Baker Mayfield's ascension from rookie backup to face of the franchise in less than one full season was remarkable. It's a big reason why there's so much optimism surrounding these young Browns.
But Year 2 looms, and with it comes inevitable whispers of doubt. Can Mayfield continue to develop? Is the sophomore slump ahead? And what about all of these heightened expectations?
Is it all too much for the young passer to handle?
Based on Mayfield's responses in Monday's press conference, the answer is no.
"It is something that needs to be set forth for our team mindset-wise is that everybody is going to say that we could be and should be Super Bowl contenders," Mayfield said during a press conference to open offseason workouts and introduce Odell Beckham Jr. "Yeah, we know that -- every person that plays in the NFL should believe that -- but I have always firmly believed that you always set your own expectations. Nobody else really matters. No offense to you guys, you can write all you want about what we have, but if we do not set goals for ourselves and believe in those and work for it, it does not really matter."
So the focus is on the next step. Good news for Browns fans. The next step, though, includes a new head coach and a superstar addition to the offense Mayfield leads on Sundays.
For Mayfield, who is wise beyond his 23 years (he turns 24 on April 14), what would be best for the Browns is more of the same.
"I think Freddie needs to continue to be himself," Mayfield said of his new head coach. "Everything he stood for last year when he was our interim offensive coordinator was about being upfront, holding each other accountable, working hard, working for us and being just upfront about everything. I think just to set the tone with everybody, a lot of defensive guys haven't gotten the chance to be around him so being that same guy he was for us as an offense the second half of the year and being around those defensive guys, getting to know them, making sure they can trust him and just believe in what we are doing. We are not going to have it all figured out right now, but come September, we are going to be ready to go."
Confidence oozes from Mayfield, who is clearly enjoying this stage of his bright future but is sure to encounter a bump or two in his second season. They all do at some point.
The quarterback guaranteed Monday he won't be outworked by Beckham, who has been touted as a premier player not only on Sundays, but during practice, too.
"Oh, he will get a run for his money in competitiveness and work ethic," Mayfield said of Beckham. "That is the type of guy we are getting. That is why I say it's great for the locker room. The impact he can have as who he is as a person speaks much more than anything he will ever do on the field. That's the big difference when you bring in guys like that. That is why it is such a big deal to us, and that is why we are all excited and pumped up. That is important."
Mayfield, who hadn't spoken to local reporters during the offseason prior to Monday, was either listening to what his coach had been saying in the last month, or has already heard it enough to have it ingrained in his mind.
"He has been chomping at the bit to get back," Kitchens said of Mayfield. "You guys were wondering what I told him earlier about getting away from the game -- the good thing about getting away from the game is that you kind of have a renewed eagerness to get back when you do that. I think he falls into that. We hit the ground running today with him, and we will see where he is at."
Where he's at is ready to take the field with more talent than he's ever had as a professional. Complacency doesn't reside in the No. 6 locker at 76 Lou Groza Boulevard.
"Absolutely not satisfied by how last year ended by any means," the quarterback said. "You start to realize what jump you want to make from Year 1 to Year 2, and for me, it is really important for people to realize that it's not just a fluke season.
"This is real. I want to improve. I am not satisfied with setting one record. I want to win Super Bowls. I want to do a lot more. That is why you combine that with guys like these guys that talk about legacy and leaving something behind them that they can be proud of and look back on. That is about setting your own expectations. Yeah, they keep increasing the more talent I have around me. That is going to make my job easier, but that means I'm going to have to work that much harder for it."