Why Has Baker Mayfield Regressed This Season?

Among many contributing factors that have resulted in a disappointing Browns season, you can boil it down to poor head coaching and quarterback play.  There’s no need to over complicate it.  John Dorsey hired Freddie Kitchens as head coach to secure the quarterback-coach relationship that has defined the National Football League for some time now.  As we stand 12 games into the 2019 season, it appears the combination that was expected to sustain the Browns for a decade will likely be cut short after one year.  It’s safe to say, at this point, that Dorsey made the mistake of removing Kitchens from his duties as offensive coordinator in order to become head coach.  Doing so has affected Mayfield in many ways.

The decline in his mechanics has been apparent all season long.  Mayfield no longer chops his feet, scans the field and handles pressure like he used to.  His quick decision-making, quick feet and quick release that was praised during his rookie year seem to have been abandoned.  He has as many interceptions through 12 games as he did all of last year (14).  He’s been sacked more times (32) in fewer games.  This should be attributed to losing Ken Zampese as his quarterbacks coach, who was replaced by former NFL QB Ryan Lindley.  It should be noted that Lindley has very little experience coaching, while Zampese was a quarterbacks coach for 14 seasons.  Lindley and Kitchens are known to have good relationships with Mayfield, but that’s where the problem lies: Mayfield needs to be coached.  Winning seven games in your first year doesn’t complete your development as an NFL signal caller.  It appears that Dorsey and Kitchens put too much emphasis on keeping Mayfield happy, instead of doing what’s best for his development.  From the first game, and even in the pre-season, it was clear that something was off about Mayfield.  He continues to look jittery in the pocket.  He bails out and rolls to the right, instead of evading the rush and re-setting his feet like he did in 2018.

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That being said, the Browns should hold a better record than 5-7, even with Mayfield’s underwhelming performance.  This falls on Kitchens and his inability to manage the game and prepare his football team to win.  Penalties, dropped passes, poor game planning and a pathetic offensive scheme that’s completely backwards don’t fall on Mayfield’s shoulders.  But there’s also plenty of finger-pointing to go towards your franchise quarterback, who looks much worse than he did his rookie season, with some of the best talent around him.  The hope is that the next coach to take the reigns will be ready to push Mayfield to take the next step and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be happening this year.

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