SportsTalk 790 radio show host and former NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury believes Baker Mayfield will be the Cleveland Browns quarterback for the foreseeable future.
During Friday’s episode “The Browns Nation Station” podcast, Salisbury joined Mark Bergin to discuss the Browns’ 5-3 record headed into their bye week.
Salisbury also believes the Browns should start Mayfield — if he’s healthy — over Case Keenum for the rest of the 2020 season.
“I root for guys like Case Keenum, but let’s stop this absurdity,” Salisbury said. “You invested in the first pick of the draft. You’re going to see this through until you find out if [Mayfield] can or can’t lead your team where you want to go, and that’s not just winning, that’s getting to the playoffs and winning bigger.
“The objective isn’t just to be a 9-7 team and get to the playoffs or just barely miss. Obviously, you want to show improvement, but the Cleveland Browns should want the same things for the Browns that LeBron [James] wanted for the Cavaliers, I mean that Terry Francona wants for the Indians, and I know it’s been a long time… but I don’t care. The Bernie Kosar-Browns, they wanted a Super Bowl too. That’s how you have to think.”
Mayfield’s performance in the second half of the 2020 season is critical in determining whether the Browns will pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, according to Salisbury.
“If he urinates down his leg the rest of the year, and I say, ‘I can’t move forward with this and I can’t pay him $100 million,’ well, guess what? You pick up the option, or you don’t and you go to the next guy,” Salisbury said. “I’ve always wondered why people have such a hard time with…I know a quarterback can change your franchise, but we draft a defensive end and he works out or doesn’t work out. Four years later, well, we go get another guy. I mean it’s same as quarterback and quarterback is the toughest position in the world.”
It’s estimated Mayfield’s fifth-year team option in 2022 would be worth between $25 million and $26 million.
“I believe Baker Mayfield is going to be the quarterback here for a while,” Salisbury said.
Salisbury said Browns general manager Andrew Berry and the front office must ask themselves several questions in evaluating if Mayfield is the team’s quarterback of the future, including:
- Is the team getting better?
- Is Mayfield getting better?
- Does Mayfield make the players around him better?
- Does Mayfield know how to win under duress?
- Are the Browns in contention to win championships with Mayfield as the starting quarterback?
Before contending for a division, conference or Super Bowl title, the Browns must first make the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season.
The Browns have the longest active playoff drought in the NFL.
However, the Browns would make the playoffs as the AFC’s seventh seed if the regular season ended headed into Week 9.
ESPN’s Football Power Index shows the Browns have a 53.4% chance of making the playoffs.
“I want to see how he reacts to adversity,” Salisbury said of Mayfield. “Not only that, I want to see how he reacts to success if I’m the front office.”
Salisbury said he’s seen signs of improvement in Mayfield’s play this season.
“I see signs of the accuracy coming back,” Salisbury said. “I see signs of less talk by a franchise and more performance.”
Salisbury said the Browns should model their organization after the NFL’s best franchises with stability in the roles of ownership, general manager, head coach and quarterback.
“We’re in a time now, we want such instant gratification. If a starting quarterback doesn’t play well as a rookie in four games, we want to get rid of him,” Salisbury said. “They’re already ready to run Jimmy Garoppolo out of San Francisco. He was in the Super Bowl last year. Now he may not have the talent that Patrick Mahomes has, [but] he was in the friggin’ Super Bowl. Do you know many team people would stand in line for that?”
Salisbury also said he believes the AFC North is the best division in the NFL ahead of the NFC West.
If the playoffs ended headed into Week 9, the Pittsburgh Steelers would be the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the Baltimore Ravens would be the No. 5 seed.
“If you’re faint of heart as a fan or a player, you don’t want to waltz into a stadium in the AFC North, you just don’t,” Salisbury said. “[There are] two things I can guarantee you. One, is they’re well-coached and going to give you all you can handle on both sides of the ball, good players. But, if you’re a quarterback or an offensive player, you better have a good supply of body bags because when you go home, it’s going to take days to recover.”
Salisbury thinks the Browns will likely earn a Wild Card birth this season.
“They are in a great position,” Salisbury said. “They just need to start to string together that consistency that goes with a championship team because they’re going to beat good teams, but in the postseason, you got to run through three or four of them to get where you going to go.”
Salisbury predicted the Browns would beat the Houston Texans in their Week 10 matchup on Nov. 15.
“The Texans can’t stop any run game. [Deshaun] Watson will put points on the board,” Salisbury said. “I pick Cleveland right now because Cleveland is a better football team. And, if they run the football [and] commit to it, it could be a long day for the Texas defense.”
Editor’s Note: Sean Salisbury was talking on behalf of Pickswise