Photo via NBC Sports
If anyone was in Baker Mayfield’s shoes (or cleats?) it would not take much to blatantly read the writing on the wall.
The jury was out on him.
After getting picked first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, the 25-year-old Texas native has been the epitome of inconsistency. Decent games would not be difficult to find, but the same could be said for turnover-prone ones, as well. In 43 games played (42 games started), Mayfield has thrown at least two interceptions in 11 contests and one interception in an additional 16. Mayfield’s 43 total interceptions, in only 43 games, is already more than the 30 picks he threw in 48 combined Texas Tech and Oklahoma games. This is also without delving too much into the 82 career sacks, 18 total fumbles or seven fumbles lost at the NFL level.
You get the basic gist. Mayfield’s collective turnover problem, highlighted by his interception crave, left a newly-revamped Cleveland front office in deep thought as to whether they should move on from the previous regime’s draft pick or stick with it.
If Mayfield’s performance against the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 14 was any indication, perhaps they should go with the latter option.
Over the course of Mayfield’s Monday Night Football match, the Cleveland signal-caller, despite throwing a much-too-common interception, went 28/47 with 343 passing yards and two touchdowns as a result of a steady diet of scrambles, rollouts and just enough drop-backs. An additional 23 rushing yards, along with a rushing touchdown to boot, showed a different vibe. The additional notation of not getting a sack also helped show how effective Mayfield was at avoiding pressure from a tough Baltimore front-seven.
Although the Browns ultimately lost the game, 47-42, Mayfield had the zest that made him so electric with the Sooners and so encapsulating over the latter half of his rookie 2018 season with Cleveland.
His MNF performance was no one-off game of surprising production. Instead, it has further lengthened a hot stretch that has seen Cleveland already net a winning season to its name. Over the course of seven games dating back to Week 7 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Mayfield has captained the Browns to a 5-2 record over the stretch. Individually, Mayfield has gone 130/204 with 1,690 passing yards and 13 touchdowns for an overall quarterback rating of 106.9. The most important area of improvement, however, might not have come in Mayfield’s gunslinging resurgence through the air, but through his mitigation (and practical elimination) of the turnovers. Over the seven-game stretch, Mayfield has only turned over the ball four times (two interceptions and two fumbles lost).
This stretch, when compared to his 2018 rookie surge, further turns heads. From Week 7 of 2018 through the end of the same season (Week 17), Mayfield, in 10 games started, went 225/333 with 2,649 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a quarterback rating of 103.3. Although the stretch includes three more games, Mayfield, over the course of his current stretch, looks poised to give his 2018 streak a run for its money.
To many, the writing was on the wall. Mayfield had the target on his back. Could he quell the turnover spells? Overcome the offensive inconsistencies? Lead the Browns back to relevancy? Give hope to die-hard Browns’ fans who have already been through the same story time and time again?
While there is still a lengthy way to go until Cleveland can fully trust Mayfield as the franchise quarterback, the jury, at least for now, might just have to call for an intermission.