The Browns have gone from perennial laughingstock to fan favorite overnight, and their quarterback isn’t phased by what’s expected of the team in 2019.
Although Cleveland hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2002 season, much is expected this year. Baker Mayfield says the sudden spotlight won’t be too bright for him and his team.
“I’d say the chatter doesn’t matter. The expectations for us within the locker room last year were higher than what we accomplished,” Mayfield told Complex this week. “Outside the locker room, people threw us in the trash before the season. They didn’t expect much out of us just because, the year before that, (the) Browns were 0-16. So, you know, you can only go up from there. And I think now we need to have the same mentality. It stays within that locker room.
“You’ve got to believe in it and take it one week at a time. Because I wouldn’t say that everybody wants to beat us. I think in the media and everything that comes with the hype around our team right now, people want to see us lose, just because the hype is so real. But we’ve got to go out there and take it one week at a time. We’re trying to win every week.”
Mayfield went first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft but had to win a starting job from Tyrod Taylor as a rookie. He ended up throwing for an NFL rookie record 27 touchdowns in 13 starts.
He feels his drive embodies what Cleveland is all about.
“The city has embraced me, that’s for sure,” Mayfield said. “Just going back to mentality-wise, the work ethic that people here in Cleveland take pride in. I think it’s something that I’ve done my whole life, and so it just truly fits in. I think that I was born to play here, and that’s where I can relate to the people of Cleveland.”
Mayfield will undoubtedly start under center for the Browns come Week 1, and the team added elite talent over the offseason.
Cleveland surprisingly acquired Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants in March and will pair him with Jarvis Landry out wide, forming a top-tier receiving corps. It also picked up Kareem Hunt, who was one of the league’s most dynamic dual-threat weapons out of the backfield in 2018 before he was released by the Chiefs because of his off-field issues.
Cleveland’s offensive upgrades coupled with a defensive unit that features the likes of Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon and Denzel Ward make it a strong team on both sides of the ball. It’s no surprise many expect the team to improve in 2019.
The Browns finished third in the AFC North in 2018, posting a 7-8-1 record, and Mayfield is committed to remaining true to himself as he chases more wins with Cleveland.
“What I’ve done my whole life has gotten me here,” Mayfield said. “There’s obviously improvements and things I have to work on every day, but how I handle myself and how I approach it, that can’t change.”