CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Fair or not, at the center of the reasons as to why the Browns disappointed in 2021 is quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield suffered a torn left labrum in a 31-21 Week 2 victory over the Texans. A dislocation and fracture of the humerus bone in the same shoulder four weeks later in a 37-14 loss to the Cardinals sent his – and the Browns – season spiraling downhill.
Mayfield missed just one game specifically due to the injury – a 17-14 win over the Broncos four days after the loss to Arizona.
“He battled through this injury, like a lot of the guys do,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said Monday, a day after Mayfield sat out a 21-16 win over the Bengals in the season finale. “I do not say that to minimize how he did that. He pushed through it.
“I know he wants to perform better. I have seen him perform better. He played winning football for us. I fully expect him to bounce back next year.”
Mayfield, who also missed a Week 15 start against the Raiders due to testing positive for COVID, is scheduled to undergo surgery within the next two week and rehab could take 4-6 months.
Mayfield started the season on fire completing 40 of his first 49 passes over the first two games to lead the league in completion percentage. Through the Cardinals loss, Mayfield was completing 67% of his passes for 1,474 yards with 6 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and he had been sacked 18 times. The Browns were 3-3 but averaging 26 points per game.
Over his final eight starts, Mayfield completed 55.9% of his passes for 1,536 yards with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He was sacked 25 times and fumbled twice while the Browns went 3-5 over the stretch and averaged 17.6 points per game.
The No. 1 question continues to be, why did they continue to play an injured Mayfield while his play and the team’s success suffered?
Monday, Stefanski stuck with the same company line we had been hearing for weeks.
“Baker fought through those injuries, was medically cleared to play each of those weeks, practiced throughout those weeks and felt good,” Stefanski said. “You guys have spoken to Baker, and I do not think Baker is using any of that as an excuse, and also, not denying that guys play through injuries. He pushed through it.
“Again, I know there are plays and moments that he is going to want back. That is part of playing football, playing the quarterback position and trying to get better. Looking forward to him getting his surgery, spending some time in rehab and then getting back on it and finding ways to improve.”
Stefanski offered no regrets for continuing to put Mayfield out there.
“Any time you fall short, you second-guess everything. You really do,” Stefanski said. “Having said that, I just felt every single week I tried to make the best decision for the team with the information available. That is really all I can do week in and week out. In general, obviously, there are a ton of things we have to look at and learn from.”
The passing game was unexpectedly anemic this season with not a single receiver, tight end or running back catching for over 600 yards or hauling in at least five touchdowns.
Stefanski promised to take a deep dive this offseason to examine the failure and explore ways to tweak his system and scheme to produce a more prolific attack next fall.
“We definitely will go into it with an open mind,” Stefanski said. “What that manifests itself in how major the changes are and how obvious they are remains to be seen. I have been in different offenses, and I have worked with different coordinators with varying philosophies so I do think you can pivot from year to year in terms of certain schemes and certain types of offense that you want to run. Those are the type of things that we definitely will be open minded about.”