Former No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield and his Cleveland Browns were unable to come to terms on a contract extension this past offseason.
Eligible for a long-term deal for the first time in his career, the former Oklahoma star wasn’t too bent out of shape over it heading into the Browns’ Week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I’m not doing the negotiation, so quite frankly, I don’t give a damn,” the outspoken quarterback said back in August.
For Cleveland, the idea was to make sure that Mayfield’s performance during a surprising 2020 season wasn’t an exception to the rule.
It made perfect sense. After all, we’re talking about a quarterback who threw 22 touchdowns against 21 interceptions in 2019 and comes with somewhat of a volatile personality. A strong 16-game stretch in 2020 was not worth the risk of committing Josh Allen-type money to Baker. That is to say, $258 million over six years with $150 million in guarantees.
Through the first two weeks of the 2021 season, albeit a small sample size, Baker Mayfield has now given the Browns’ brass and fans confidence that he can finally be that long-term solution in Cleveland.
Baker Mayfield stats are eye-opening
At 26 years old, the quarterback’s numbers are backing this up big time. He’s ascending toward elite status. Just look at where he ranks in some key categories among NFL signal callers.
- Completion %: 81.6 (1st)
- First down %: 49.0 (3rd)
- QB ratings: 101.9 (12th)
Sure Mayfield has thrown two interceptions in as many games. The one last week against the Houston Texans actually got him hurt.
But those are basic stats. When looking at the advanced numbers and his tape, it’s clear that this former Sooner is ready to take over and run with it in Cleveland. He’s missed on nine of 49 pass attempts. A total of 24 of his 49 attempts have gone for first downs. He’s averaging 10.9 yards per attempt, good enough for No. 3 among regular NFL starting quarterbacks.
The Cleveland Browns are a well-oiled machine under Baker Mayfield
Even with Odell Beckham Jr. missing the first two games of the season and Jarvis Landry playing all of two snaps this past Sunday, Mayfield still has Cleveland averaging 30 points per game. He seems to have a stellar relationship with second-year head coach Kevin Stefanski and has gained the trust of the innovative offensive mind.
Working with stud running back Nick Chubb, the quarterback has helped create one of the more-dynamic backfields in the entire NFL.
This was on full display during an otherwise difficult game against the surprising Houston Texans in Week 2. Mayfield completed 19-of-21 passes for 213 yards with two total touchdowns. Chubb added 95 yards and a score on 11 rush attempts.
All of that helped make up for the absence of both Beckham Jr. and Landry. No longer does Baker Mayfield need elite talent around him to lead a stellar offense. He can act as a game manager if the situation dictates it. We’ve seen this first-hand over the course of his past season-plus in the NFL.
Finally an end to the Mistake by the Lake?
Fans in Ohio know this term more as it relates to the defunct Cleveland Municipal Stadium. However, these very same fans also understand full well that the Browns’ quarterback situation has also been nothing less than a mistake waiting to happen since the days of Bernie Kosar, who retired one year after Baker Mayfield was born.
Since Cleveland returned as an “expansion team” back in 1999, the team has had a total of 31 starting quarterbacks. This story is already known. One playoff appearance in 22 years prior to last season. That story is also already known.
But since Mayfield arrival in Cleveland, this position has been a consistent for the Browns. He started started every game the past two seasons and has posted a winning record during that span. The only other Browns quarterback to have accomplished this feat since the great Otto Graham was Brian Sipe from 1978-80.
It might not be enough for Cleveland to win the Super Bowl this season. But it has the team relevant on the broader NFL stage since Bill Belichick was manning the sideline.
And while we’re not going to pretend Baker Mayfield is the only reason for this, his maturity as a quarterback and an individual has played a huge role in the turnaround. It has Browns fans confident in their team for the first time in a long while. Justified confidence, too.