The Browns intended to sit Baker Mayfield on the sidelines as long as possible. That plan had to be scrapped after two and half games, of course, after Mayfield shined in relief of an injured Tyrod Taylor.
Now, the Browns will see their No. 1 pick adapt to a brand new set of adverse circumstances. As Mayfield prepares for Sunday's game against the Chiefs and the rest of the second half of Cleveland's schedule, he'll be doing so under the guidance of a new head coach and offensive coordinator.
It's not ideal, but the Browns are confident Mayfield is in good hands with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams taking over as interim head coach and running backs/associate head coach Freddie Kitchens assuming the offensive coordinator position in the wake of Monday's dismissals of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley.
"The whole scheme is the same. The quarterbacks coach (Ken Zampese) is the same. I think he has a great familiarity with Freddie there," general manager John Dorsey said Monday. "I think it is a personal relationship that he made have had with Todd, but I think the everyday relationship that he has with his quarterback coach is really big in the development of it, and he and Gregg have a fairly good relationship, too."
Mayfield has appeared in six games with five starts, the most recent of which was perhaps his toughest yet in the NFL. The rookie was picked off once, sacked twice and took a barrage of hits in Cleveland's 33-18 loss to Pittsburgh. After leading the Browns to significant offensive production in Week 3's win over the Jets and a shootout loss to the Raiders, Mayfield has understandably struggled a bit as defenses make adjustments to what he does best.
At the midpoint of the season, Mayfield is completing 58 percent of his passes for 1,471 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions.
"Whenever you take your quarterback the No. 1 pick, you want to see him develop in that role," Dorsey said. "Now, we all know that all of a sudden you are a rookie quarterback and you are thrusted in five games early into the season as your starter. He is going to see a very complex defenses, and it is not going to happen overnight. He is going to have his ups and downs, but he is going to learn along the way. I expect to see continually even more development from Baker moving forward."
Kitchens, a 12-year NFL coaching veteran who played quarterback at Alabama, has never called plays on a full-time basis, but his hands-on experience working with quarterbacks and other positions on offense gives the Browns confidence he'll handle the role admirably. He called the plays in Cleveland's preseason finale against Detroit -- a game Mayfield started and thrived, completing 9-of-16 passes for 138 yards in a first half that saw the Browns take a 25-0 lead.
Dorsey doesn't believe Mayfield's infectious confidence has been rattled by the team's recent struggles. He doesn't expect that to change over the second half of the season, either, as Mayfield conducts a similar offense with a new voice in his ear.
"He is a young man. He has seen a lot of complex defenses. He wants to win in the worst way. Is the confidence there? Yes, it is still there," Dorsey said. "That is the winning mindset that he brings to the table that you really so much admire in him. He will grow and develop even farther as we move along here.
"Our job is to create that environment moving forward to help the player. That is what those coaches do. They teach, they guide and they develop, and that is all you can ask for."