As experienced as he is, Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield isn’t resting on his laurels after his NFL debut.
Mayfield, 23, has all the confidence in the world after lighting up the college football landscape for four years while earning every accolade possible. He has this self-confident charisma that’s infectious—contagious, some say.
But after his first start ended in a disappointing loss, No. 6 isn’t resting on those past accomplishments and glossing over the lessons learned effort of this process. And it is a process, there are no shortcuts to climbing to the heights he believes he can take the Browns.
“Yeah, fortunately, I had a lot of experience in college. Now, it is just about translating my experience – things that I have seen and different keys that I have used – but also then learning and growing from that,” Mayfield said during Wednesday’s player media availability. “Having an open mind about it. Not saying, ‘I have played a lot of ball. I have it all figured out,’ but having an open mind and realizing that I have a lot of room to grow.”
That’s some pretty solid reflection by the rookie. As good as he has been and thinks he is, and masses of Browns fans hope he can be, no measure of success will come without challenging himself. That means not only strengthening his weaknesses but having the courage and awareness to identify and confront them.
“There are definitely things that I could have seen better. There is always going to be give and take,” Mayfield added. “Whether you win or lose, there are going to be plays that I would like to have back or do differently. It is what it is. Just have to learn from it.”
What, specifically, can Mayfield identify as one of those key lessons he learned in his team’s Week 4 loss in Oakland?
“Making sure that we are all on the same page,” Mayfield said. “I think that communication is very important with that and just the little details. I keep harping on that, but that is the most important thing.
“We have to be fundamentally sound because we have all of the talent. We just have to do our job.”
Mayfield also addressed his interception near the end of regulation as a key learning point. The Browns were driving at the Raiders’ 49-yard line and were approaching field-goal range for a game-winning try before his deep shot to Antonio Callaway was plucked away by veteran Reggie McKenzie.
“To go through it, like the interception at the end of regulation, just go through my read, even though we had a double move just to put us in a good opportunity to win,” said Mayfield. “Do not push too much. Do not try to do too much.”
Mayfield’s worst decision of the game cost his team a chance to win in regulation. He said in hindsight he realizes he shouldn’t have thrown it, and he implied he was locked onto Callaway as his primary target on the play.
“Yeah, even though we tag a deep route on it and we are trying to take a shot – we had been hitting some of those plays underneath – you have to go through your reads no matter what the play call is,” Mayfield admitted. “No matter if you want to take a shot, you have to go through your reads no matter what it is. You can never let the game and your emotions get the best of you. You just have to do the fundamentals.”
Mayfield’s going to make better decisions in those moments, but the only way to learn those lessons is by playing and making those mistakes. From a talent perspective, he showed all the positive traits we saw from him in college and throughout preseason.
His pocket presence and ability to make those important secondary reads were both on display for much of the game. And his arm again looked every bit as advertised, more than live enough to make all the big league throws.
With a healthy dose of humility, and a continued zealous approach to perfection, it’s going to be a fun ride watching Mayfield make these improvements and become the player many think he’s capable of becoming.