I recently saw a poll on twitter asking the following:
Which 3rd Year QB is under the most pressure heading into the 2020 season?
- Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills
- Sam Darnold – NY Jets
- Baker Mayfield – Cleveland Browns
I mentioned this poll to my podcast partner Andy Jardine and his response was Josh Allen. Now I am not going to give Andy’s thoughts on this subject as we will discuss on our next podcast, but I am going to give my thoughts on this subject ahead of time.
The Buffalo Bills have spent the last two years surrounding Josh with the talent to be successful in the NFL, and in 2019 he delivered taking the Bills to the Playoffs. Please keep in mind that he did this in his 2nd year in the league and with the New England Patriots (with Tom Brady) in the division. He led the Bills to a 10-6 record, and really worked hard to change the way he played the position from his rookie season. It was not always easy for me to watch as I felt they were restricting his decision making too much as in 2018, Josh would use his legs to make first downs or to buy time for his receivers downfield. In his rookie season, he rushed for 631 yards and 8 Touchdowns over 12 games, while in 2019 his totals were 510 yards and 9 Touchdowns over 16 games. His pass completion percentage increased from 52.8% to 58.8% which by no means is where this stat needs to be but he did show improvement over the year. Like I said he led the Bills to the playoffs and the biggest problem with the playoff game against Houston is that, he started showing signs of his rookie season trying to accomplish everything on his own. This team still was lacking a big time wide receiver and consistency in the running game, though Brandon Beane addressed those needs this offseason. In my opinion Josh Allen has proved he is the guy in Buffalo and Playoffs are still the expectation in 2020 but his success this year will not have a factor on whether or not he is future in Buffalo. Should Josh start out the 2020 season with a few wins out of the gate, Beane should start negotiations with his agent before the season is through on a long term deal.
Sam had a very tough 2019 season in my opinion, from a statics perspective his year was not that bad but he definitely had some leadership issues throughout. The battle with mono was a very strange situation not only with the fact, he was not around the team but how the team handled the issue and then there was the “Seeing Ghosts” incident against the Patriot. One of the biggest issues for Sam is the challenge of learning to be an NFL Quarterback while having Adam Gase as a coach and frankly the management of Jets. Jets fans will be cheering for Darnold heading into 2020 but if the Jets fail to have a winning record, especially with Tom Brady officially out of the division, they will be very quick to jump ship and wait for the next young QB to come along. So does Darnold have pressure heading into 2020? For sure and the Jets did a good job in the offseason bringing weapons in to help Sam improve on his performance from last year.
Now this is a real interesting situation, here is a QB that had a outstanding Rookie season under two different head coaches, yet his second season was far from great and out of all the QB’s drafted in 2018 he had the biggest sign of regression. His Passing % and Passing Touchdowns went down in 2019 and his interceptions went up to 21, behind Winston who is now a 3rd string QB with the Saints. Baker is now preparing for his 3rd head coach in his 3 years and in my opinion has to carry some of that responsibility with the changes in management as “Wins” keep a coaches job and the QB is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to this subject. There are plenty of rumors that OBJ was not happy in Cleveland last year and was looking to get out and although all the rumors have been down played, where there is smoke there is fire somewhere. Heading into the 2019 season Baker did more commercials than some of the big names in the NFL. Just how focused was he heading into the season is up for debate. Baker was the first pick overall in 2018 and one of his biggest attributes was his Moxie and his ability to lead a locker room, and yet the entire talk of the division if not the NFL surrounds Lamar Jackson with Baltimore, who had a less talented offence than the Browns on paper heading into the season, as well was the 32nd pick overall. Lamar is about to be on the Madden 2021 EA Sports Cover and that again adds to the pressure on a first round draft pick. My podcast partner Andy (Who is a Browns fan), once stated that Baker was ahead of this entire class and was the franchise QB the Browns had been seeking for years. Well in my opinion, if Baker does not turn around the success of the Browns in 2020, he will start being called a first pick bust like many QB’s before him. To add to that pressure, he not only has to deal with Lamar, but Big Ben and now the new 1st overall pick Joe Burrow with the Bengals.
So as I take the time to review the 3 QB’s above there is no question in my mind that the most pressure is on Baker Mayfield heading into the 2020 season. He needs to show the football world that he was the right choice as the first round pick and get the Browns into the playoffs. Anything less with a new GM and Head Coach in Cleveland could result in the Browns looking for other options at QB for the future.