Berea, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Who knew facial hair was tracked as closely as Baker Mayfield’s was Sunday in Denver.
Mayfield started the day wearing a beard before trimming to a Fu Manchu for the game and then reducing it to a mustache following the 24-19 loss to the Broncos for his postgame presser.
Mayfield’s variety of facial hair went viral on social media, and naturally the subject came up during his weekly media availability leading up to Sunday’s game with Buffalo.
“The quarterbacks have a ‘Movember’ mustache,” Mayfield said. “The original thought for me with the handlebars was I was undefeated before Sunday with the handlebar mustache, so I shaved it off because I didn't deserve it.”
Mayfield has struggled in his sophomore season, and so have the Browns despite the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. in March to the surprise of just about everyone.
“I think people have this picture-perfect thing where it was going to be sunshine and rainbows and he was going to have a whole lot of one on ones,” Mayfield said. “It is Odell Beckham. He is going to have double coverage and we have to find ways to format things to get him the ball and force-feed him early on to where he can make an impact before we can have the perfect look to have a shot play. That is something we have learned the hard way, but I think as the weeks have gone on, we are continuing to improve on how to get the ball to him.”
Although Beckham leads the Browns this season in catches (39) and receiving yards (575), he has been targeted just four times in the red zone this season and has one touchdown – and that came in Week 2 against the Jets, an 89-yard catch and run.
Mayfield is also not nearly as accurate as he was a year ago, and the numbers seem to back that up.
The 2018 No. 1 overall pick has completed just 58.7 percent of his passes.
“There are a lot of factors that go into that,” head coach Freddie Kitchens said. “I do not think he is just wildly missing passes. I do not know. I do not really look at that. I just want him to get better today, just like I want him to get better this week more than last week. I truly do not look at stats.”
Mayfield has the lowest passer rating and is the only QB with more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (6) when not under pressure this season according to Next Gen Stats. He’s also dead last in passer rating from a clean pocket on second and third down this season.
Mayfield offered his view on why the drop in his numbers has been so dramatic this year.
“One, I would say we are doing things a little differently than we had last year just based on the pure install that we had,” Mayfield said. “Two, I think we have been able to point out that it is all of the little things. When you get down in the red zone, all of those windows are that much smaller and guys close in because they do not have as much space to cover. It is just that more critical for me to be on time, to have my feet in the right place, have my eyes to be eliminating quick, for guys to be at the right depth and to move through those progressions.
“Like I said about the shot plays, teams are going to play a little bit more conservative in the red zone against us and try to hold us to field goals. Taking the plays that are there is something that I can absolutely improve on going forward and just we have to be more precise.”
After setting the NFL record for touchdown passes by a rookie with 27 despite making just 13 starts last season, Mayfield is struggling to get the ball into the end zone this season. He’s thrown just seven touchdown passes – two of those going to his top two targets in Beckham and Jarvis Landry – while throwing 12 interceptions.
“He has to have the mindset of… the game of football is tough, and it is a tough game played by tough people,” Kitchens said. “Baker is a tough individual mentally and physically. Baker will be fine. He just has to understand to stay in the moment, and I think he does. You come out of bad situations a lot of times better off personally and professionally. He just has to keep his focus on the day and what he is doing in that day.”
Mayfield, who is in the midst of the most difficult stretch of football in his life, has been trying to diagnose what has gone wrong through the first eight games that has seen the Browns win just two games, and he’s confident a turnaround is in the offing.
How is he handling the adversity?
“Stay the course. Whether it is football or life, it is not what is going on or what adversity is really hitting you, it is what you do with that,” Mayfield said. “Stay the course, continue to try to improve each week to put us in the best position to win is all I can do.
“I can’t press too much and try to win it all in one play. I have to do my job and improve each week so that we have a different outcome.”