LOS ANGELES — With just two days before the Browns and Chargers go head-to-head in Los Angeles for their Week 5 matchup, Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, a Northeast Ohio native, was asked about Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Staley, who played quarterback for the Dayton Flyers here in Ohio in the early 2000s, said that he's always had an eye for the position and has been interested in the position since he was a kid. He obviously has been watching tape of Mayfield this week as he prepares to face off against it, but said he's been really tuned in to Mayfield's playing since he was in college (making sure to reference the flag-planting incident most Buckeyes fans would rather forget).
"This guy, he’s a plant-the-flag type player. He’s a guy that really breeds confidence in your football team and that can really bring the best out in the people around him because of how he plays," Staley said. "I remember watching him back then just go up against these SEC schools and going up against Ohio State at Ohio State and I think he really brings that engine that a team needs, that confidence, that fearlessness and so I think he’s always had that."
The first-year head coach, who has impressed his his first four games of the season, boasting the same 3-1 record as the Browns, said he believes that Mayfield is underrated as a pure passer, describing the areas of the quarterback's game that make him so impactful.
"I think that every quarterback’s got a unique style, but I think his style is that of confidence and fearlessness and he’s a creator. I think he doesn’t get enough credit for how good of a passer he is," Staley said. "We just have so much respect for how he throws the football too. He’s a very powerful guy, can really drive the football, can throw it off platform. But I think as just a pure passer he does not get enough credit for how good of a thrower of the football that he is.”
Mayfield had a rough week against the Vikings and whether the root of the problem stems from a shoulder injury or, as he and his coaches claim, just bad play, he now has to bounce back from that outing.
In the first two games of this season, Mayfield recorded an off-target rate of 8%, the second best in the league, according to ESPN's Jake Trotter. The last two games, after he injured his shoulder, Mayfield recorded an off-target rate of 32%, last in the league.
According to @ESPNStatsInfo, Baker Mayfield’s off-target rate the first two games was 8% (2nd best in the NFL). The last two games (w/ the shoulder injury) his off-target rate is 32% (which ranks last in the league). #Browns— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 8, 2021
Mayfield has a big recovery to make, but he's shown he can do it before—last season he built himself back up after a terrible outing against the Steelers in Week 6 and went on to lead the Browns to their first playoff appearance in 17 seasons and their first playoff win in 26 years.
That ability to bounce back is something Staley has taken note of.
“I think the stats that quarterbacks are measured by, he’s got really good stats, which is wins and losses and taking that team to the playoffs last year and he’s a really exciting player. He can really create offense for you when there’s not a lot of offense to be had," Staley said. "I think he’s a real engine for an offense."
As Staley and his Chargers prepare to take on the Browns, they'll be looking for Mayfield to make that leap back, just as Browns fans who have held their confidence in the franchise quarterback will be doing too.
"I think when you trace it back to wherever he’s been—high school, college and now—he’s affected his teams in a positive way and I think that he’s been a fantastic player for them and that’s a guy that we respect a lot," Staley said.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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