Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry addressed the situation surrounding quarterback Baker Mayfield on Wednesday.
While a case can be made that Mayfield should take a seat to rest his various ailments, Berry made it clear that as long as the team’s doctors clear Mayfield to play then he will remain the starting quarterback (quotes via a team-provided transcript):
“Baker is our quarterback. He is healthy enough to win games for us. He has won games for us in the past couple of weeks. If he is ready to go, he is going to be our starter.
“I think we all know that Baker is incredibly physically tough. I think he has told you guys at moments in the year when he has been frustrated with his own performance. That being said, he has had stretches this year where he has played well for us. Look, the reality of it is he has worked through injuries, no different than other players on our roster. I know what he expects of himself and what we expect of him whenever he is on the field to perform at a capable level and at a winning level. We expect him to play his best football down the stretch after the bye.”
Cleveland’s offense has struggled as the Browns have only scored more than 17 points once in their past seven games, and Mayfield has performed below expectations during that same stretch.
As disappointing as that has been for a season filled with high expectations, the Browns remain on the fringe of the playoffs if they can pull their act together over the season’s final five games, which include home games against the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Las Vegas Raiders, and road games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.
With little to no margin for error, Berry said he is “looking forward” to seeing how the team responds to its current state of affairs:
“I expect and I am looking forward to seeing our guys work through this tough stretch, and that is not just Baker; that is our entire team. At the end of the day, we want to be playing our best football in December, and that is really our mission. That is our charge.”
With the short-term outlook for Mayfield out of the way, Berry explained the team’s thinking as it relates to a contract extension for Mayfield, who will be entering the final year of his rookie contract next season.
While the remaining five games will be part of the discussion, Berry said the decision-makers will be looking at Mayfield’s full body of work, rather than a game-by-game or play-by-play critique, in making a determination about a new contract:
“I think with Baker, especially from a long-term perspective, you really try and take a big picture approach. Really with any player, it is about body of work really over several years and also taking into context the environment or particular individual’s situation. We have seen Baker play a lot of good football here. We have seen Baker play good football this season. I know he is excited and we are excited for the opportunity ahead of us. We expect him to play his best football moving forward over the next five weeks.
“I will be honest, it is probably more art than science. I wish it was as easy as I can give you a straightforward answer in terms of, ‘Hey, this how you weight it and this is how you do it.’ It is a little bit more feel. It is a little bit about looking at things without emotion and ultimately trying to be fair to your team and your organization. I wish I had a more formulaic response for you, but it really is a little bit more art than science.”
Depending on which side of the fence you reside on as a Browns fan — either Mayfield is the quarterback of the future based on his play during his rookie season and in the 2020 playoff season, or Mayfield is a bum based on his performance under head coach Freddie Kitchens in 2019 and during his injury-filled season this year — you can take Berry’s comments any way you want.
For now, there are two things that are clear when it comes to Mayfield. A strong finish to the season will certainly add to his résumé, while a continuation of his inconsistency will provide fuel to his critics.
And Andrew Berry will be watching very closely as he continues to collect data on Mayfield and work to determine if he is the team’s long-term answer at quarterback.