Kevin Stefanski has maintained high expectations for Baker Mayfield since his first day as the Browns' coach in 2020.
"When (players) walk in the building, we will have a detailed plan for them about how they are going to improve," Stefanski said in his introductory press conference in January 2020. "Baker, as a young player, the sky is the limit, but we are going to put in the work to get it done."
The work, well, worked.
With the help of a playbook that maximized his previous success in play-action and success with deep passes, Mayfield built his most efficient season in 2020 with 26 touchdowns and a career-low eight interceptions. He met the caliber of play Cleveland envisioned with him as a quarterback capable of taking them to the playoffs and beyond, and his relationship with Stefanski symbolized the trust among each player and coach on offense.
This season, however, Stefanski's expectations for Mayfield will be even higher.
"I hope it is significantly better," Stefanski said Tuesday, referring to Mayfield's understanding of the playbook. "I hope (it improves) as he starts to listen to the installs with AVP and you are hearing it for not the second time – he has heard these plays over and over again."
Mayfield, a four-year veteran, has never entered an offseason in which learning a new playbook wasn't the top requirement. That's a result of the coaching changes that transpired early in his career, but with Stefanski — and nearly every offensive assistant coach returning in 2021 — Mayfield can improve by analyzing plays that will be carried over or contain minor tweaks for next season.
He won't need to forge a new relationship with a new head coach and offensive coordinator. He won't need to spend countless hours memorizing new routes and playcalls.
Without those tasks this offseason, Mayfield can certainly breathe a bit easier.
"We have streamlined concepts, and we have tried to adjust what we do based on his strengths and our players' strengths," Stefanski said. "I would hope he is much more comfortable from that perspective."
Stefanski has already begun his meetings with Mayfield and other players after spending the past three months breaking down just about every play from 2020. Stefanski said assistant coaches will spend the remainder of this week and next week reviewing player improvement plans with each member on the roster as part of the Phase I window of the offseason, which is completely virtual.
Despite the quarterback's success from last season, Mayfield's plan isn't any shorter or condensed than any other player.
"Baker is no different than the rest of the guys," Stefanski said. "They will have a list of things they need to work on, and as coaches, we are giving them the resources, the tools and the things they need to do to improve those. Some are watching more tape, some are drills and really all of the above.
"Baker, as we have talked about, is somebody who constantly wants to get better. (Offensive coordinator) Alex Van Pelt has a really, really strong plan in how we are going to attack that with Baker in particular."
The steps for an even better season in 2021 started on Day 1 of the offseason, though, before any tape was reviewed and meetings were held.
It started with continuity. The return of Stefanski and the other assistant coaches was already a massive stepping stone planted for Mayfield's improvement, and Stefanski is confident that will make Mayfield's offseason one of his smoothest yet.
"That is what time allows you to do," Stefanski said.