The stats don’t bother Baker Mayfield. It’s the results.
Asked Wednesday whether it’s been difficult to not be able to lift up the Browns offense through its prolonged struggles during the first half of the season, Mayfield admitted it’s been “hard.” The best quarterbacks, in Mayfield’s eyes, aren’t the ones who put up the best personal statistics. It’s the ones who “make the guys around you better.”
That hasn’t happened as much as Mayfield would prefer in his second NFL season. He’s just not looking to reinvent his approach at the midpoint of the season, especially when he believes Cleveland’s offense is “very close” to clicking the way it was envisioned.
“We have some things that have not gone our way, some self-inflicted wounds is a lot of it, but we have to stay the course,” Mayfield said. “I have to continue to be me, push them to be better and everybody is focused right now. I would not say I am going to change, stop trying to get those guys to be better around me.
“I think more so now than ever, it has to be that I am counting on them and you can count on me to do my job as well.”
Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Bills Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey
At 2-6, the Browns aren’t where they wanted to be. The Mayfield-led offense that clicked so well and provided so much fun throughout the second half of last season has yet to put together a full game in 2019.
Halfway through the year, Mayfield has completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 1,963 yards, seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He finished his rookie year with a 63.8 completion percentage and an NFL rookie record 27 touchdowns.
“Conceptually, yes, we can definitely look back and learn stuff, but I think we were just more precise on it,” Mayfield said. “Everything seemed to click and right now, we are fighting through that. I guess it is a little adversity we are having to go through.”
There have been moments — the first half against Seattle -- and plenty of steps in the right direction — no offensive penalties and no turnovers last week against the Broncos — but “all of the small things,” Mayfield said Wednesday, have prevented the execution from being as crisp as it needs to be, especially in the red zone.
After Sunday’s loss to the Broncos, a game that featured five trips inside the 20-yard line and just one touchdown, the Browns rank 25th in the NFL in red zone success rate (46.1 percent). They’ve scored touchdowns on just 36 percent of their trips in the last three games.
“When you get down in the red zone, all of those windows are that much smaller; guys close in because they do not have as much space to cover,” Mayfield said. “It is just that more critical for me to be on time, to have my feet in the right place, have my eyes to be eliminating quick and for guys to be at the right depth and to move through those progressions.”
Though it didn’t occur inside the red zone, Mayfield’s final throw against the Broncos faced a similar set of circumstances. He had to make a quick decision and fire the ball into a tight window. By the time he moved from seeing Odell Beckham Jr. to his left, Mayfield locked onto the center of the field, where he tried to fit a pass to Jarvis Landry, who had two players crash on him as the ball went toward his hands.
It was a learning experience for everyone involved, Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. What he likes most about his quarterback, though, is he doesn’t believe the negative feeling Mayfield felt after it will carry over to this week, when the Browns look to start the second half of the season on the right foot against the Bills.
“The game of football is tough, and it is a tough game played by tough people,” Kitchens said. “Baker is a tough individual mentally and physically. Baker will be fine. He just has to understand to stay in the moment, and I think he does. You come out of bad situations a lot of times better off personally and professionally. He just has to keep his focus on the day and what he is doing in that day.”