QB Baker Mayfield (12.29.19)
On that last touchdown drive, you scrambled, got to the sidelines, spun off a guy, and gave it a little flex. Is it fair to say that’s what the game means to you? Can you run us through that little scenario?
“I love this game. I play it because it’s hard to play. It’s hard to have success, and it’s a challenge each play, each day, every game. It’s the process you have to enjoy — the ups and downs — a lot of that this year. With this game, obviously, nothing implied for playoffs or anything like that, it’s just a matter of us trying to come out and get a win and them doing the same thing.”
How disappointing was it to finish the season at 6-10, after what you guys had hoped to do?
“Yeah, the record was very disappointing. Very close on a lot of things, but that’s the most frustrating part that we didn’t make the changes and make the plays we needed to be in a better position. Very frustrating.”
Were you taken aback at all at how difficult it was for you in your second year?
“No. There’s always going to be ebbs and flows. You’re going to have a process, and it’s never going to come easy. You always have to push yourself and continue to strive to be better. There’s a lot of things that happened, and we faced a lot of adversity this year. This locker room stayed together, so I’m proud of that part of it. The execution part on the field is stuff that we just quite frankly have to be better at.”
Do you walk away from here feeling uncertain with what can happen with Freddie Kitchens, and if so how does that impact you?
“Like I said earlier in the week, it’s not my call. I know how I’m going to handle the offseason with whatever pieces we have come back, and get those guys ready, and attack it. It’s going to be a long ride, but a fun one. I can’t wait to get after it.”
There were so many expectations coming into this season, but what do you think was the biggest thing this team was lacking?
“Consistency and leadership. When adversity hits, we’ve got to have guys that step up and take charge. We really just have to be more consistent within games, and then consistent with our leadership. All those little things add up if you don’t have a team that knows how to fight through, doesn’t panic, and makes the plays they need to in critical moments.”
How do you feel you’re coming along in your role as a leader?
“It was a different year for me, going through it with some new pieces and trying to find my way. I definitely didn’t have it all figured out, and it’s been a process along the way, much like everything else this year. A lot of learning lessons — life lessons. For me, I feel like toward the back end of the year I’ve gotten better and come into my own with what I really need to be to push these guys and whatever we have in this locker room. I’m going to come back a different animal come spring time.”
Joel Bitonio said next season is “put up or shut up” time for you guys, and that it’s time for you guys to win. Do you agree with that?
“That comes from a place of frustration with Joel. He’s been here his whole career, and obviously the years past haven’t been the brightest of days. We’re all frustrated. We’re all frustrated about the losses and the things that we should have been better at. That’s where that comes from. I wouldn’t say it’s put up or shut up,’ it’s, ‘What are we going to do with what we have?’ Are we going to have a locker room full of guys that attack every day and are true pros and do their job consistently, or are we going to have another up-and-down year like we just had? We’ve got to learn from it. The guys that are here that we continue to keep have to learn from it, and whoever comes in here has to meet the standard we’re going to set.”
When you said you want to come back a different animal, is there one thing you’ve kind of zeroed in on that needs to change?
“Taking care of the ball. The amount of interceptions I had this year is, I think, more than I’ve had in the past two or three years combined. So it’s quite frankly embarrassing for me, and something I take pride in. I’m not happy with that, but there are a lot of things where I can look back on the film and point out exactly where I went wrong. That’s the good thing about it — it all can be fixed.”
If you have to adjust to a new coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new scheme, are you up for that challenge?
“I’m up for any challenge, always. It doesn’t matter to me what it is, I’ve got to do my job first and foremost. Like I said, that’s the main part about being quarterback for this franchise — taking care of my job, leading these guys, showing up every day and being the same person consistently. It doesn’t matter whoever is around here, and whatever locker room we have, and what guys I have surrounding me, I have to be the same person.”
If Freddie Kitchens does come back, would you be comfortable and confident that you guys can take the necessary jump?
“Absolutely. No doubt about that. That’s the frustrating part about it, is we know where we need to get better, we know where we went wrong, and (we know) the things we can put our finger on and point out. Like I said, it’s a process. It’s a lot of lessons that we had this year — not a lot of fun ones, but they’re lessons. If you take it the right way and you handle it the right way, that’s what good teams and great players do.”
Is your plan to get together with some of the receivers again in the offseason?
“Absolutely. Quicker than usual. Everybody’s got to take a step away for a little bit, but that’s absolutely necessary. I’m not saying you hit the ground running right away. You’ve got to give your body a break. Our guys now are a little banged up — it’s been a grueling year. We’ll get together when the time is right, and do it early and often.”
With Odell Beckham Jr., this season wasn’t what you wanted it to be. Can you guys still be magical together?
“Yeah. There’s been a consistent improvement in the areas we want to be better at, and the things we’ve talked about. For him to fight through his illness — he was throwing up on the sideline — I’m not sure if the TV caught that. That’s a guy who’s very misunderstood on the outside. I’m happy to have him here in our locker room, so our relationship is going to continue to grow. That’s the good part about it.”
You’re known as a leader, but as you continue to develop in that area, was it shocking to you that it became a little bit different this year?
“Yeah, it’s a little different when you compare college to the NFL. You’ve got recruits that come in, and they’re watching you on Saturdays because they’re playing high school football, and they come in and there’s a consistency. That’s who they look at from right away. In an NFL locker room, any time you involve money and a lot of pride and egos, it takes a lot for everybody to get here. Everybody has their own path, their own story, and it’s a hard road — the road less traveled. Everybody’s proud of that, so to be able to command a locker room consistently is not an easy task. That’s something I do pride myself on is having the respect of everybody, and I’ve got to continue that with whatever pieces we have.”
How do you address the interception problem that you mentioned?
“Timing and being precise is what it comes down to — being precise in our details. There’s going to be some interceptions, that’s just the nature of the game. But trying to eliminate the accidents and the ones you can really control is the biggest thing. Like I said, I can put my finger on a lot of them, and that’s the good part about it.”
What is it about Freddie Kitchens that allows you to have faith in him?
“He truly cares about his players, and putting them in the best position to win. It’s not an ego thing for him. He wants us to be successful, and we haven’t had the success we wanted, so everybody’s frustrated. A lot of the blame gets put everywhere, but it should be shared throughout this franchise, not just this locker room. That’s something we need to address, and whatever happens, happens. We’ll roll with the punches and attack next year.”