Baker Mayfield is a franchise quarterback
The Franchise QB Discussion - Where Are The Browns?
Baker or not Baker, that is the question. Discussions in the Browns community range from legitimate concerns and scathing criticism to absurd demands. So it is time to analyze the first few weeks as objectively as possible and classify the performance. So today we look at the stats, then at strengths & problem areas and of course also at the circumstances in order to finally give an opinion on what the future at Baker Mayfield and the Browns could look like.
Stats - the number-based classification
Let's start with the big topic of regression. Statistically, it can be proven that Baker declined after his fabulous rookie season in 2018:
Of course, it is important to classify that Baker got new coaches and a new system in both 2019 and 2020, and the sample size from 2020 with 6 games is still small. In addition, in the league comparison, Baker got an average of a top 5 passing defense over the period (especially Ravens, Steelers, Colts). Nevertheless - the regression can be demonstrated in several elements.
The question remains - how good or bad is Baker Mayfield in the league comparison?
What is striking?
- According to DVOA, Baker is # 25 of the QBs this year and thus in the bottom third. At the same time, however, in prominent company with the MVP Lamar Jackson, a Cam Newton and clearly ahead of a Carson Wentz
- Baker QB-Rating is with 67.9 in the absolute midfield (18th)
- The league is changing fast: Who would have thought in the offseason that Derek Carr and Josh Allen would be so high in the rankings who would have suspected such a “weak” Lamar Jackson and Carson Wentz? One should simply accept that only 3-5 QBs really play consistently in the upper third and most QBs perform interchangeably and are highly dependent on the circumstances.
Baker in analysis
In a balanced, as neutral as possible view, we of course not only look at weaknesses, but start with the progress and strengths of the QB.
Play-Action & Rollouts
First of all - NO not every QB is great in play action. The format is widely considered to be significantly more QB-friendly, which of course is often due to the fact that the defense needs a bit longer in response time and thus receivers like to be a little freer. Statistically, Baker is also really strong at play action:
- With play-action 28/45 for 350 yards and 4-1 TD / INT ratio 106.7 passer rating
- Without play-action: 65/107 626 yards 5/3 TD / INT ratio 81.0 passer rating
You can clearly see how comfortable Baker Mayfield feels in these plays. The execution is mostly very good and Baker produces most of the big plays here.
Surprised? Baker is still one of the league's more accurate QBs. Of course, this not only includes the completion percentage, but also measures how accurate the captured balls were. Baker is not yet optimal in the area of technology & footwork, but overall quite accurate in the league cut.
In September he was even at the forefront of the ball location topic at times, as the graphic above shows, and in his career so far there are a number of parallels to a Drew Brees.
Motivator & team leader
An underrated category. While a franchise quarterback can be a "silent" leader, having a true motivator on QB is very helpful for a team. The ultimate goal “Superbowl” and playoffs are games that are decided in the head. Players who are strongest in such moments will not find each other like a dime a dozen. Baker already had these "clutch games" against Texas or Ohio State in college. Remember his first game against the Jets on Thursday. The game against the Ravens 2019 or the Steelers win. Usually, such traits remain simply because that trait is ingrained.
Average - Improved, but not constant ...
Compared to last year, Baker is improved here, which does not mean that his pocket behavior is good. Trust in the offensive line remains an essential topic, because in games where the duel on the line does not go to the Browns, Baker quickly seems unsure and tries to escape from his pocket.
The “ghosts” that Baker partly sees and feels are still a problem, the pocket behavior seldom seems really confident over a long period of time. The short-term solution is therefore obvious: Baker needs a clean pocket or designed plays out of the pocket.
In 2019 it was noticed that Baker gets "happy feet" very quickly under pressure and then the accuracy decreases rapidly under pressure.
Consequently, in the offseason with the new OC Alex van Pelt, there was a clear focus on the Mechanics, and a statement from the coach.
With this offseason it is almost logical for me that besides a new scheme and adjustments in the Mechanics, not everything can work yet. In the "safe" phases, however, you can already see the progress. Another problem is "floating", that is, Baker's throws come too high in phases due to the throwing movement and thus run the risk of being intercepted.
The problem areas
Presnap Reads & Field Vision
The evil INT against the Steelers summarized the biggest problem area visually:
Baker reads the play completely wrong. Presnap he expects a cover-2 formation in which both safetys drop into the deep zones. The Steelers, however, only drop Edmunds to cover 1 and Minkah Fitzpatrick advances, read Baker's eyes and has a very light INT before the slant. Baker just needs to see Minkah advance and the coverage change.
