Quarterback Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns Coach Kevin Stefanski Reportedly Had a ‘Lack of Trust on Both Sides’

by Bryan Fyalkowski

In an essay by The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd, the writer tries to “identify where it all went wrong” between Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns. Lloyd highlights instances on many sides – from Mayfield, to the coaches, to the organization – that damaged the relationship.

“By the end of last season, there was a lack of trust on both sides,” he wrote. “We were left with a quarterback who didn’t trust his coach and a coach who didn’t trust his quarterback.”

Those are strong words, but Lloyd brought up examples to back it up.

For instance, in the Browns’ final game of 2021 – a 26-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers – Mayfield was unhappy about the protection calls throughout the game. Among the issues was rookie James Hudson having to go 1-on-1 against NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt. Mayfield was sacked nine times in the game and had five passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.

Lloyd wondered aloud if that would be Mayfield’s last game in a Cleveland uniform after four years with the club. And he was right. On Wednesday, the Browns traded their former No. 1 overall selection to the Carolina Panthers for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Relationship Between Baker Mayfield, Browns Broke Down

A big question amongst Browns’ management was if they would give Baker Mayfield a contract extension nearing $300 million after his best season in 2020. They were hesitant at the time because, Lloyd says, “they had four years of evidence that he was good, but not good enough.”

In 2020, he had a career-best 95.9 quarterback rating. He helped lead Cleveland to an 11-5 record and the franchise’s first playoff win since 1994. But overall, Mayfield has a 29-30 record as a starter, and a terribly average 87.8 quarterback rating.

In 2021, Mayfield had a 17.8 passer rating in the final four minutes when Cleveland trailed by one possession. In his career in those situations, he had a 51.1 passer rating. Meanwhile, he has thrown 19 interceptions in the fourth quarter during his career. That is the second-most by an NFL quarterback over the past four seasons.

In addition, some in Cleveland thought he was “childish and immature, his behavior annoyed teammates and divided the locker room, and he was often difficult to coach.”

At only 27 years old, Mayfield has an opportunity to start fresh. Lloyd says members of the Browns’ organization think he will still have a “fine career.” Although, going to Carolina to play under head coach Matt Rhule is not the most ideal situation at the moment.

Lloyd caps his article the way only a beat reporter for the Browns could: “A franchise that has spent the better part of the last 20 years in football hell is back in purgatory, waiting on another new quarterback to save them.”