Cleveland Browns need to pursue quarterback options other than Baker Mayfield?
By Dan Justik
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield struggled in 2019, and it has caused one NFL analyst to say the Browns need to look for other options.
The Cleveland Browns and quarterback Baker Mayfield were expected to be the breakout stars of the NFL in 2019 and become AFC contenders. Instead, they played mediocre football and Mayfield was statistically one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
Mayfield’s struggles were particularly surprising because of his breakout performance during the final eight games of the 2018 season. Mayfield was an efficient quarterback while also making plenty of throws downfield.
The issues with Freddie Kitchens as the head coach/offensive play-caller were a part of the problem for Mayfield, as well as the struggles with the offensive line. Mayfield did not have confidence in the 2019 offense, and it ultimately hurt his performance and the overall success of the Browns offense.
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Mayfield is still viewed as the Cleveland Browns franchise quarterback, despite his poor performance in 2019. However, 2020 will prove to be a make-or-break season for Mayfield because if he struggles once again in his third season, the Browns would have to consider looking at quarterback options other than Mayfield.
Although many view 2020 as the season that Mayfield has to prove he is the Browns franchise quarterback, one NFL analyst believes Mayfield has already shown that he does not have the ability to be a franchise quarterback. In fact, he believes that the Browns should already move on from Mayfield.
On Wednesday night, former NFL defensive end Akbar Gbaja-Biamila joined NFL Network’s NFL: Total Access, and he did not mince his words and opinion of Mayfield, questioning Mayfield’s leadership qualities and overall ability as a quarterback.
"“The thing about leadership is it’s organic. It’s all natural. It’s not GMO. It’s not this modified organism that all of a sudden it pops up out of nowhere. That’s what I saw in him. It showed up, especially under duress. His body language? Poor. His leadership? Poor. His production? Poor. I didn’t like anything about him.”“Baker Mayfield is a bum, as far as I’m concerned, and if anybody’s got a problem with it, they can call me.” – Akbar Gbaja-Biamila via NFL Network"
Gbaja-Biamila would go on to say that the Browns should pursue Case Keenum as their starting quarterback because he will be a cheaper option who has had more success than Mayfield in the NFL.
It is fair to question Mayfield’s leadership so far in his career in the NFL, and Mayfield has even said this offseason that he needs to improve in that aspect. However, downplaying Mayfield’s talent is misguided.
Mayfield certainly had his problems in 2019 and was certainly not the same quarterback he was during his rookie season. However, that should not be as surprising as quarterbacks typically struggle during their second season in the NFL. Defensive coordinators make adjustments to the tendencies of the quarterback, and the quarterback has to continue to grow and figure out the adjustments in order to shun those tendencies to find holes in a defense. Mayfield was unable to make those adjustments in 2019, which played a large role in his struggles.
It also did not help Mayfield that Kitchens seemed to bail on the offensive game plan and not help Mayfield feel comfortable in the offense. Instead of allowing Mayfield to distribute the ball all over the field, Kitchens seemed to want Mayfield to force-feed the ball to Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Defenses keyed in on this and Mayfield had few open windows to throw into.
Mayfield is going to need to continue to develop as a quarterback and improve in 2020. But to throw Mayfield into the trash after one poor season is a bad take. Kitchens and the Browns offensive staff set Mayfield and the rest of offense up for failure in 2019. Judging a young quarterback after a season with an inexperienced coach leading the way is the wrong way to analyze the quarterback.
New Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has already stated he believes in Mayfield and they need to do a better job making him comfortable. If he struggles in 2020, then the Browns need to consider looking at other quarterback options. But saying that the Browns should already give up on Mayfield this offseason is a poor take and would once again set the Browns back.