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Commentary: Baker Mayfield for MVP isn’t such a crazy notion

Baker Mayfield will not be voted the Most Valuable Player in the NFL this year — even though he grades exceedingly high if your definition of “Most Valuable” is the player in the league who was the most valuable to his team.

The consensus top candidates for the MVP Award are mostly quarterbacks: Drew Brees, Pat Mahomes, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and Jared Goff.

They all have higher passer ratings than Mayfield. They all have thrown more touchdown passes than Mayfield. They all have a higher completion percentage, and only Wilson has thrown for fewer yards than Mayfield.

But none of them have thrown their team on their back the way Mayfield has.

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Last year, Brees’ Saints won 11 games. This year’ they’ve won 13. Last year, with Mahomes watching from the bench, the Chiefs won 10 games. This year, with Mahomes at quarterback, they’ve won 11 games.

Last year, with Rivers at quarterback, the Chargers won nine games. This year, Rivers has guided them to 11 wins. Last year, Wilson’s Seahawks won nine games, the same number they’ve won this year. Last year, the Luck-less Colts won four games. This year he’s healthy again, and they’ve won six.

Last year, as you may have heard, the Browns, without Mayfield, didn’t win any games. None. Zero. Oh-for-16. This year, with Mayfield, the Browns have won about half their games. They are 7-7-1, and if they beat the Ravens on Sunday they will have gone from a winless season to a winning season _ an astonishing turnaround _ with the biggest difference between the two teams being the arrival of Mayfield.

Or consider this: the Browns this year have won more games with Mayfield than they won in their previous 3½ years without Mayfield. From Nov. 6, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2017, the Browns’ record was 6-50.

Then Mayfield rode into town and they’re 7-7-1.

Valuable? Most definitely.

MOST valuable?

By conventional measures probably not, but from strictly a won-loss impact on a franchise, what Mayfield has done this year is not just noteworthy, it’s historic.

One of those other quarterbacks — or perhaps a defensive player such as Aaron Donald or Khalil Mack — will justifiably win the MVP award, this year, but that doesn’t diminish the impact Mayfield has made in Cleveland.

The before-and-after history of recent franchise quarterbacks offers some interesting context to Baker’s excellent adventure in 2018. In 1997, the year before the Colts drafted Peyton Manning, their record was 3-13. In 1998, Manning’s rookie year, they were also 3-13.

In 2001, the year before Brees was the Chargers’ quarterback, they were 5-11. In 2002, with Brees at the wheel, they went 8-8. In 2000, the last year before Tom Brady took over in New England, the Patriots were 5-11. The next year, with Brady at quarterback, they were 11-5.

San Diego was 9-7 in 2005 the year before Rivers became quarterback. When he did, the Chargers went 14-2. In Atlanta, the Falcons went 4-11 in 2007, then Matt Ryan showed up and they were 11-5 the next year. Seattle was 7-9 on Wilson Eve, then went 11-5 in his rookie year of 2012.

Then there’s Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. In 2007 Rodgers watched Brett Favre take Green Bay to a 13-3 season. Rodgers took over the next year and the Pack got sacked: 6-10. The Steelers were 6-10 in 2003. Then they drafted Roethlisberger and immediately went 15-1.

With one game remaining in the regular season, the Browns’ winning percentage has jumped 500 points since Mayfield joined the team: from .000 in 2017 to .500 in 2018. That’s the second-highest winning percentage increase by any of the teams mentioned above in their before-and-after franchise quarterback arrival.

The only quarterback mentioned above who boosted his team’s winning percentage higher than Mayfield has this year is Roethlisberger. The Steelers’ jumped .563 points from the year before he arrived (6-10) to his rookie season (15-1).

Mayfield’s plus .500 is even better than LeBron James did when he joined the Cavs. They were 17-65 (.207) the year before they drafted him, and 35-47 (.427) in his rookie year. That’s a jump of plus .220.

In 1956 the Browns were 5-7 (.417). The next year they drafted Jim Brown and went 9-2-1 (.818), a jump of plus .401.

While Mayfield won’t become the first Browns player since Brian Sipe in 1980 to win the MVP Award, he should be a strong candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year. His chief competition seems to be Saquon Barkley, who has scored 14 touchdowns, but has had a negligible impact on the Giants’ won-loss record: from 3-13 last year to 5-10 this year. Mayfield trumps all that.

Could the Browns win another major award?

Hands please, at the start of the season who had Gregg Williams pegged for the NFL Coach of the Year?

Jim Ingraham is a sports columnist for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram and the Medina Gazette. Contact him at 329-7135 or [email protected] and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter

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