CLEVELAND, Ohio – Baker Mayfield is a big fan of old, classic Christmas music, having a 2020 season that’s enough to make him blow up Nat King Cole and really enjoy the holidays this year.
Not only is he a much better place than he was last year, he also got the Browns at 10-4 for the first time since 1994 and on the verge of reaching their first playoff spot in 18 years since 2002.
“This will be the first time I’m not planning out-of-season trips as soon as New Year’s Day hits,” Mayfield said Wednesday. “It’s another year all around. Just take it one day at a time honestly. ”
As Mayfield plays some of the best balls of his career, the Browns could win a playoff spot with a win over the Jets and a loss or draw by AFC rivals Baltimore, Miami or Indianapolis. In this COVID-19 ravaged year, Mayfield has given Browns fans a lot to be happy about this holiday season.
“It’s been a tough year for everyone and been extremely different,” said Mayfield. “A lot of ups and downs and trials and tribulations that everyone has had to deal with, but I just want to be grateful for the family. I know I can not exactly get along with them and be together, but just blessed and grateful that my family has been safe and continues to pray for those outside my family who are dealing with problems, illness and all that is going on in the world. It’s been a tough year. ”
Unfortunately for Mayfield and the rest of the Browns, their gift is going to win in a year where they can’t feel love from fans like they normally would. Only 12,000 can participate in games at FirstEnergy Stadium, and players cannot be out in the ocean of orange and brown as they normally would.
“In some ways [he can sense the joy], yes, ” he said. “In others, no. Of course, this is not the typical year. With protocol, you can not go out to restaurants and hang out and be around town. There is clearly no tailgating and not that many fans at our home games. It’s just different. You can kind of sense it, but I do not think it’s the full effect. ”
While he may not be out to photograph with fans and sign autographs, he knows how much this means to the city of Cleveland. After the 41-35 victory over the Titans, he explained that his former Oklahoma teammate Joe Palange from St. Edward High School described the passion here and he did not really believe it.
“I realized when I came here, I was like, ‘Wow, this is right,'” he said. “This is a passionate fan base that lives, breathes and dies football, and Cleveland Brown’s football on it. I think it means a lot to them, but they need to reset their expectations because we all need to reset the standard. That is what I have said, that there is a new standard and that there is a foundation that you must continue to build on and improve. That’s exactly how we need to deal with things, and I think we’re going in the right direction, as I said. ”
At the NFL Combine in 2018, Mayfield uttered these famous words during his podium interview that gave many Browns chills.
“If anyone would turn this franchise over, it would be me,” he said.
As he bordered in from the bench and beat the Jets in his debut year to end Brown’s losing streak and break open beer coolers across town, the franchise’s fortunes seem to shift a penny.
“I said it a couple of weeks ago when I was growing up in Texas in an extreme football city and going to Oklahoma – of course it’s a football state too – and then it’s coming here, it feels like home, ” Mayfield said.
Like the hardscrabble folks at Cleveland, Mayfield was beaten to death last season and persevered. At this point last year, the Browns were 6-9 and he was penultimate in the NFL with a 78.8 QB rating. He tried to hold it together in a dysfunctional and split offense under Freddie Kitchens, but it was too much to ask for a second-year quarterback.
This season, he is surrounded by even more talent, but with a coaching staff that is fully committed to maximizing his strengths and getting the best out of him. In addition to Kevin Stefanski, he has an offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, a former NFL quarterback who guides him every day and restores him to the exact, confident player that the Browns drafted No. 1 overall in 2018. It’s night and day from what Mayfield experienced last year with Kitchens and quarterback coach Ryan Lindley.
“AVP is doing an excellent job with our offense in total,” Stefanski said. “He does a good job with these quarterbacks. It goes a long way when you have a guy who has played the position, played in the NFL and has been a backup. Backup quarterbacks have created some great coaches over the years and that’s because these guys understand how to prepare and how to prepare without getting reps. AVP how he runs the meetings, how he coaches the guys on the field and his behavior on gameday with these guys, he does it at a very high level. ”
Van Pelt has brought out the best in Mayfield in the same way he did with Aaron Rodgers when he coached him at Green Bay from 2014-2017.
“AVP is a part of every single decision when it comes to offense, quarterback play and all,” Stefanski said. He is in depth with this. He has been a huge help to me as we put this thing together and share this vision together. Ultimately, when you work closely with that quarterback and understand how the quarterback thinks and puts him in spots for success, AVP has a huge, big hand, that. ”
Mayfields challenging 2019 gets him compassion with his QB classmate in 2018 Sam Darnold battling through a 1-13 season with the Jets.
“The ups and downs of the last almost three years now to take that step from college to the NFL, I definitely feel for what Sam is going through and has been through. I’m not in his shoes, so I know I’m not there for the daily things, but I know the responsibility and the pressure he’s under, ” he said. “You feel for him. You want it to work out. You do not want anyone to do any bad will – it’s just bad karma – but Sam’s a good guy and I hope the best for him. ”
This year, Mayfield learned to be the same player every day, regardless of the outcome of a game. That was something he struggled with last season when he pressed and threw 21 interceptions for the second most in the NFL.
“It’s something I tried to learn early on,” he said. “It was clear that I was not able to last year, but it is very important. You do not want to change. You will be the same leader every day. I saw a quote from someone from Tampa who talked about (Buccaneers QB) Tom Brady that it does not matter how well he plays or if it does not go well, he is always the same person. It is important to be a leader. Under the good things, they always look up to you. Under the bad things, they will look at you too. It’s the key to finding that medium. ”
It has not been lost on his teammates.
“Success never came to him,” said Nick Chubb, who ran back. “He’s been successful all his career, so it’s nothing new to him. He’s been the same guy and been a great leader for us. now for him. I’m very happy for him. I’ve seen the work he’s put in. I’ve seen the countless hours he’s spent at the plant and how hard he works every day. I have to keep it on it. “
He has been as much an inspiration to the defense as the offense.
“I love his fight,” linebacker BJ Goodson said. “I always knew he had a bit of a spark for him, but I love his drive and I love his fight and his willingness to compete. I love it.”
Brown fans love it too, and it’s the gift that keeps giving this Christmas.
New Brown face masks for sale: Here you can buy Cleveland Brown’s face coat for coronavirus protection for adults and teens, including a single mask ($ 14.99) and a 3-pack ($ 24.99). All NFL proceeds donated to the CDC Foundation.
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