After a slump in 2019, look for Kevin Stefanski to raise Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield’s game in 2020.
Let the record show, no one is a bigger Baker Mayfield supporter than myself. The Cleveland Browns have been without a franchise quarterback for 20 years now, and Mayfield has finally shown some hope. With that, there is no question he took a step back in 2019 after a stellar rookie campaign in 2018.
In 2018 Mayfield broke the rookie touchdown record with 27 in only 14 games of action. Mayfield completed nearly 64 percent of his passes and threw only 14 interceptions. In 16 games in 2019, Mayfield only completed 59 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and a staggering 21 interceptions. The biggest standout of the year was high passes and turnovers in the red zone.
Yes, Mayfield was not on top of his game, but Freddie Kitchens was no help as head coach. While Mayfield flourished with Kitchens calling plays in 2018, the added pressure of being the head coach and play-caller was quickly seen as too much for Kitchens by fans. The Browns offense was constantly behind the chains and put Mayfield into constant passing situations.
More from Dawg Pound Daily
- Odell Beckham Jr. promises strong year for Cleveland Browns in 2020
- Cleveland Browns: Why NFL season could work amidst COVID-19
- Browns: J.C. Tretter, NFLPA hold course as NCAA wavers
- Cleveland Browns Baker Mayfield: Offseason visit from Kevin Stefanski proved vital
- Cleveland Browns: Odell Beckham handed insulting ranking NFL Spin Zone top 100
Third and longs, as well as a weak offensive line, led to Mayfield being sacked 40 times last season. With constant pressure, the playbook was limited, and Mayfield never looked comfortable. Mayfield is human, so yes, part of his regression was cockiness and not being as dedicated as he needed to be successful in the NFL. But much of the issues were poor play-calling and an even more unstructured locker room because of Kitchens.
Stefanski has only been around five months, but he appears to already have the respect of Mayfield and the team and looks to push forward in a big way next season. Not only has Mayfield been working with receivers and tight ends in Austin, TX, he has also been saying all the right things as well. Mayfield was quoted Wednesday on Stefanski:
“Kevin is obviously an extremely sharp guy. Everything he does is with a purpose. It is a very deliberate message, and he has everybody believing in that on the staff. I think that is how the foundation should be set, and he has done an unbelievable job of that. (The Vikings) were a very efficient team for the last few years. That is kudos to him.” – Mayfield via Browns
Not only has Mayfield bought in, but Stefanski’s system is also a perfect fit. With the additions on offense by general manager Andrew Berry, this wide zone schemed offense is ready to go in Cleveland in 2020. Remember, both Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum had career years with Stefanski. Yes, Cousins has a big contract, but most will agree both quarterbacks are not in the cream of the crop of their position.
For whatever reason, Mayfield gets it now, and with a chip on his shoulder fans should be confident they’ll see greatness once again. Mayfield went on in his latest interview saying:
“If I win, good things will happen and good things will happen for our team and the guys around me. That is the most important part. That is why quarterback is one of the positions that is the hardest in sports. If I play better, our team is going to do better.”
For years, culture has been the biggest issue in Cleveland, but it appears Mayfield, Stefanski, and Berry are on their way of changing that.