Will the suceess Kevin Stefanski had in Minnesota with Kirk Cousins translate to his new quarterback in Cleveland Baker Mayfield?
On the surface this seems like a no-brainer. Baker Mayfield should improve from his sub-par sophomore season with new head coach Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski coached Kirk Cousins in Minnesota and the Vikings quarterback had two of the best seasons of his career, but will it translate?
The zone blocking and heavy run scheme seems to fit Baker Mayfield well. Mayfield excels with play-action passing and a productive running game. Good news, that is what Kevin Stefanski will bring from Minnesota. There is one major difference though.
Baker Mayfield and Kirk Cousins are two completely different types of quarterbacks.
Kirk Cousins is someone who doesn’t take many chances and is extremely safe when throwing the football. Cousins‘ first two seasons in Minnesota has resulted in a 56-16 TD-INT ratio with a 69.7 completion percentage. If you are looking for a quarterback who is the literal description of risk averse, Kirk Cousins is your guy.
What applies to Kirk Cousins does not apply to Baker Mayfield. Mayfield is a risk taker and is not afraid to throw into tight windows. Mayfield threw more interceptions in his second season (21) than Cousins has in Minnesota. That is just the type of quarterback that Mayfield is. Expecting a duplicate performance of Kirk Cousins simply will not happen.
Baker Mayfield should improve
The Cleveland Browns quarterback should improve upon his TD-INT margin of one, but how large that margin will be is the question. Minnesota had the third-fewest pass attempts in the league last season (448). Cleveland finished right in the middle (19th overall with 539 attempts).
Kevin Stefanki’s offense finished with the fourth-most rushing attempts in the league (476). Cleveland had the 11th-fewest (393). Some of this is relying on Dalvin Cook, the other part is playing to the strengths of Kirk Cousins. Like the Vikings, the Browns should pound the rock with Nick Chubb early and often. Relying on Chubb will help with play-action and allow the Browns to be productive in the passing game.
At the end of the day, the scheme will only do so much. Baker Mayfield will have make his own improvements that are not entirely reliant on the offensive system put in place. Scheme alone will not improve his decision making or his comfort level in the pocket. Baker making strides in these areas will go a long way when paired with Stefanski’s offense. If not, there may not be an improvement from Baker Mayfield.