That's far from gracing the cover of leading sports magazines and television shows as the darling pick to make the playoffs. That dream is dead in 2019.
"That's not my decision to make, so whatever happens, happens moving forward," Mayfield said. "I know how I'm going to handle it: Getting whatever receiving corps and tight ends we have together in the offseason and making sure we're on the same page so we hit the ground running in the spring -- kind of like I hit on earlier in the week -- to where there's no room to be made up come training camp."
This Browns offense, which was supposed to be incendiary, never really heated up past lukewarm this season. The Browns' best performance of the season came at the end of the season's first month, back when the division rival Ravens last lost. Their rematch Sunday looked almost nothing like that first meeting and illustrated just how deeply into the ground this wagon's wheels have become entrenched.
As someone who watched every Browns camp practice intently, I can confirm that this offense never quite got on track. It was almost always just a little off, whether it was Mayfield's accuracy or a route not run quite as sharp as necessary, a target dropping an open pass or a blocker not doing his job. It was only a surprise the offense didn't turn around on the field because of how talented the group was on paper.
Mayfield's acknowledgement of this is crucial. The Browns have now burned a year of Mayfield's career with a lack of preparation and execution. There will be three years left with him on his rookie deal, meaning time is now of the essence. Springs will need to be spent sharpening, not relaxing or shooting commercials.
"It leaves us a lot of room to work and improve," Mayfield said. "That's just the bottom line. There's a lot of room for improvement and progress to be made, so that's how we have to handle it."
The Browns have too often looked disorganized, rushed, frazzled and sometimes outright lost. Fans have griped about play-calling all season, as fans will always do when the wins aren't piling up, but there's at least some validity in their claims about specific key situations. In short, little of 2019 went as planned.
The silver lining exists in the stinging smack of reality hitting the collective face of these Browns, who won't spend an offseason talking about grand visions of Lombardi Trophies when they'll first need to find a way to just post a winning season for the first time since before the inception of the Obama administration. Yes, it's been that long in Cleveland.
"In the big-picture mindset, it's a process to turn around what this once was to where we want to go and where we should be at right now," Mayfield said.
We'll see who sticks around long enough to see that process through.