After setting a rookie record for touchdown passes in 2018, Baker Mayfield experienced a “sophomore slump” last year when he thew 21 interceptions and the Browns went 6-10.
But Mayfield rebounded well in 2020 under first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski, passing for 3,563 yards with 26 touchdowns and just eight picks. The Browns’ season just ended in the divisional round on Sunday, making Mayfield’s progress that much more apparent.
“I think there’s a bunch of areas where he did a very good job — taking care of the ball, learning this system, and some of the intricacies of this system,” Stefanski said in his Monday press conference. “I knew it was going to get better over time, with losing the offseason. And I think you saw that from Baker. I think once he started getting comfortable with what we were doing, once I was using more concepts that he was comfortable with — which was a big part of this — I think he really started to play at a high level. Proud of the progress that he made, but if I had to say one thing, I’d say just taking care of the football.”
When asked during a radio interview in November if Mayfield was Cleveland’s franchise quarterback, Stefanski said “those things take care of themselves.” He was asked the same question now that the season is over, but had a similar answer.
“I think I would tell you Baker continued to get better all season,” Stefanski said. “He did the things we asked him to do. He definitely led this football team from Day 1 until now. But I would still tell you that these things tend to figure themselves out. I think we’ve got 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 don’t even know, necessarily, what that means.”
Mayfield is eligible for a contract extension this offseason after completing his third year in the league, so the Browns can make that determination with a large check in the coming months. But if nothing else, Mayfield will have continuity at head coach and play caller entering 2021 — something he hasn’t yet experienced as a pro.
“Baker and I spent some time together today and I can tell you he’s very excited not to learn a new offense,” Stefanski said. “So that’s a huge part of this is we can start at that base line, we can start at that foundation and build on what we’ve done to date.”