-25 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars:

“Job isn’t finished, lot of [football] left. We’re 8-3 and not satisfied. That’s the best part about this team.”

Not satisfied. Those two words seem almost emblematic of Baker Mayfield in his career so far. Despite winning the Heisman at Oklahoma, being drafted first overall by Cleveland in 2018, and being named Rookie of the Year in his first NFL season, he was never satisfied.

A Resurgent Baker Mayfield

It’s no secret that Mayfield struggled in 2019. An offseason of hype, after the blockbuster Odell Beckham trade, was met with disappointment. A mediocre season for both Mayfield and the Browns ensued.  Mayfield threw 22 Touchdowns to 21 interceptions (second highest in the league), as the Browns finished 6-10  and missed the playoffs.

Following an off-season of heavy scrutiny, Mayfield clearly had some adjustments to make ahead of the 2020 season. And although he might not be lighting up the league quite like the 2018 Rookie Of The Year, the former Sooner has quietly led the Browns to the joint-third best record in the AFC.

In Sunday’s encounter, he completed 19/29 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns; unremarkable, but enough to guide the Browns to an historic win. This has been the story of Mayfield’s season with the Cleveland Browns.

Before Mayfield was drafted in 2018, the Browns had won one game in their last two seasons. Since he became the starter, the Browns are 21-21-1. Needless to say, the tides have been turning since he took the helm. A rudderless, winless franchise, has been transformed into a playoff contender.

By no means has Mayfield done this alone. Head coach Kevin Stefanski has been a revelation this season. It seems that the fourth head coach Mayfield has played under might just be the right choice. Further, running back Nick Chubb is putting together another strong season at running back. Rushing for 719 yards and averaging an astonishing 6.3 yards per carry, he remains integral to the Browns offense. His 144 yards on Sunday undoubtedly helped the Browns offence.

Despite impressive performances from Chubb, as well as receiver Jarvis Landry, who caught eight passed for 143 yards, the man making those throws, and driving Cleveland down the field deserves some credit. Often the source of criticism, it’s time to acknowledge Baker Mayfield’s legitimacy as an NFL starter and a franchise quarterback. The hapless Browns prior to his arrival are firmly in the rearview mirror.

The New Browns

There’s a new era in Cleveland. And granted, Mayfield has been far from perfect this season. But he has done enough to allow the Browns to win games, and resurrect the pride of the city, which is – and always has been – a football city.

While Baker Mayfield might not be playing his best football, his performances continue to improve, as his relationship with Stefanski blossoms. With his best yet to come, the Browns could be a force in the AFC come January.

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