Baker Mayfield takes blame for Browns sluggish offense

The sky might not be falling but Mayfield says “I have to play better”

Daryl Ruiter
September 18, 2019 - 8:14 pm

(Photo by Elsa/Al Bello/Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

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Berea, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Baker Mayfield and the Browns are coming off their first win of the season Monday night over the Jets, but it in some ways it felt like a loss.

Despite the Jets being without multiple key players, the Browns failed to look like the dominating force many expected them to be this season in the 23-3 win, the largest margin of victory for the franchise in nearly five years.

On Wednesday quarterback Baker Mayfield blamed himself, a day after head coach Freddie Kitchens vowed to put the quarterback in better situations.

“He is going to try and take care of me, but I have to do my job when it all comes down to it,” Mayfield said. “He is our head coach and he is going to say that, but I have to play better.”

Through two games, the offense, led by Mayfield, has failed to find its footing despite the bevy of weapons he’s now surrounded with, but receiver Odell Beckham Jr. defended his quarterback Wednesday.

“I know we are not where we want to be, but the good thing is we have more games, more opportunities and more practices to come together and prove ourselves,” Beckham said. “Just like anything else, it is really not where you start; it is where you finish.

“We did not get off to the best start. We managed the game and got out of there with a win. We just need to improve this week facing a very, very, very good team coming in Sunday night.”

Timing, rhythm, chemistry, efficiency, release and accuracy have all been lacking for Mayfield and the Browns through the first two games of the season.

So, what gives?

“I think it is a mix of a little bit of everything,” Mayfield, who pointed to his mechanics, said.

“It goes back to getting the basics down, not getting ahead of my feet and making sure I am in the right place at the right time. Get my feet going and my eyes will follow.”

Mayfield and the offense have also made it a habit to snap the ball just as the play clock is about to expire.

“I think we can be more efficient just overall,” Mayfield said. “I think with getting more calls that we are comfortable with, I have to be better within the week of giving Freddie confidence in what we are calling and what we are doing to where we can just line up there and he can trust us to go do the job, and no matter what he calls I am going to get it done.”

The fix sounds simple, now it’s time to implement it.

“Just getting the ball out quicker, getting it into the playmakers’ hands,” Mayfield said. “Just taking care of our guys. Not putting our O line in a bind, especially against a team like this with a great defense. We will work on those challenges and move forward.”

Mayfield has been sacked as many times through two games as he was over the final eight games of the 2018 season – eight. Add in 13 QB hits and Mayfield is taking a beating.

“It takes time,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “When you install a new offense, it’s not totally new, there’s a lot of new concepts, sometimes it takes four to six weeks to really understand your players and where you’re going. Obviously we don’t have enough time because we’ve got to win games now. But it takes time to be as good as you want to be on offense.”

One change – besides the change at right tackle and addition of Beckham – is the addition of offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Kitchens continues to call plays but in the offseason Kitchens and Monken blended their ideas and systems. Kitchens doesn’t believe the issue is there.

“I think it is fine. There have not been any problems really. It is not calling the plays,” Kitchens said. “It is I have to do a better job of putting our guys in better situations and that happens Monday through Sunday. That is about all I have to say about that.”

The Browns’ offense sustained just two drives beyond six plays Monday night – the 11-play drive that ended in a field goal to open the game and a nine-play drive late in the fourth quarter. They had two eight-play drives against the Titans.

That’s 22 of 26 drives that have gone for six or fewer plays through two games.

They’ve punted 11 times, scored four touchdowns and three field goals, given up a safety, had four interceptions and had drives end twice on downs and once to end a half.

Getting Mayfield back in his comfort zone must be a priority. One way to do it is to mix in more run-pass options and even go hurry up or up tempo with the offense.

“We did some RPOs last year. We were successful with them. We have done some this year, and we were successful with them,” Kitchens said. “Getting the ball out of your hands quicker, it could be just the read that he is going through and the progression. It could be more precise routes. Different areas present different problems, and we are just trying to rectify all that.”

Considering the schedule that awaits them the next five weeks beginning Sunday night with the 2-0 Rams followed by the 2-0 Ravens, 49ers, Seahawks and Patriots, time is running out to get on track, except if you ask Mayfield.

“I do not feel any pressure about that,” Mayfield said. “We are going to figure it out. Everybody is acting like the word is falling down. We can play better, but a win is a win. We are never going to take that for granted.”