Over the past 20 years, the Cleveland Browns have been soul searching for a starting quarterback. A quarterback that would be that consistent franchise-changing successful player. Prior to the search for that kind of quarterback, which has included over 30 different quarterback candidates since 1999, the Browns had quarterback greats like Otto Graham, Bernie Kosar and Brian Sipe. Today, the Browns have Baker Mayfield and there has been more and more discussion, especially after the Browns recent loss to Pittsburgh, if Mayfield will be that consistent winner and leader of this storied franchise moving forward.
The tricky part of this recent debate has one considering pretty decent career numbers for Mayfield butting up against the good old eye test. When one starts looking over Mayfield’s stats both past and present, the numbers project a healthy and successful quarterback. But then one starts looking at the film, like from the Steelers game loss, and questions Mayfield’s decision making especially with plays like the interception he threw on the third play of the game for the pick-six.
When I was a kid, Brian Sipe was the Browns quarterback and I fell in love with the Browns. The year was 1980 and that year the Browns, known as the Kardiac Kids because they won several games late that season, dashed our hopes of a Super Bowl. They lost a playoff heartbreaker to the Oakland Raiders on a below-freezing day in old Municipal Stadium in January of 1981.
I like studying statistics and so I wanted to compare Sipe’s career to Mayfield’s current path with the Browns. Sipe was with the Browns for about a decade. The Browns had several decent seasons under Sipe, with the 1980 season being the best at a 11-5 record. That season Sipe threw for over 4,000 yards, completed 61% of his passes and had a 91 QB Rating.
In Mayfield’s first season with the Browns back in 2018, he finished with 3700 yards thrown and a QB rating of 93. Unfortunately, that hot start to his career now has all of us now questioning his durability, growth as a quarterback, and knowledge of the game. But still, for his career, Mayfield has a 17-19 record, thrown 59 touchdowns, a QB rating of 85 and a completion percentage at 61. Brian Sipe finished his career with only a completion percentage of 57. The Browns only went to the playoffs once (1980) in Sipe’s decade long run with the Browns. But they had five winning seasons of the eight that Sipe was the starter.
So I bring this all up now because we now have a quarterback in Mayfield, in his 3rd full season with the Browns, that has been winning more than any of the previous 30 attempts with quarterbacks in the Browns organization since 1999. The Browns stand at 4-2 this season. A start that many of us would have said in August would have been great! Obviously, the losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers so far have been embarrassing, but they’re both not games that indicate that Mayfield is lousy as a quarterback overall. Certainly, his decision making, especially post-snap, has been troubling on and off over the last two seasons.
However, the fact that Mayfield has had some longevity now to his Browns career is something to consider before wanting to throw him under the bus and move on to another candidate to be Browns quarterback number 32. I completely understand the anger and embarrassment that we all witnessed this past Sunday. And I too said a few choice words watching that performance.
Stand back, study the statistics and things aren’t that bad. I certainly believe Mayfield has to continue to improve on his weaknesses as a quarterback. If he continues to struggle or has those moments where we all go, “What was that?” then Mayfield’s career here in Cleveland might be short. But his Browns career has been longer than any in recent Browns quarterback history and that’s an accomplishment.