It’s hard to believe that a No. 1 overall pick who threw for a rookie record 27 touchdowns is suddenly a bad quarterback.
Yet, what do we have with Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield?
Mayfield had another rough outing in a 32-28 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, throwing three interceptions. He has five touchdowns and 11 interceptions for the season. He leads the NFL in interceptions, and the only other player with more than seven this season is Jameis Winston, who has 10. Mayfield’s 66 passer rating is miserable. Among quarterbacks with more than 100 attempts, only Josh Rosen of the Miami Dolphins has a lower rating.
This is all rather shocking. Sophomore slumps happen, but it’s hard to come up with another drop this significant that didn’t involve an injury.
What is the problem with Baker Mayfield?
Let’s account for all of the excuses Mayfield has for this slow start. There are a few, and they’re legitimate.
Mayfield’s offensive line hasn’t been very good, though other quarterbacks have had it worse. Mayfield has been pressured on 35.2 percent of his dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus, and that’s 17th among quarterbacks with 100 attempts. He has had drops too. Mayfield has had 11 dropped passes, tied for fifth in the NFL. Freddie Kitchens’ play-calling has been criticized. Mayfield lost tight end David Njoku to an injury, and that has affected the passing game. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry have been good but not great, and the Browns could use more from them.
Now that that’s out of the way, Mayfield shares plenty of blame.
Mayfield’s calling card has been accuracy. That has left him this season. Pro Football Focus calculates adjusted completion percentage, which eliminates dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes and passes where the quarterback is hit as he throws. That should account for most things out of the quarterback’s control. Mayfield's adjusted completion percentage via PFF is 68 percent, which is 26th among 27 QBs with at least 150 attempts (Daniel Jones is last). That’s on him.
Mayfield hasn’t been under pressure as often as other quarterbacks, but he has been bad when he has found himself under pressure. Mayfield’s passer rating under pressure is a ridiculous 24.1, according to PFF. That’s dead last among NFL quarterbacks and nobody else is lower than 48.1.
So it’s not necessarily that the Browns aren’t protecting him well enough, though they could do better. It’s that whenever Mayfield is pressured, he has fallen apart.
Browns need to turn it around fast
The Browns are 2-4. Their season isn’t over of course, but it has been a disappointing start. There are plenty of reasons why Cleveland has stumbled, and Mayfield is in the center of that spotlight.
Mayfield played through pain on Sunday. He hurt his hip, but stayed in the game. The NFL doesn’t slow down for injuries, and nobody is going to feel bad for a team in the middle of a losing streak. The Browns have no choice but to figure it out.
“Any loss hurts. Losing at home sucks,” Mayfield said, via the Browns site. “We have played three games here and lost three of them. It hurts, especially when it was a game that we really felt like we needed.
“I think we have played better at times than 2-4, but the fact is we are 2-4. There is no getting around it. There is no way of hiding it. That is what we have to learn from to get better.”
Mayfield’s slump is at the heart of the Browns’ problems. As is the case with any quarterback, a bad stretch is never entirely on the player. The Browns could be better around him, from coaching to blocking to catching the ball. But if Mayfield doesn’t turn it around, neither will the Browns.
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