The offseason is officially underway, and free agency is just around the corner. Until then, we'll be putting the Browns' current roster through a thorough, position by position review.
First up: The Quarterbacks
The Raw Numbers
Regular season: 305-486 (62.7%), 3,563 yards, 26 TDs, 8 INTs, 95.9 QB rating
Playoffs: 44-71 (62%), 467 yards, 4 TDs, INT, 94 QB rating
Regular season: 5-10 (50%), 46 yards, 62.9 QB rating
Analysis in 150 Words or Less
This was the big step forward the Browns were hoping to see from Mayfield, who struggled a bit during the first half of the season before taking off in a big way during the second. He was the driving force behind Cleveland's push to the playoffs, as the offense relied more and more on his accuracy and decision-making against defenses that sold out to stop the dynamic tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Mayfield basically put a halt to throwing interceptions during the second half of the year and was at his best when he was able to distribute the ball to as many players as possible. Kevin Stefanski's system and Mayfield appear to be the perfect marriage the Browns expected it to be, and there's plenty of optimism about how he'll improve during his first offseason as a pro that won't include some sort of major change.
After an 0-for-5 start, Mayfield went 21-for-22 for 297 yards and five touchdowns with the lone incompletion coming on a clock-stopping spike on the Browns' game-winning touchdown drive. His completion streak of 21 blew away the Browns' franchise record, which was previously shared by Bernie Kosar and Kelly Holcomb, and his touchdowns were the most in a game by a Cleveland signal-caller in 13 years.
Number of Significance
13 — That's the difference in the number of interceptions Mayfield threw in 2019 (21) compared to 2020 (8). What's even more impressive: Mayfield had seven interceptions in the Browns' first seven games of the season but threw just one more the rest of the way. During a stretch that spanned Weeks 7 to 14, he threw 187 passes without an interception — the fourth-best mark in franchise history. Among quarterbacks who started all 16 games, only three — Ryan Tannehill, Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers — threw fewer than eight interceptions.
Mayfield appeared to be playing hurt and the Browns passing attack looked lost on the team's first drive Week 7 against the Bengals. On Cleveland's first offensive play of the game, Mayfield, who was nursing a chest injury from the previous week's loss to the Steelers, looked long for Odell Beckham Jr. but came up short and saw his pass intercepted. It was Mayfield's fifth interception over the past three games and, to make it worse, it ended with Beckham suffering a season-ending injury while trying to make a tackle on the return.
There's an argument to be made that it occurred in that same game against the Bengals, when Mayfield bounced back, fired five touchdown passes and led the Browns to a comeback victory. Alas, it was Week 13, and, more specifically, the first half of Cleveland's statement win over the Titans. Mayfield became the first Browns quarterback since Otto Graham to throw four first-half touchdowns when he led an offensive onslaught that resulted in 38 points — the most ever by a Browns team during any half of a game. Over an unforgettable 30-minute stretch of beautiful Clevelan Browns football, Mayfield completed 20-of-25 passes for 290 yards while finding four different receivers for his touchdown throws. This was the moment when Mayfield looked to be in complete control of the offense, fully comfortable in Stefanski's system and able to pick apart opposing defenses by taking what they gave him and attacking their vulnerabilities.
What They Said
"He did a very good job taking care of the ball, just learning the system and some of the intricacies of this system, and I knew that it was going to get better over time with losing the offseason. I think we saw that from Baker. Once he started getting comfortable with what we were doing and once I was using more concepts that he was comfortable with, which is a big part of this, he really started playing at a high level. I am proud of the progress he made." — Stefanski on where Mayfield excelled the most in 2020.
"He did an excellent job this year. He led us to our first playoff appearance in eons. We got 12 wins, played winning football all year and developed a really strong relationship with Kevin and the offensive staff ... He really thrives on a weekly basis both on and off the field. We are very, very pleased with him. We would not be where we were at the end of the season without his performance. He had a really tremendous season." — EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry on Mayfield's season
Nathan Zegura's Take
"His improvement over the course of the season, his work ethic, his desire to be coached and coached hard and to take that coaching and turn it into action — that has to be music to everybody's ears in this organization and every fan of the Cleveland Browns. Baker Mayfield proved without a shadow of a doubt in 2020 he is the guy who did exactly what he said he was going to do at the Combine, to help turn this thing around. It was a great season and I'm looking for more from Mayfield in 2021 when he has a full offseason in this Kevin Stefanski offense. The fact he did that this year without that is simply incredible."
Who's Back for 2021?
All three members of the QB room — Mayfield, Keenum and Kyle Lauletta — are under contract.
Who's a Potential Free Agent?