Was Ken Zampese the real architect for Cleveland Browns, Baker Mayfield?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: USC quarterback Sam Darnold talks with Ken Zampese of the Cleveland Browns during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: USC quarterback Sam Darnold talks with Ken Zampese of the Cleveland Browns during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns and Baker Mayfield have struggled mightily, which could lead some credence to the rumors of Ken Zampese being the answer for Mayfield.

The struggles of Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns offense has led many to wonder what has happened in just one offseason. The entire offense shined during the second half of last season after Freddie Kitchens took control of the offense and Mayfield seemed to be primed to take over the league.

But the offense has sputtered through five games and Mayfield looks like an entirely different quarterback. It would even be fair to say Mayfield looked better in his first games in the NFL with Hue Jackson and Todd Haley compared to how he has played in 2019.

Mayfield is completing only 55.9 percent of his pass attempts and he leads the NFL with eight interceptions. He has also already been sacked 16 times, nine fewer than last season.

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The second-year quarterback has been jittery in the pocket and has held onto the ball longer than usual. He is also dealing with accuracy issues as he has been overthrowing plenty of his receivers this season.

The expectation was that Mayfield would thrive with Kitchens being named the head coach and still calling plays. Instead, the Browns can not figure out their own identity and Mayfield is struggling to execute on the field. That leads to the question of why has Mayfield and the offense struggled so mightily in 2019?

There is a chance that Mayfield’s struggles can be attributed to who is working with him in the quarterbacks room. Ryan Lindley, the Browns quarterbacks coach, is a former NFL quarterback who has experience with Kitchens. However, he does not have extended experience as a coach and could be struggling to adjust to his new role. Even though he has experience being a NFL quarterback does not mean he has the tools to be a coach. Lindley has only been a coach since 2017, starting as a graduate assistant.

If Lindley is not preparing the Browns quarterback properly or is not helping them make adjustments, it could be a reason for the problems on the field for Mayfield. Although Lindley is not calling the plays, he could certainly try to find ways to help Mayfield execute better.

Perhaps having a more experienced coach in Mayfield’s ear during the week is what he needs to excel. He had that last season with Ken Zampese, who worked as the quarterbacks coach on Hue Jackson’s staff. Zampese has been a quarterbacks coach in the NFL for 14 seasons and has experience in other capacities as well.

Former Browns offensive line coach Bob Wylie said in the offseason it was Zampese, not Kitchens, who turned around Cleveland’s offense during the second half of the 2018 season. Even though Kitchens was the offensive coordinator, Wylie said Zampese was the “mastermind” of the offense.

Although it is hard to believe Zampese was orchestrating Cleveland’s explosive offense during the second half of the year, it would make sense Zampese’s coaching helped Mayfield. With Zampese as the quarterbacks coach, Mayfield was standing strong in the pocket and delivering throws all over the field. He was not missing high on a lot of throws, and he was also getting throws over the linemen at the line of scrimmage.

Mayfield bailing on the pocket and struggling to not get passes batted down at the line of scrimmage has been a problem for the quarterback this season, as well as the errant high throws. Perhaps the cause of that is he is not being coached the same techniques Zampese was instructing last season. With all of his experience, Zampese would know the little details to help a quarterback excel.

Lindley may emerge as a good coach in the future, but being elevated to being the quarterbacks coach after two seasons of being on a coaching staff could have been too quick of a rise. Despite being a quarterback in the NFL, he likely does not have all of the knowledge Zampese does to help a quarterback work on his technique and translate it into success on Sunday’s.

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Even though Wylie’s comments about Zampese are likely not all true, there could be some credence to how Zampese coached Mayfield. If Mayfield’s struggles continue later into the season, it could become more evident how much of an impact Zampese had on Mayfield during his rookie season.