A year ago, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield looked on track to become the NFL’s next truly big thing. Advertisers wagered on it happening, lining Mayfield up for a slew of national commercials for the football season in which he was supposed to become a superstar.
Instead, Mayfield regressed — and the first overall pick in 2018 saw (along with the rest of us) the last pick of round one from that same draft become the odds-on MVP.
During Tuesday’s press conference announcing Kevin Stefanski as the successor to Freddie Kitchens as coach of the Browns, owner Jimmy Haslam addressed (not in response to any specific question) the status of Mayfield.
“I think Baker was given a hard time I will say this year by a lot of people,” Haslam said. “We talked to eight [potential Browns] head coaches, some of them offensive, some of them defensive and their comments in terms of his ability to play quarterback were all outstanding. Baker is like all of us, he can get better and he has some things to work on. But the competence when these outsiders looking at our team and people looking at Baker was outstanding.”
A cynic would say that the candidates to become coach of the Brown were destined to praise Mayfield, since they were trying to become his coach. But based on what he did as a rookie, there are plenty of good things about Mayfield’s game. Things went sideways for him in 2019, and Stefanki’s task will be to get Mayfield back on track.
Whether Stefanski can do that will be one of the biggest factors in assessing whether Stefanski has succeeded in Cleveland. Although the vibe has turned negative again after a disappointing 2019 season, the Browns truly do have plenty of talented players, and with expectations set low for 2020, maybe Stefanski and Mayfield will combine to help the Browns overachieve.