By: Jordan Kendall, Senior Staff Writer
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
After 12 games, the Cleveland Browns are in second to last place in the AFC North. This is one of the biggest disappointments of the 2021 season so far. Entering the season, many people, including myself, saw them as Super Bowl contenders. Not only are they not a contender, they’re in serious danger of missing the playoffs entirely.
This has led to some fans on social media wondering if quarterback Baker Mayfield is their franchise quarterback. He’s been disappointing this year, however I believe the Browns need to secure him long-term. For this week’s column, I’ll explain why Cleveland needs to trust Mayfield.
As of week 12, Mayfield has played 11 games. He missed one game with a shoulder injury. Mayfield has 2,413 passing yards and 11 touchdowns with six interceptions along with a 62.2% completion percentage.
While I think he deserves some of the blame for the lack of success, I also think he doesn’t have enough around him to succeed. As of week 12, the Browns have the fourth-best rushing offense in the NFL averaging over 147 yards per game. However, their passing offense is bottom ten, and ranks as the 19th best scoring offense with just over 21 points per game.
I think the bigger problem isn’t Mayfield. I think it’s the fact they’re so one-dimensional on offense. They are as good as anyone at running the ball and have arguably the best running back duo in the league in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. However, if the run game isn’t working, since they rely on the run so much, their offense essentially shuts down.
As of week 12, Cleveland’s leading receiver is tight end David Njoku with 407 yards. There are currently 22 tight ends with more receiving yards. Their top wide receiver is Jarvis Landry with 356 yards. To me the problem isn’t primarily Mayfield, it’s the players he’s throwing to. I don’t think any of them truly scare opposing defenses. About five years ago I would’ve considered Landry a top ten receiver. I don’t think that’s the case anymore.
I think Cleveland needs another threat. I agreed with their decision to move on from wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. because it was clear he wasn’t a good fit. However, I think it’s crucial for them to find a legitimate threat for Mayfield. All of the top quarterbacks in the league have a legitimate threat either at wide receiver, tight end, or in a few cases both. The Browns don’t have either, and until they get one I don’t think they turn it around anytime soon.
I also think Cleveland would be making the second-biggest mistake in franchise history by moving on from Mayfield. The biggest mistake is still moving to Baltimore, however this would be a close second for me. Since they rejoined the league in 1999, they have started 31 different quarterbacks.
I’ve been a football fan since 2008. Until Mayfield, I was used to the Browns having at least one new quarterback every season. It got to the point where I wondered if I could play quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Mayfield hasn’t been a top ten quarterback, but he’s been by far the best one they’ve had in at least the last decade.
It’s really hard to find a top-ten caliber quarterback. I think Mayfield can become a top ten quarterback if the Browns give him some more help in the passing game. Mayfield will likely demand a big contract when his current one expires. I don’t think Cleveland has a choice, whatever it takes to keep him is worth it.
If they let Mayfield go, they’ll have to find another quarterback who is as good, if not better than Mayfield. I think the chances of that happening are very slim. I think the Browns should take the chance with Mayfield and continue to build a contender around him.