The terms offseason and quarterback change have been synonymous with the Cleveland Browns ever since they rejoined the NFL in 1999. In the last 21 years, 28 quarterbacks have started a game for a Cleveland franchise that had not won a playoff game since coming back until this year. Not only has Cleveland found their head coach of the future in Kevin Stefanski, but Baker Mayfield has ascended to a franchise quarterback level. The Browns should not only pick up his fifth year option, but should look to extend the Heisman Trophy winner longterm.
The beginning of Mayfield’s career was filled with ups and down, as is the case for all young players at his position. However, the only constant in Mayfield’s first two years was the revolving door at head coach. In his first three years as an NFL player, the Browns have had four head coaches. Surely it takes a level of mental toughness and fortitude to overcome the constant changes in not only head coaches but play callers and offensive schemes as well. While the Browns have certainly found a coach and scheme that Mayfield can grown with, a lesser quarterback would have certainly folded if put in a similar situation early in their career.
The Browns should also take into consideration that Mayfield will only get better as he spends more time getting to know Kevin Stefanski’s offense and preferences as a play caller. Mayfield excelled in the second half of the season, throwing only one interception after week seven. Despite the Browns being a run first team, Mayfield also showed the ability to take a game over, as he did so in the second half of the game in Cincinnati, and the first half of the game in Tennessee, throwing for a combined eight touchdown passes in those two halves.
An area in which the Browns need to improve this offseason is obtaining more downfield speed on the perimeter. While the return of Odell Beckham will help this part of the Browns offense, adding another speedy playmaker will only help Mayfield even more, as the quarterback has shown the ability to throw the ball far downfield when the opportunity presents itself.
Oftentimes in the NFL when a new head coach and general manager take over an organization, they are tasked with finding a new quarterback. Fortunately for Kevin Stefanski and Andrew Berry, they already have a young quarterback who has shown the ability to win a playoff game on the road; something that takes many quarterbacks multiple attempts to accomplish.
Stability is an NFL organization’s best friend, and the Browns have finally found it in both the front office and their coaching staff. Stability is also crucial to the success of an NFL quarterback, and Cleveland finally has the organizational structure in place to let a young one grown. One of the Browns’ main offseason priorities should be beginning to discuss a longterm extension with Baker Mayfield.