Sometimes it seems as though the leash is getting shorter and shorter every year when it comes to quarterbacks and the timeline they are allowed to develop. Obviously, not every team is going to have a Josh Rosen situation, but you pretty much better show something by your third year in this day and age if you intend to hang around.
Even though the Cleveland Browns are now flourishing—at least relative to their recent history—there are still some questions about Baker Mayfield, the first-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and how far he is capable of taking this team. Questions that, of course, head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry had to field at the end of the season.
When asked about Mayfield’s future as the team’s franchise quarterback, Stefanski said, “we have a bunch of ball games to look at with him and find out ways that he can get better, but in terms of the ‘franchise quarterback’ thing, I do not even know necessarily what that means”.
Generally, of course, you would want your head coach to be a little more enthusiastic in his support. He did say that Mayfield got better throughout the season, and that was able to lead the team, and that he did what they asked him to do.
Berry was also handed a similar question, with the topic of his fifth-year option thrown on top. He declined to answer anything pertaining to his contract status, though it would be hard to justify not re-signing him after they did so with Myles Garrett last offseason at the same points in their career, so optically, if they don’t give him a new contract, it will signal that they’re still not convinced.
“He did an excellent job this year. He led us to first playoff appearance in eons”, he did say of Mayfield. “We got 12 wins, played winning football all year developed a really strong relationship with Kevin and the offensive staff and really, like I mentioned last week, he really thrives on a weekly basis both on and off the field. We are very, very pleased with him. We would not be where we were at the end of the season without his performance. He had a really tremendous season”.
The Browns finished the regular season with an 11-5 record, and advanced to the postseason, where they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opening round before falling to the eventual AFC champions a week later. It was the first time since 2007 that they had a non-losing season, the first time in the playoffs since 2002, and the first playoff win since 1994.
A lot of droughts were ended in Cleveland in 2020. But how much of that was because of Mayfield, who only threw for a little over 3500 yards in 16 games, with 26 touchdown passes—tied for the 12th-most in the league? He still has one more year on his rookie contract without the fifth-year option, which is bound to be picked up, but if the Browns don’t decide to give him an extension, then the pressure will be on for him to take his game to another level in 2021.