After a rookie season that saw him set the record for passing touchdowns by a first-year player, Baker Mayfield fell back down to Earth in 2019, and hard. The former Oklahoma Sooner could never seem to get his feet completely underneath him in Freddie Kitchen’s offense, and would have a turnover prone season finishing with 22 touchdowns to 21 interceptions. With former Vikings Offensive Coordinator and now Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski making his way to Cleveland, the hope is he will help Mayfield turn a corner in 2020. However, being as Browns fans are usually always skeptical, there is a chance Mayfield may never return to form, even under Stefanski. Should he show no signs of improvement in 2020, and only continue to regress, his job could be in serious peril by 2021.
For the first time in what seemed like forever, the Browns found stability at the quarterback position with Mayfield. However, for a franchise like Cleveland that has suffered so many hardships throughout the years, they need growth as well as stability at this position. The Browns desperately need Mayfield to grow if they hope to experience any kind of future success in the playoffs, or fulfill their dreams of finally winning a Super Bowl. Mayfield failed to show any growth in year two, and actually began to show regression. If this trend continues for him, we should expect him to be the latest highly drafted quarterback to only last at his first team for one contract.
Though the doubters have come out in full force against Mayfield, he does have a lot more going for him in 2020 than 2019. Last season, Mayfield was operating under Freddie Kitchens, who had under a year experience at the offensive coordinator position, and not experience whatsoever leading a locker room. While Stefanski has yet to lead an entire team by himself, he does have more experience calling plays at this point than Kitchens did last season, even if it isn’t much more. Stefanski was also successful in making Kirk Cousins a relevant quarterback in the NFL last season, and runs an offense that could be more suitable to the skill set of Mayfield. What the Browns signal-caller excels best at is the play-action passing game, and extending the plays with his feet. This was used a lot in Minnesota’s offense a lot in 2019, and we should expect Stefanski to carry it over to Cleveland in 2020.
If Mayfield fails, where will the Browns turn? Should 2020 have the same fate in store for Mayfield, the 2021 draft class would be Cleveland’s best bet to find his replacement. Players like Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields will be eligible for the draft, and should be expected to be potential franchise quarterbacks. Barring any unforeseen changes throughout the rest of the NFL, there will be no viable replacements for Mayfield on the free agent market. If the wheels only continue to fall off for Mayfield, the Browns’ only choice is to scrap their current plan completely, and start from scratch with a new rookie quarterback in 2021.