BEREA, Ohio — Baker Mayfield has entered uncharted territory for Cleveland Browns quarterbacks.
Since Gregg Williams replaced Hue Jackson as head coach and Freddie Kitchens replaced Toddy Haley as offensive coordinator, Mayfield has had five games during which he completed at least 67 percent of his passes. No Browns quarterback has accomplished that feat since 1999, the year the Browns returned from a three-year hiatus, according to ProFootballReference.com. Mayfield is also one of only 42 NFL quarterbacks to do that since 1999.
• Wentz vs. Goff: Inside top young QB rivalry
• Gronk’s revival silver lining for Patriots
• Browns in playoffs? How it could happen
• Trade for Cooper measures up for Cowboys
• Panthers shouldn’t consider resting Cam
The last Browns quarterback to do that was Milt Plum in the 1959 and 1960 seasons, according to ProFootballReference.com. But Plum threw 14 or fewer times in three of those games and he averaged 14.7 throws in those six games (the Browns ran Jim Brown a lot back then). Mayfield has done it while throwing more than 40 passes twice and averaging 30.6 attempts.
As good as that is, Mayfield is a long way from the NFL record. Drew Brees had a streak of 14 games in a row at 67 percent. Mayfield’s five ranks tied for 24th since 1950, the year the Browns entered the NFL.
But Mayfield is a rookie doing what he’s doing, a rookie who didn’t even initially start.
“He’s gotten better and better by the game,” Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “So imagine this guy next year at this time how good he can be.”
Mayfield already has the Browns’ rookie record with 19 touchdown passes, and he is far and away the best of the 2018 draft class. Mayfield leads Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen in yards per game (261.5), completion percentage (64.4), passer rating (93.4), touchdowns (19) and passing yards (2,877).
Any and all improvement from the Browns is fueled, driven and guided by Mayfield, who is justifying every shred of belief that general manager John Dorsey showed in him when he made him the first overall pick. To Williams, the Browns’ belief — in themselves and in their flickering playoff hopes — begins with their quarterback.
“That would not happen if it was phony,” Williams said. “It only happens when everybody sees it being sincere. One of the things that we have talked about for a long time is that leadership comes by example first and voice second. Your body language speaks so loud that you can’t hear anything else that anybody else says that comes out of their mouth.”
In other words, leaders can’t lead if they don’t produce. Breaking down what Mayfield has done and can do in his remaining three games shows the production (all stats courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information, the Browns and ProFootballReference.com):
Mayfield already has the Browns record for yards in game by a rookie with 397 against Houston. His four touchdowns against the Bengals were a team rookie high. And his 19 touchdown passes are also a team rookie record, breaking Otto Graham’s mark when the Browns were in the AAFC.
Mayfield’s completion percentage for the season is 64.4 percent. Among rookies with at least 10 starts, Mayfield ranks fifth. Dak Prescott was 67.8 percent in 2016, Ben Roethlisberger 66.4 in 2004, Robert Griffin III 65.7 in 2012 and Teddy Bridgewater 64.4 percent in 2014.
He needs to average 170 yards per game to top Brandon Weeden’s team rookie passing yardage mark of 3,385. Ahead of him is DeShone Kizer, who had 2,894 last season. Mayfield should pass Kizer early against Denver.
His passer rating of 92.3 would be the best by a Browns rookie ever (Cody Kessler was 92.3 in 2016), and fifth best all time (minimum 100 attempts).
He also owns the all-time rookie mark for passer rating in a game, 151.2 against Atlanta, and he joined Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to top 140 for passer rating in consecutive games (minimum 20 attempts).
Mayfield has 10 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, the first time a Browns quarterback has done that in a single season since Bernie Kosar in 1987. Mayfield has a ways to go to catch Kosar, though; he had 17 between 1986 and ’87. Frank Ryan has the Browns’ all-time record with 24 games in a row (1965-67) and is also one ahead of Mayfield with 11 in 1963 and ’64.
The only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to throw a touchdown pass in their first 10 starts: Warner (1999), Brad Johnson (1996-97) and Mayfield. Dak Prescott holds the rookie record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass with 11 in 2016. Mayfield matched Teddy Bridgewater and Andy Dalton with 10.
Mayfield’s 19 touchdown passes are seven behind the rookie record set by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson. Andrew Luck and Prescott both had 23. Mayfield has averaged 1.7 touchdowns in his games; at that pace he’d finish with 24, though he does face a depleted Broncos secondary Saturday night.
Mayfield’s next touchdown pass would tie him with Dan Marino for the most touchdown passes in a rookie’s first 12 games (since the AFL-NFL merger).
Mayfield also could become the first Browns quarterback since Bill Nelsen in 1968 to complete a pass of at least 60 yards in three consecutive games.
Any or all of these marks would put Mayfield’s rookie season among the best in NFL history. It’s a passing era, but he’s also doing it with a team that was winless in 2016 and had dropped to 2-6-1 after a four-game losing streak earlier this season.
Since, the Browns have won three of four and Mayfield’s numbers have been glittering.
In those four games, Mayfield has completed 74.8 percent (83-of-111) with nine touchdowns and three interceptions.
Those numbers look that much better with the realization they include Mayfield’s woeful first half in Houston. He followed that by throwing for 351 yards in the second half, a 30-minute stretch that he and the team may look back on as the most important of the season.
Even with his worst half of the season, Mayfield’s rating was 121.7. Drew Brees leads the league in passer rating at 120.8.
The half counts, but remove it and Mayfield’s number soar even higher: 81.2 percent (78-of-96) completion percentage, 1,060 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions.