Baker Mayfield looks for positives as Browns' season slips away

CLEVELAND -- As another season disintegrates, receiver Jarvis Landry stood in the Cleveland Browns locker room and found no positives in a 37-21 defeat.

“We lost,” Landry said after the Browns fell to Kansas City. “What steps did we take?”

Down the hallway in an interview room, rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield had a slightly different take.

“Offensively, I think there was a lot more good in this game than we had in the past," Mayfield said.

Mayfield was not shrugging off a loss. There also is no dissension between quarterback and receiver. But those two statements do accurately reflect where the Cleveland Browns are in a 2-6-1 season.

Landry is in his fifth season; he came to the Browns expecting to be part of an immediate turnaround. He’s watched his team lose four in a row, and he’s lived through the oh-so-Browns experience of a coach firing -- except his came along with the offensive coordinator getting fired on the same day, eight games into the season.

“Did we win?” Landry said when asked about improvements by the offense.


“Then it doesn’t matter,” he said.

For Mayfield, a rookie quarterback counted on to be the future, every play matters, even if it’s in a one-sided loss. And every game matters because it’s a chance for growth. In throwing for two touchdowns and 297 yards, Mayfield said he thought “there was a lot to build on.”

“But there’s obviously so much more room for improvement,” he added.

For positives, Mayfield pointed at left tackle Greg Robinson starting his first game in Cleveland and “playing well.” He said the offense had two touchdowns and a field goal in the first half. He said the approach by new coordinator Freddie Kitchens was to focus on what the offense does well.

That put Duke Johnson back in the game plan -- at long last -- and led to Johnson scoring two touchdowns. It allowed Mayfield to come three shy of 300 yards passing, and it allowed Nick Chubb to run for 85 yards.

These may be reaches in a game when the Chiefs scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions and controlled the game from the outset. But in Browns World, when a season start to fall apart, it falls apart in a hurry. And this one is crumbling.

So the outlook becomes any positive in a storm.

“You have to find those positives,” Mayfield said. “You have to build on it to where eventually the positives outweigh the negatives and you are not dealing with losses, you are dealing with wins. And then you are trying to eliminate the negative stuff.

“Right now we are at a point where we need to keep getting better at what we are good at and go from there.”

With their franchise quarterback -- a player who fired coach Hue Jackson said last week can be a “sensational” player -- anything positive matters, even if they come against one of the league’s worst pass defenses.

The 297 yards were the most for him in a game since he had 342 in the overtime win over Baltimore on Oct. 7. The 42 attempts were the fourth time this season he’s topped 40. The 69 percent completion rate was the best in a game he’s started, the 95.0 rating, the second-best.

For his rookie season, on a losing team, he has 10 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a rating of 81.5 (with 265 attempts).

The significance: Only two Browns quarterbacks since 1999 have had a higher passer rating in a season when they threw at least 250 passes -- Josh McCown in 2015 (93.3 with 292 attempts) and Derek Anderson in 2007 (82.5 with 527 attempts). Make the minimum passes 100 and Mayfield’s passer rating would rank sixth.

Take the numbers for what they are. The Browns have not exactly trotted out standouts at the position since 1999; 30 different players have started. And Mayfield’s rating is just slightly better than Johnny Manziel and behind Cody Kessler.

But in a season where wins will be tough to find, what matters is Mayfield stays upright, mentally healthy and reasonably effective -- and that he learns.

The home fans deserve better, but that’s what the Browns are down to in yet another season heading toward a miserable finish.

The upper lip will stay firmly strong, but if Mayfield comes out of this season established, confident and healthy, the Browns can at least point to that as something accomplished in a long and dreary 2018.