This is a first for Baker Mayfield in a couple of ways.
Even before the Browns made changes at head coach and offensive coordinator, Mayfield had never experienced a three-game losing streak like the one Cleveland is currently riding. Then, as he went through the process of reviewing the tape of Sunday's lopsided loss to the Steelers, Mayfield learned he'd be experiencing his first-ever in-season coaching change -- and there'd be more than one that directly affects him.
"Being the first time I have experienced something like that midseason was surprising on all fronts," Mayfield said Wednesday. "Specifically, it does not really matter if it was one or both. It was just surprising to me … That is my 'welcome to the business moment,' I think."
What's not new to Mayfield? Rallying in the face of adversity.
Asked if he could be the player who could lift up the franchise in this pivotal moment, Mayfield said, "bring it on."
Even as a rookie, Mayfield sees an opportunity for the Browns to "come together" as they gear up for the second half of the season. It starts Sunday with the 7-1 Kansas City Chiefs.
"It is one of those things that you can handle it as a distraction or you can use it to come together as a team," he said. "This locker room can become a lot tighter.
"With all the distractions, we will see what kind of men we have in this room – not what kind of team that we have but what kind of men can handle a distraction the right way – can come together and focus on doing their job and doing it at a high level against a great team coming Sunday."
Though this is the first time Mayfield has experienced a coaching change mid-season, it's not the first time he's dealt with a major shift in leadership at an unexpected point on the calendar.
Just two months before Mayfield's senior season, longtime Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops announced his retirement. Then-offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, who was just 33 years old at the time, took over as head coach for a team with national title aspirations. The Sooners went on to win the Big 12 and landed a spot in the College Football Playoff.
"It was different. It was new to us. We used that to come together," Mayfield said. "I expect the guys in here to be grown men, to be experienced football players and to handle it that way and keep that same mindset of that we have the same goal. We need to reach that and work with each other."
Easing things a bit during this transition is the expectation Cleveland's offense won't be significantly different under the leadership of Freddie Kitchens. Mayfield said he'll be comfortable voicing his opinion as they work together in a situation that will be new to both of them.
They'll be learning every step of the way, Mayfield said, but "it is not an excuse."
"It is kind of a fresh start for everybody, even though it is midway through the season," Mayfield said. "I think that my leadership, my presence and making sure that guys stay focused is more important now than ever."