Baker simply has enormous problems against good zone defense - far too often he does not expect safetys, linebackers or even CB to no longer stay at the receiver and choose the intermediate spaces and stay there and read the QB. Almost all picks bear this signature.
Decision making in the backlog / pressure
In addition to the turnover due to the wrong reads and the field vision, there are also those throws that Baker simply is not allowed to take because the throw window is actually closed
Here, too, actually a clear thing - Baker is coming under pressure, the team is clearly behind and it's 3rd down, so Baker absolutely wants to make the play, even if no WR is even remotely free here. Plays like this happen regularly when the Browns are behind.
Baker is a limited athlete. In the modern NFL, this can be a problem. Many young QBs are so athletic that they can get a lot out of almost lost plays. Of course you immediately think of Lamar Jackson, but players like Daniel Jones, Josh Allen or Murray are much more dangerous here. The body size has been really critical recently - Baker has an alarming number of passports that are knocked down by D-Liners.
Where are Baker and the Browns going?
The analysis shows various findings from 2.5 years with Baker Mayfield.
Will Baker Mayfield become a Top 5 QB in the NFL and future Hall of Famer? Probably no. The limitations currently seem too strong for that, even if there were quite a few QBs that increased after 3 years. The best example here is perhaps Drew Brees, who was used by many as perhaps the best comparison at the draft. A little too small, not very athletic, but very accurate - Baker only really needs to improve the decision-making here. Otherwise the franchise can change quickly.
From the Browns' point of view, however, the question is different: Can we move into the playoffs with Baker and win games there too? There are very good arguments for this. Baker Mayfield could be seen as a very good "system QB" / game manager in a few years. A term that is unfortunately too negative.
Let's take a look at the recent past, when Nick Foles won the Superbowl with the Eagles and Jimmy Garoppolo moved into the Superbowl - both QBs who execute their offense perfectly but are only average outside the system.
With Kevin Stefanski, the Browns have established a system that places a strong focus on the (outside) run game and becomes dangerous with a lot of play action through the air. On the script, this is the perfect system for Baker Mayfield's strengths. Of course, the fourth system change in the third year also needs time to internalize. Of course, 6 games in the new system are not enough to carry out the assessment.
The demand for a reorientation towards QB is only sexy until one looks at the real options. Because you simply do not get one of the few real franchise QBs. Dak Prescott will be a free agent, but will demand a $ 300 million contract that would torpedo the entire structure of the roster.
Other free agents? Of course you could try to get an Aaron Rodgers from Green Bay? But do you want to spend massive draft capital for 36-year-olds and hope for THE one season before the next rebuild starts?
Why not try Sam Darnold or Mitch Trubisky? Because they're NOT better than Baker Mayfield.
So via draft? Let's see how many franchise QBs can be found in the next draft in the range # 20- # 25? Unfortunately none, because Trevor Lawrence will go to # 1 and Justin Fields in the top 5. The QBs afterwards like Trey Lance, Zach Wilson or Kyle Trask seem to be NFL-ready a long time ago and would probably still be difficult to reach for the Browns if they convince in the rest of the college season. From the disaster with Deshone Kizer, the Browns as a franchise should have learned that raw QBs rarely function as instant starters.
In short - there is simply no convincing, sustainable alternative. The Browns are not a franchise that goes all-in for a season with a Rodgers or Veteran, and all draft options are almost crying out for the next rebuild.
Believe in Baker?
The conclusion is clear - the Browns have to address the problem areas of the 25-year-old QB, but by no means lose hope. Baker brings so many qualities to a successful quarterback and is one of a few true leaders in the NFL.
Ultimately, Baker simply doesn't have to be a top 5 QB and fans should adjust their expectations to the position of the quarterback. Players like Ryan Tannehill were considered busts and are currently in the best shape of life because the circumstances are right. Other highly talented QBs fail because of these very circumstances. The Browns as a franchise have to support Baker to use his strengths optimally and to work continuously on the mistakes. Even in the dynamic world of the NFL, this can take time. 6 Stefanksi games are not sample sizes. Mayfield is in his third year playing in the fourth offensive system (Hue Jackson, Todd Haley, Kitchens, Stefanski). Giving him at least this and next season until the end of the rookie contract is just fair and entrepreneurially smart for the franchise.
Believe in Baker - he's still the Browns best QB in two decades!
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