Is Baker Mayfield really the face of the Browns franchise?

The case for Baker Mayfield and the case against the Browns starting QB

By: Michael Welsh

Quarterbacks are a touchy subject for Browns fans. After dozens and dozens of signal-callers since 1999, it seemed like Cleveland had finally found their franchise guy with Baker Mayfield in 2018. Truth be told, it has been an absolute roller coaster since Baker took over at quarterback. With a disappointing 2021 season, it may be time for the Browns, who have a Super Bowl contending roster, to look elsewhere for a quarterback. A lot of tough decisions are looming for General Manager Andrew Berry. So what should the Browns do about Baker Mayfield? There are many pros and cons to this situation and no easy answer.

Pros of Keeping Baker Mayfield

The most memorable thing Mayfield has done as the Browns QB takes them to the playoffs and gets their first playoff win since 1994. To make that even more satisfying for Cleveland fans, it was on the road against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. Baker tossed three touchdowns in that game and continued his impressive stretch of playing like a top ten quarterback in the NFL. Baker also broke the rookie touchdown record in 2018, but that gets harder to talk about as an accomplishment since Justin Herbert broke it a few short years later. Either way, Baker has shown plenty of flashes of being a really good QB in this league. He makes top-tier throws and has a fire about him that draws players closer. The Browns had trouble winning any games before they drafted Baker. Since he has been drafted, they have won more and been relevant overall. That cannot be ignored, But is it enough? For many fans, it is not. At some point, another step has to be taken and many thought that would have happened this year. One pro of keeping Baker is that he is a cheaper option, with the Browns exercising his 5th-year option, and that he could return the best version of himself in 2022. He tore his labrum on his non-throwing shoulder in week two against the Texans and played extremely banged up all season. Many believe that his accuracy was off due to a harness that had to be worn during games. Andrew Berry may think that after Mayfield has surgery and gets back to 100%, then he will play at a higher level.

The cons of keeping Baker Mayfield

Unfortunately for Browns fans, Baker struggles with quite a bit and there are a decent amount of cons to keeping him. As mentioned earlier, he dealt with a torn labrum all season. That may have affected his accuracy, but there is no way to ignore that he made many awful decisions all season and was not fully seeing the field. This has been an issue for Baker since college. A few of his biggest critiques coming into the 2018 draft were field vision and happy feet in the pocket, which he still has in his fourth season. It is very alarming that he hasn’t progressed past those problems. In addition to those things, Baker (and the team as a whole) had an anti-clutch gene all of 2021. As a starter, Baker was 0-5 in potential game-winning drives in 2021. That is the difference between making the playoffs and missing them. Mayfield was also one of the worst QBs in the fourth quarter last season and overall only has 7 game-winning drives in his entire career. The biggest con to keeping Mayfield in 2022 is if this is who he is as a QB, then the Browns are potentially wasting another year of a great roster. This team is built to win now and they need a QB who elevates the play of those around him, not one who needs everything to be perfect for him to succeed. Baker has yet to be consistent in his career and with a record of 30-30 as a starter, the Browns would be committing to mediocrity at this point if they decided to keep him long term.

Where to go from here

There is no clear path on where to go from here. Andrew Berry has many tough decisions to make in the 2022 offseason, and what to do with Baker is at the top of the list. There are a few other QB options they could try to bring in, but they are limited overall. A trade for Derek Carr seems more likely than a trade for Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers. Jimmy Garoppolo is another name that has been mentioned, but he would not be a substantial upgrade. When you look at the potential options, it only makes the decision more difficult. Baker Mayfield will most likely be the starter in 2022, but it will without a doubt be his last chance to prove himself worthy of being a franchise QB. Part of the fanbase has lost patience with the inconsistencies and they understandably want to win now. We can all agree that the Cleveland Browns have endured enough losing in the last twenty years. 2022 will be the biggest year of Baker Mayfield’s career if he is the guy they chose to roll with. Get your popcorn ready.

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