2020 is a make or break year for Baker Mayfield.
When it comes to the Cleveland Browns, turnover is a common trend that occurs every couple of years. After firing Hue Jackson, the team hired Freddie Kitchens as its head coach in 2019. After a colossal failure of a season last year, Kitchens was fired and general manager John Dorsey parted ways with the organization.
Now, Andrew Berry is running the front office, while former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski is the new sideline boss. This isn’t a make-or-break season for either individual. Rather, this is a prove-it year for quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Baker Mayfield’s concerning decline after two NFL seasons
In his rookie season, Mayfield showed promise of being a star quarterback in the NFL. After entering in relief of an injured Tyrod Taylor, Mayfield threw for 3,725 yards, 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions through 14 games. In fact, the former Oklahoma Sooners signal caller set the record for the most touchdowns by a rookie in league history.
Then, the Browns chose to listen to Mayfield’s suggestion of promoting Kitchens, the then-interim offensive coordinator, to head coach. Once the decision was made, the team brought in Todd Monken to coach the offense. Those two decisions backfired for Mayfield.
Through 16 games last year, Mayfield completed 59.4 percent of his passes for a total of 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. His bad throw percentage increased from 17.2 percent in 2018 to 18.4 percent last year, according to Pro Football Reference. While many will point out Cleveland’s poor offensive line play, that wasn’t the main reason for Mayfield’s decline. Even though Mayfield was blitzed 211 times last season, he was only hurried 65 times, as opposed to the 84 times in his rookie campaign.
Mayfield needs to build a perfect chemistry with Stefanski
Now, Mayfield has the perfect opportunity to redeem himself this upcoming season. Stefanski has been praised for his work with quarterbacks in Minnesota. He was the position coach for Case Keenum during his miraculous 2017 season that resulted in an NFC Championship Game appearance. Then, Stefanski worked exclusively with Kirk Cousins as his coordinator, and he put up relatively good numbers in the past two seasons. Specifically, Cousins had bad throw percentages of 11.6 and 15.5 percent.
The Vikings knew what they had in Stefanski, and blocked the likes of the New York Giants from hiring him as their offensive coordinator back in 2018. Stefanski was, and still is, well thought of in the NFL circle.
There’s absolutely no room for Mayfield to fail. If Stefanski can bring those signal callers to glory, Mayfield should absolutely succeed. There’s no excuse for him not to take the necessary leap.
Don’t forget that this is a new regime in Cleveland. As every NFL expert and fan knows, new general managers and head coaches prefer to bring in their own quarterback. If Mayfield doesn’t show any sign of progression, he could very well be benched for Keenum, whom Stefanski brought in this offseason.