Baker Mayfield glad to have veteran QB Case Keenum to lean on

Browns QBs work out with teammates in Texas as they learn Kevin Stefanski's offense from afar

Daryl Ruiter
May 27, 2020 - 6:39 pm
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – In their evaluation of everything that went wrong in 2019, the Browns clearly felt quarterback Baker Mayfield needed help off the field in addition to on it.

Executive vice president of football operations and general manager Andrew Berry landed right tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Austin Hooper shortly after the tampering window opened March 16.

The third agreement, which came hours later, was with veteran quarterback Case Keenum for three years and $18 million.

“He is a great guy and a great veteran guy to have in the room,” Mayfield said Wednesday during a Zoom conference with reporters.

Considering the current circumstances, Keenum’s signing could end up being the most valuable.

Keenum’s best year came with head coach Kevin Stefanski, who was his position coach in Minnesota, where he went 12-4 as the Vikings’ starter in 2017 that saw him complete 67.6 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 98.3 passer rating.

“I think that is a huge part of why I was looking forward to being around Case was that he was in this system so I can hear his thoughts on how it is taught and how he reads it,” Mayfield said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Stefanski from getting Mayfield and the Browns on the field to install the offense during OTAs, and so they’re doing it remotely over video conferences.

Stefanski’s system will be the third in as many seasons Mayfield will have had to learn after Hue Jackson was fired midway through his rookie year and Freddie Kitchens after a 6-10 finish in Year 2.

Keenum is well traveled and had his share of having to learn new systems quickly. The Browns are his sixth team in nine seasons and fourth in the last four, experience Mayfield plans to lean on.   

“He has been in a lot of systems, as well, and it has not been an excuse for him,” Mayfield said. “Just hearing how he visualizes certain things and certain reads has been great.”

After having an opportunity to get to know Keenum and to study Stefanski’s offense, Mayfield is confident he’ll be put in position to succeed.

“I think it matches up very nicely with being in control, getting checks in the run game and just being efficient,” Mayfield said. “Last year, I know, was not a great year for turnovers, but I have always prided myself on not turning the ball over. That is something in the conversations we have had is where we do take our shots, it has to be smart decisions and there is nothing wrong with throwing an incompletion every once in a while.

“Scheme wise, I think my skillset matches up to that very well and also how he is coaching it. I think it is going to be a great fit.”

With players still barred from team facilities and the offseason program turned into video conference calls, Mayfield is doing all he can to make the best – and most – of the situation.

“You can’t do so many complex drills and all the stuff you might and everybody might not have the same equipment, but we can teach the very base fundamentals of what this new coaching staff wants to do and go from there,” Mayfield said. “I think that has been the best thing is essentially just getting back to the basics.”

Last week, Mayfield hosted nine teammates, including Keenum and new tight end Austin Hooper, for socially distanced workouts in Austin, Texas.

“It felt really good to get around them, to start speaking the terminology and for some of these guys to just to be around each other,” Mayfield said. “I think that was a big thing for Hooper to be down here and be around some of the guys. A lot of them were here last year, but it was good for everybody to be around, speaking the same terminology and just kind of hanging out during all this. You are kind of stuck at home, but we had a chance to get outside and throw a little bit.”

The rookies weren’t invited, but for a good reason.

“We did not want to bring some of the younger guys down to overwhelm them because we are not through our installs yet,” Mayfield said. “We wanted them to still feel like they are getting used to it.”

The key element offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt wants Mayfield to work on is his footwork, putting his left foot forward in the shotgun. Van Pelt did the same for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and Andy Dalton in Cincinnati.

Mayfield admitted it’s not been easy, but he’s at least been able to begin to see his hard work start to pay off during those workouts.

“It is breaking some of the habits that I have had for a long time, but I am getting used to it,” Mayfield said. “It is just about repetition to be quite honest with you. You can drill it and you can get used to it, but that is why having the guys down last week was so great, being able to actually translate that to real timing on routes.”

Mayfield has refocused himself this offseason.

He’s limited his social media presence and Wednesday was the first time he did an interview of any kind since last season ended.

Mayfield has been trying to pass the time in Texas when not on video conference calls or studying his new playbook with varying degrees of success.

“I have tried to get better at golf. It is not happening,” Mayfield said. “My efforts there, I have always been a high-effort guy, I am swinging hard still, but it is still not going straight. Other than that, I have tried to find some new shows. I enjoyed the ‘Tiger King’ and got back into ‘Ozark.’ We have been on the lake quite a bit. We are trying to enjoy the weather while we can. It has been pretty hot down here so have been getting outside, and a lot of board games to be honest with you – a lot of competitive board games that don’t always end in happiness, but it is good to keep that drive.”