As the Cleveland Browns hope to dust themselves off after a debacle in Week 1, quarterback Baker Mayfield needs to be the one to set the tone.
The Cleveland Browns got a lesson in the snowball effect in Week 1. Under the weight of hype, expectations and a bit of their own chest-pounding, the Browns watched one mistake compound on another until they were being crushed by it all — and being crushed by the Tennessee Titans, losing by 30 points at home in their much-anticipated season-opener.
It’s just one week, though. There are 16 more weeks and 15 more games in the 2019 regular season. And perhaps the Browns’ disastrous defeat was exactly what Freddie Kitchens and this Cleveland team needed as a wake-up call. But they need to make sure they wake up quickly, particularly with a matchup against an injury-ravaged New York Jets team looming in Week 2 on Monday Night Football.
There is plenty that the Browns need to clean up. Baker Mayfield can’t throw three interceptions again, the team can’t commit an ungodly 18 penalties for 182 yards and no offensive lineman (or players at other positions) can kick any of the opposition in the head. There’s more to it than that, but that would be a great start.
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As we watched the snowball effect unfold in Week 1, though, the thing that glared everyone watching right in the eyes was how poorly Cleveland handled it. They were undisciplined to begin with but then, when the chips got down, they forced the issue and ultimately crumbled under pressure. And that’s where the aforementioned Mayfield needs to be the leader of this team.
Mayfield was actually quite good early on against Tennessee, despite his offensive line looking like saloon doors in front of him. It really wasn’t until the second half when his decision-making completely submarined and his performance ultimately followed. But in truth, that’s the issue.
All we’ve heard about the 2018 No. 1 overall pick is that everyone in Cleveland gravitates to him and follows his lead. So when he starts getting clearly frustrated and that shows in his play, the team is going to respond in the same manner. And for a team that was already struggling with on-field maturity, that’s a recipe for getting blown out by 30 points.
Instead, Mayfield needs to course-correct. Not only does he simply need to bounce-back from the first snap against the Jets in Week 2 and dominate a favorable matchup, the quarterback needs to be the tone-setter for the Browns. If he sees a mistake, he needs to be the one looking to correct it. If he makes a mistake, he needs to be unfazed.
Furthermore, if and when there is more adversity throughout the 2019 season, Mayfield needs to be the steady hand. He’s often been a player that the moment and situation have never been too big for. But it looked like it dwarfed him in Week 1. If the Cleveland Browns are truly going to turn it around, that can’t be the case.
As someone who’s championed Mayfield since Oklahoma, I believe he can be that guy for this team. He’s the perfect leader for this situation, he just didn’t show it as the team collapsed in the season-opener. But as they regroup and try to meet the immense expectations, it’s on Baker Mayfield to be the leader and player he’s capable of being. Without it, the hype will never be lived up to.