The Cleveland Browns had yet another underwhelming, lost season as they went 6-10. The season led to massive changes within the organization including at head coach and general manager. The Browns addressed their coaching position with the hiring of Kevin Stefanski, but there are a lot of things left to do this offseason. Over the next few weeks, I will examine each position’s to-do list this offseason. Up first is the quarterback position.
Quite frankly, quarterback Baker Mayfield took a step back this season after a promising rookie season. Mayfield struggled with consistency, confidence, and what he was seeing from defenses. There were many factors to his step back with many being on the young quarterback, but some of the factors were from outside sources like poor protection and poor coaching. Mayfield just was not good enough and this coming season will be a huge year for the quarterback.
1. Mayfield must live in the film room
Mayfield was oftentimes confused and overwhelmed at things he saw from defenses this season. That is not completely surprising for a young quarterback to experience early on in his career. But, he did not show enough growth throughout the season that showed he was better recognizing what was happening in front of him. Mayfield needs to live in the film room this offseason and learn from his mistakes. He needs to take the film study and bring in onto the field so that this coming season he can be able to deal with what defenses throw at him. Mayfield must have better attention to detail and that starts by throwing himself into the film this offseason.
2. Improve Mayfield’s consistency with mechanics
Mayfield must become more consistent with his throwing mechanics. The No. 1 part of this is his base and throwing platform. He has really good accuracy, but he oftentimes hurts this accuracy with a poor throwing platform. His feet need to be married to his upper body. If he wants to show off his accuracy on a consistent basis, Mayfield must get his base in the right position on every throw. He cannot get lazy and just try to arm throw the pass. He has shown times where his feet are not even stepping forward on throws, or his feet are going in a different direction as the pass. This causes inaccurate passes and mistakes. When he is picture-perfect with his throwing mechanics, he can fit a pass in extremely tight windows.
3. Install a Baker Mayfield-friendly offense
This part is well on its way. With the hiring of Kevin Stefanski as head coach, the Browns have hired a coach that runs an offense that fits well with Baker Mayfield. Mayfield loves utilizing the middle of the field and his tight ends. According to Sharp Football, Stefanski utilized 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends) at the second-highest clip in the NFL last season, while Mayfield had a 100.5 passer rating out of this personnel grouping last season. Stefanski also utilizes play-action a lot, which is something Mayfield excels at running. According to Pro Football Focus, Stefanski ran the fifth most play-action plays last year in Minnesota, while Mayfield had the highest completion percentage differential in the NFL in play-action vs non-play-action dropbacks. He was so much better out of play action. These two elements of Stefanski’s offense is almost perfect for what Mayfield does well as a quarterback. Stefanski runs a quarterback friendly offense that establishes the run and does not put as much pressure on the quarterback as the previous system did under Freddie Kitchens. The Browns must build the offense around the talents on the team.
4. Improve the OL
This is objective No. 1 for the Browns front office this offseason. The Browns offensive line was a complete mess this year and it greatly affected Mayfield. Mayfield simply did not have confidence in his blocking. Mayfield was uncomfortable in the pocket and that saw him often times leave the pocket early, causing him to miss opportunities downfield or to run into pressure. It is hard for a quarterback to be successful when he does not trust his protection. The Browns and Mayfield simply could not do things they wanted to do because of how poor the offensive line performed. The Browns need two new offensive tackles and possibly a new right guard.
5. Coach Mayfield, don’t be his friend
The coaching failed Mayfield last season. Freddie Kitchens, Todd Monken and Ryan Lindley failed Mayfield. The young quarterback saw little improvement throughout the season and some of that can be blamed on the coaching he was receiving. There were clear signs that Mayfield was struggling with what he was seeing and with consistency with his mechanics. The coaches did not help him improve that during the year as seen through his lack of improvement over the season. There were reports that Lindley and Kitchens were more of a friend-type coach rather than a coach. Mayfield needs a coach, not a friend. This offseason, the Browns need to get coaches who will actually coach up the young quarterback rather than try to be his close friend. There needs to be a line between coach and player and respect needs to be given to the coach. Mayfield needs someone who will tell him what he is doing wrong and then show him what he can do to fix it.