- Cleveland Browns’ general manager Andrew Berry has reaffirmed Baker Mayfield’s status as starting quarterback for the 2022 season.
- Mayfield struggled to play through injuries all season as the Browns limited to a record of 8-9.
- There had been speculation that the Browns would look to other options at quarterback including rumors of a possible trade for Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson.
The 2021 NFL season was one that the Cleveland Browns would like to forget. After going 11-5 in 2020 and reaching the divisional round of the playoffs they regressed to 8-9 this year for their 20th losing season in 23 years. It was also a miserable year for starting quarterback Baker Mayfield as he tried to ‘gut it out’ through a series of injuries. The result was a horrible statistical season and a 27th place finish in QBR. Heading into the final year of his rookie deal in 2022 and with the Browns on the hook for $19 million USD there has been speculation that Cleveland might look to go another direction with the starting quarterback position. There had even been some speculation–with very little basis in reality–that the Browns could try to acquire Russell Wilson from Seattle or Aaron Rodgers from Green Bay.
It now looks as if no changes are in the offing. General manager Andrew Berry made it crystal clear that Baker Mayfield will go into the 2022 season as the Browns’ starting quarterback. Not only did Berry indicate that Mayfield’s status as Cleveland’s starting QB was not in question he gave a rousing endorsement of his skills, work ethic and toughness:
“It’s easy to forget at this point of the year what we’ve seen with Baker over the past several years. We’ve been with Baker for a long period — we know his work ethic, we know his drive, we’ve seen him [be] a talented passer in this league, and we’re looking forward to him getting healthy and continue to make improvements.”
“We’re looking forward to Baker getting healthy in the offseason and then putting in good work through the spring and with his coaches for having the type of season that we know he can have.”
“Baker, he’s team-oriented, he’s a competitor, he’s super tough. And he truly wants what’s best for the team and really to take the steps he needs to improve to become the quarterback that we know that he can become.”
Mayfield demonstrated his toughness and tenacity in 2021 as he played through a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. The injury required that Mayfield wear a harness to keep his shoulder in place but despite everything he played in 14 of the Browns’ 17 games. He’s set to have surgery to repair the torn labrum on January 19th and is expected to recover in time to participate in organized team activities that will begin in late May.
GM Berry also emphasized that Mayfield was coming off a solid season prior to his injury. In 2020, he quarterbacked the Browns to their first playoff victory in 26 years and was very effective within head coach Kevin Stefanski’s offensive system as he finished 10th in the league in QBR. Mayfield has been inconsistent at time but there are few quarterbacks in the league with his ‘intangibles’. He’s decidedly a ‘team first’ guy, is a hard worker and is tough as hell. He’s also been extremely durable and has avoided injury throughout his career. In his rookie year (2018), Tyrod Taylor started the first three games before Mayfield took over. He would start in the remaining 13 games that season and all 16 games in 2019 and 2020. He would start the first six games this season before his shoulder issues forced him to the sidelines for Cleveland’s 17-14 home win over Denver with Case Keenum at starting quarterback.
Very smart move by the Browns. Assuming that Seattle and Green Bay part company with Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers respectively–and that’s far from a ‘given–there’s little chance that Cleveland could put together a trade package to acquire them. Not that it would be a smart move even if they could. Cleveland fans remember all to well the dismal 2017 season which ‘featured’ DeShone Kizer as the starting quarterback for 15 games along with Kevin Hogan getting one start. Kizer ‘led’ the Browns to a winless 0-16 season while leading the NFL in interceptions (22) against 11 touchdown passes. He was a capable rusher and added five TDs on the ground but he’s now out of football enitely after the Tennessee Titans released him from the practice squad in November of this year. As for Kevin Hogan, his 2017 start with Cleveland is the only start of his NFL career. He’s currently hanging on to the NFL by a thread as a member of the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad.
Mayfield’s injury situation combined with a hefty paycheck due in 2022 make him difficult to move anyway. Were I running the Browns I’d do exactly the same thing that Berry is doing. You can put more talent around a quarterback and he can improve the nuances of his game. What you *can’t* coach is all of Mayfield’s intangibles–his investment in the team’s success, his heart and toughness, his work ethic and leadership skills. If–for whatever reason–it doesn’t work out for the Browns and Mayfield he’ll be a free agent at the end of the 2022 season and they can reassess the situation.