CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – As the quarterback carousel spins around the NFL, the Browns can kick back, relax and watch the madness unfold.
For two decades the Browns chewed up and spit out 29 different starting quarterbacks until Baker Mayfield took over in 2018.
While multiple teams around the league scramble to find a QB this offseason, Browns executive vice president of football operations and general manager Andrew Berry can invest his time and energy elsewhere.
“The quarterback position is, in my mind, the most important position in professional sports,” Berry said Wednesday on a Zoom video conference with reporters. “Until you have a baseline of any level of quarterback play, I think it is really difficult to win and make progress in the NFL. Oftentimes if that position is not productive or it is not solidified, it can feel a lot like operating in neutral. That is something that is certainly not lost on us and it is definitely not lost on us as an organization.”
With Mayfield, the Browns jumped out of neutral and won 11 games, made the playoffs and advanced to the divisional round for the first time since 1994 this past season.
Mayfield also showed marked improvement in his play on the field during the second half of the season. He responded well to Kevin Stefanski and Alex Van Pelt’s direction, his third head coach-offensive coordinator combination in as many years.
Berry expects continued growth for Mayfield in 2021.
“Like all of our players, we want to see them take strides and show growth as we go into Year Two within our offensive and defensive systems,” Berry said. “Baker is the first quarterback in [26 years] that has led this organization, led this team to the playoffs [and] a playoff victory. He has endured an enormous amount of adversity in his young career, just quite honestly, with the changes he has gone through with coaching staffs, front offices [and] offensive systems. He has risen above it all. I think we all saw him grow from week to week to week last year and we expect him to continue that progress and have a fantastic 2021 season for us.”
Mayfield is just one of three players in NFL history to throw for at least 3,500 yards with at least 20 touchdown passes in each of their first three seasons. Peyton Manning (1998-00) and Andrew Luck (2012-14) are the other two. His 75 career touchdowns trails just Manning (85) and Luck (86) for the most by a No. 1 overall pick through three years.
Now that Mayfield, who has started 47 consecutive games including the playoffs for the Browns – the longest such streak since Brian Sipe started 70 consecutive games from 1978-1982, has proven he can lead and win, it’s time for Berry and the Browns to commit.
First by exercising the fifth-year option on his rookie contract and secondly by securing a long-term extension with Mayfield.
“We have been pretty consistent with our messaging around Baker, that we think he had a really strong season for us,” Berry said. “We like the maturation and the growth. both on and off the field, and we are looking forward to him continuing to take strides his second year in the offense.”
The only question seems to be, what exactly would an extension for Mayfield look like?
When the new league year opens a pair of former thought to be franchise quarterbacks will be officially traded – Carson Wentz and Jared Goff – after they signed big extensions with the Eagles and Rams respectively.
Goff is off to Detroit where football careers go to die while Wentz will be headed to Indianapolis in an effort to resurrect his.
Wentz’s fall from grace in Philadelphia has some believing the Browns should hold off and not rush to extend Mayfield, but Berry doesn’t view the Wentz or Goff situations as a cautionary tale.
“I do not know that with respect to anything that has happened to any of the other 31 teams has a major bearing, in terms of how we are going to address the quarterback situation here,” Berry said. “To me, we will evaluate that internally and make a decision we think is best for our team and our organization. I think it would maybe be a stretch to say that is going to serve as a cautionary tale or any type of blueprint for us. We will make the best decision for us with the information we have.”
The information Berry and the Browns have clearly points to Mayfield being their guy for years to come.