Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry believes the 2020 version of Baker Mayfield reflects who the club truly has in its quarterback, not the Mayfield who struggled while playing through injuries this season. That was at the essence of Berry's comments Tuesday in support of Mayfield as the team's quarterback of the future.
The former Oklahoma star's best NFL season came under coach Kevin Stefanski; so, too, did his worst. But while the struggles of the just-ended season might be fresh on the minds of fans where Mayfield is concerned, Berry sees a return to a more effective form for his quarterback.
"It's easy to forget at this point of the year what we've seen with Baker over the past several years," Berry said, via Cleveland.com. "Obviously, he had his most productive season in this offense under Kevin (Stefanski, in 2020). We've been with Baker for a long period -- we know his work ethic, we know his drive, we've seen him [be] a talented passer in this league, and we're looking forward to him getting healthy and continue to make improvements."
Despite his injuries, Mayfield -- whose toughness has never been questioned -- made 14 starts on the year, throwing for a career-low 17 touchdown passes with 13 interceptions. Complicating things for the Browns offense was the midseason jettisoning of wide receiver Odell Beckham, who lacked chemistry with Mayfield and was released; he later signed with the Los Angeles Rams. With or without Beckham, however, the Browns' pass offense sputtered and finished 27th in the NFL (195.3 yards per game).
On Sunday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that the Browns intended to move forward with Mayfield as their starter, following a discussion between Stefanski and Mayfield that was part of normal exit meetings.
Cleveland finished 8-9 and out of the playoff hunt as Mayfield played through a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, among other injuries. He ended the season on injured reserve, missed the team's last game, and will undergo surgery to repair the shoulder later this month. The Browns have picked up the fifth-year option on the former No. 1 overall draft pick's rookie contract, securing his services for at least one more season.
"We fully expect Baker to be our starter and bounce back," Berry added.
If the 2020 Mayfield resurfaces, the Browns offense could have an entirely different look next season, especially if the receiving corps can be bolstered via free agency or the draft. If not, Mayfield's last year in Cleveland could be upon him.