The offseason has arrived, and it figures to be a busy one in Cleveland as the Browns evaluate the highs and lows of the 2021 season. We're doing some evaluations, too, by taking a thorough look at how each position fared throughout the year.
Next up: the quarterbacks
The Raw Numbers
Baker Mayfield: 252-418 (60.5 percent), 3,010 yards, 17 TDs, 13 INTs, 83.1 passer rating
Case Keenum: 47-72 (65.3 percent), 462 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 91.3 passer rating
Nick Mullens: 20-30 (66.7 percent), 147 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 89.2 passer rating
Analysis in 150 Words or Less
The passing game never consistently reached the level the Browns expected after they were able to retain all of their offensive starters from a promising 2020 season. The group was dealt a tough start in Week 2 when Mayfield suffered a torn labrum to his non-throwing shoulder, which he received surgery for in January after the season ended, but the pieces just never came together offensively as the Browns hoped in Year 2 under head coach Kevin Stefanski. Mayfield is expected to make a full recovery in 4-6 months and be ready by training camp, and the Browns appear poised to make upgrades around him to give the Browns the best shot of returning to an efficient offense in 2022.
Check out the best photos from the 2021 season by the Browns photo team
No offensive performance was better than Week 9, when the Browns scored five touchdowns — two of which came through the air — against the Bengals in a 41-16 win. Mayfield completed 14-of-21 pass attempts for 218 yards and kept the offense moving, completing passes to eight different receivers and achieving a season-high 132.6 QBR. His 60-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones was the second-longest passing TD of the season and the second-longest play (behind a 70-yard Nick Chubb TD run) from the most explosive offensive game of the season.
The Browns were in a must-win situation for Week 16 in Green Bay and had a real shot to win late in the fourth quarter — they were down just two points despite three interceptions from Mayfield and had possession with just over 2 minutes left. The Browns moved the ball to the 50-yard line before the Packers intercepted Mayfield for a fourth time, sealing a 24-22 loss. The game was the first four-interception performance of Mayfield's career, and the loss positioned the Browns to be eliminated from playoff contention before they could take their next snap in Week 17.
What They Said
"We have to dig around and find those areas where we can improve and what we do well because there are elements of the pass game and elements of the run game that we do well, and then there are some that we just were not good enough. Now the question becomes how do we improve them? I think that is what this offseason and scheme evaluation is, and like I mentioned studying some other teams, and you watch college tape, you try to find some additional schemes to add to the nuance of what you are doing." - Stefanski
"There is always room for correction and always room for improvement. That is kind of where we are. In the offseason, we will dive deep, deep into that and see, as we do every year. Even during the bye week, we really took a deep dive into what we are doing, and we will always adjust, adapt and try to put our players in the best position, but there is always room for improvement. The top offense to the bottom offense in the league, you can always get better." - offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt
Who's Back for 2022?
Mayfield and Keenum are both under contract for next season, while Mullens is set to be a restricted free agent.
The Browns are placing improvements in the pass game at the top of the list of areas that need to be addressed this offseason. The priority for Mayfield, of course, will be to complete a full recovery from shoulder surgery by training camp and hopefully progress enough to be available for some of the on-field workouts throughout the offseason. The Browns appear poised to bolster their group of receivers, too, which should position the offense to return to a well-rounded, efficient form.