Browns general manager Andrew Berry expects big things from Baker Mayfield in his third NFL season.
New coach Kevin Stefanski feels the same way but stressed the rebound from a disappointing Year 2 will only happen through hard work.
“I can assure you there’s nobody who’s more focused and determined to put last year behind him and take a step forward than him,” Berry said of Mayfield on Tuesday during an interview on ESPN Radio’s “Golic and Wingo” show. “We are excited about the environment that we’ve created around that position and around that room in general, and we really do expect him to have a fantastic year. I know Kevin and the staff have done a really nice job with the virtual offseason so far, implementing the new system and we think that he’ll be able to thrive in it this season.”
The new Browns regime did the rounds on radio following the draft over the weekend.
Stefanski has been in contact with Mayfield since he was hired in January, including text messages, phone calls and now Zoom meetings as the coaching staff installs the offense during the offseason program that started last week. He believes Mayfield is in a better position to succeed.
“I just would tell you I feel confident that we put him in the system we’re implementing,” Stefanski said on 850 ESPN Cleveland. “We added some pieces to the offensive side of the ball, which can only help the development of a young quarterback. And then, like anybody else, we’re going to work our hardest with this kid, we’re gonna keep our thumb on him. And then it’s just a matter of the players rising to the occasion, and I think Baker’s done that over the course of his lifetime. He’s won in high school, he’s won in college, he’s won some games in the NFL and now it’s his third year and I just think there’s a natural progression to these things.
“I do have a lot of confidence in Baker. But I’m not going to speak it into existence and neither is he. It’s just going to be from a matter of hard work from Baker, from our coaches and from our entire offense.”
Mayfield threw 22 touchdowns last year and ranked 31st in the league with a 59.4 completion percentage, 21 interceptions and a 78.8 passer rating. The scheme and game plan were ragged, the line struggled to protect Mayfield at times and the chemistry with the receivers was subpar after a lack of practice time together.
The Browns not only changed coaching staffs in the offseason, Berry signed right tackle Jack Conklin, tight end Austin Hooper and backup quarterback Case Keenum in free agency, then drafted Alabama’s Jedrick Wills with the No. 10 pick to play left tackle.
“I do think, at least my reflections watching last year’s film coming in, a lot of it is tied to circumstance and environment because part of our job on the offensive side of the ball is to create an environment where the quarterback can be successful because it’s the most important position in our sport,” Berry said. “And that’s something that we certainly set out to do this offseason, and we’re excited to see what Baker does moving forward.”
Stefanski’s scheme is based on marrying the run and passing games, using the run to set up play-action passes. Executing it correctly makes life easier on the quarterback.
“What we want is the best version of our players. So Baker’s no different than any of the guys,” he said. “We’re going to lay out some things that we want him to get better at, we’re going to tell him some things that he’s really good at that we want to double down on. But I just hope that he takes a step forward.”
In the past Mayfield has appeared to go out of his way to make headlines off the field, especially responding to critics in the media, but he’s had a subdued offseason.
“We all mature. Is it something coming from me? No. Baker’s in his third year, he’s a pro now, he’s getting this,” Stefanski said. “I keep coming back to, I want the best version of Baker Mayfield. I don’t want to make him anything he’s not. Just like all of our players.
“We talk a lot about the quarterback because it’s an important position and he gets a lot of the blame and he gets too much of the credit a lot of times, as everybody knows. That’s just the nature of playing quarterback in the National Football League. I think highly of the person and I just think he’s growing just like any of us do when we’re young players.”