If you had told me entering yesterday that Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield would break the NFL rookie passing touchdown record against the Baltimore Ravens, then I would have been pretty confident in what the trickle down from that meant. The Browns would win the game, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, going up against an undermanned Cincinnati Bengals team, would advance to the postseason as the AFC North champions.
Unfortunately, only two of those things happened, and the one that didn’t happen isn’t one the Steelers could have afforded to do without. Because the Browns could not pull out the win against the Ravens—and because the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts did not play to a draw—Pittsburgh is staying home.
Mayfield, however, threw three touchdown passes against the top-ranked Ravens defense, which gave him 27 on the season. That is the most a rookie quarterback has ever thrown, just edging out Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson, both of whom threw 26 touchdowns as rookies.
And Mayfield did it in only 13 games—12 starts—while the latter two started and played all 16 games. But he also finished the season with 14 interceptions, I believe the third-most in the league, three of them coming yesterday against the Ravens, and all of them big. The final play of the game, sans victory formation, was an intercepted pass on fourth down with about a minute to play.
Mayfield finishes his rookie season having completed 310 of 486 passes for 3725 yards, posting a completion percentage of 63.8 and averaging 7.7 yards per attempt. As mentioned, he threw for 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and only took 25 sacks, posting a quarterback rating of 93.7.
After throwing for 376 yards against the Ravens, Mayfield finished the season averaging 266.1 yards per pass attempt in the 13 games in which he played. That is the second-highest per-game average by a full-time rookie starter in NFL history behind Andrew Luck, who threw for 4374 yards as a rookie, averaging 273.4 yards per game. Mayfield averaged 271.1 yards per game during his 13 starts.
Those numbers were not enough, however, do secure either for himself or his team a winning record. He officially went 6-7 in his 13 starts and the Browns just fell short of posting their first non-losing season since 2007, getting at close as they possibly can with a 7-8-1 final line.
Still, there is plenty of reason for optimism in Cleveland because of the future that they have with Mayfield. He is undeniably off to a good start, and there should be expectations for them to post a winning record and contend for a spot in the playoffs as early as 2019.