Why Baker Mayfield Will Take the Next Step in 2021

The Browns seemed to have found their franchise QB under Baker after a rough start for the first overall pick. After a rough sophomore season under his belt, Baker took the 6-10 Browns to an 11-5 season, the highest record they’ve had since 1994, ended an 18-year playoff drought, and beat their divisional rivals in the Wildcard round. While they may have fallen short to a close game to the Kansas City Chiefs, who would later make it to the Superbowl. The presence of Baker in this Browns offense is a large part of how the team came this far.

One of the primary changes made when Baker stepped up this season was the head-coaching and the play-calling that came along with it. After a 7-8-1 rookie season of Baker, breaking multiple rookie records, their future looked bright. After a fairly disappointing 2019 season, fans seemed to lose hope in Baker, assuming he was just another false hope and would go down in Browns history as another bust. However, this wasn’t the case.

Proceeding the 2019 season, Freddie Kitchens would be fired, and Kevin Stefanski would be hired. Stefanski served as the Viking’s assistant coach and became the team’s offensive coordinator during his last two seasons with the team. During his first year with the Browns, Stefanski led the former 6-10 roster to an 11-5 record and a playoff win. A complete franchise turnaround. On top of all of this, we saw a resurgence of a Baker from his rookie season.

So what do we have to look forward to in 2021? Stefanski is heading into his second year with the Browns. With a limited 2020 training camp and lack of familiarity with staff and personnel, Stefanski was able to breathe some life into a disappointing Browns team. In 2021, Baker will take the next step being able to mesh with a better head coach, a healthy Odell, and a competent offensive playbook. Not to undermine any of Baker’s contributions to the team, but the solidity of the rest of the team means Baker no longer has to play hero ball and take risks to win his team the game. Garrett, Clowney, Chubb, Hunt, Odell, Landry, Ward, and more recently Newsome and Koramoah are great signs of the 2021 season and the playmakers the Browns have on both sides of the ball.

For Baker’s first two seasons, he almost always seemed like he was calling his own plays and running his own two-minute drill. Dangerous throws forced into coverage, infamous play calling issues (draw play into 4th-and-9? Sound familiar Freddie Kitchens?), and a multitude of other coaching issues plagued Baker’s ability to develop into a franchise quarterback. However, when we finally saw what he looked like with a competent coach, and play calling that didn’t rely on him always throwing the ball, the future looks bright for the Browns. It’s starting to look like this ship has finally found a competent captain to steer their way to becoming a playoff contender for years to come.

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