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Baker Mayfield: Franchise Quarterback or First-Round Bust?

The Cleveland Browns have had a rocky history with the quarterback position for the past decade. Is Baker Mayfield the guy to break the streak and get the title of “franchise quarterback?” Or is it time for the Browns to explore other options?

A “Cleveland-ella” Story

At the time of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Browns had not had a winning season since 2007. In fact, they went 0-16 in 2017. Browns fans hoped that having the first pick would finally change the momentum in Cleveland.

That is when John Dorsey, the newly named GM, made the highly controversial to decision draft the Heisman winning quarterback from Oklahoma University over options like Josh Allen and Sam Darnold.

Image Courtesy of thecomeback.com

In his rookie season Baker Mayfield led the Browns to their first win in 635 days. He averaged 7.7 yards per attempt, had a 63.8% completion rate, and threw 27 touchdown passes in just 14 games.

Since joining the Browns, Baker and the team have gone 7-8-1, 6-11, and 11-5. Baker’s statistics stayed relatively steady during those three seasons. However, by the end of the 2020 season Baker was viewed by some as a top ten quarterback.

That season, the Browns made their first playoff appearance since 2002. Baker led the team to a 48-37 Wild Card victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Though the Browns lost the divisional title to the Kansas City Chiefs, Baker Mayfield was seen as a threat going into the 2021 season.

 

Does “Baker and the Browns” Have an Expiration Date?

The Cleveland Browns play the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 1 of the 2021 season.
Image Courtesy of ClevelandBrowns.com

Despite igniting the fire under the Browns’ behind the past 3 years, more consistency and better accuracy is needed from the first-round pick. With a contract extension on the line, Baker Mayfield’s performance this season is under extreme scrutiny. Every game matters.

Baker’s stats through week 6 are underwhelming:

WK OPP COMP ATT YDS AVG TD INT RATE ATT YDS AVG TD FUM
1 @Chiefs 21 28 321 11.5 0 1 97.5 1 7 7 0
2 Texans 19 21 213 10.1 1 1 105 8 10 1.3 1 1
3 Bears 19 31 246 7.9 1 0 97 4 31 7.8 0
4 @Vikings 15 33 155 4.7 0 0 59.5 2 11 5.5 0
5 @Chargers 23 32 305 9.5 2 0 122.5 2 8 4 0 1
6 Cardinals 19 28 234 8.4 2 1 102.4 3 8 2.7 0 2

A significant contributor to these stats is the injury Baker sustained in Week 2. Initially, the Browns disclosed that he suffered a torn labrum. Just this week, however, Baker told the media that he is also dealing with a recent humerus fracture.

In addition…

Notwithstanding the injury, several instances in particular have increased skepticism over Baker’s long-term reliability.

First was the interception late in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs Week 1. The Chiefs were up 33-29 and the Browns were on first-and-10 at the Kansas City 48 when Baker was tripped and attempted to throw the ball away. The ball ended up in the hands of a KC cornerback with just over 1 minute left in the game.

The Cleveland Browns play the Minnesota Vikings in week 4 of the 2021 season.
Image Courtesy of ClevelandBrowns.com

And then there was the Week 4 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. Though the Browns edged out a 14-7 victory, Baker struggled to complete passes and had his lowest completion percentage since 2019.

 

The Question: To Extend or Not Extend Baker?

The Cleveland Browns prepare to face the Arizona Cardinals at FirstEnergy Stadium in Week 6 of the 2021 NFL season.
Image Courtesy of ClevelandBrowns.com

Baker Mayfield’s average performance through 2020 was enough to get the ball rolling in Cleveland, but now that the team has grown in depth it is time to see some improvement. Drastic improvement in the 2021 season, however, is questionable due to the severity of Baker’s shoulder injury and the injury-ridden offense he is working with.

Consistency is key here. Baker needs to focus on the short, easy throws and taking advantage of opportunities (cough cough OBJ cough cough).

Fortunately, the Browns have yet to place Baker on IR so we can expect to see him play sooner rather than later. A torn labrum requires surgery and a fractured humerus requires rest.

Will Baker Mayfield be able to follow through on those post-game press conference promises and actually clean up his game? I guess we will find out, sports fans.

 

– Hailee Murphy (@TheHaileeMurphy on Twitter)

Feature image courtesy of ClevelandBrowns.com

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