The Cleveland Browns absolutely embarrassed themselves on national television in Monday night's primetime 26-14 defeat at the hands of their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers. The loss officially confirmed that the Browns will finish the 2021 campaign below .500, representing an extremely disappointing follow-up to last season's playoff success. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield turned in yet another truly abysmal performance, completing just 16-of-38 passing attempts for 185 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Mayfield was sacked an astounding nine times throughout the contest, putting a bow on what was truly a miserable night for himself and his lackluster Browns. A plethora of questions have emerged regarding Mayfield's future with the Browns franchise and whether or not he's the appropriate signal-caller to usher them forward. Monday's performance unfortunately clouded the outcome of that massive impending decision. There is now an unwavering amount of legitimate doubt regarding whether or not Mayfield is capable of serving as Cleveland's quarterback in 2022 and beyond. The answer to that question is trending toward a resounding no more so than it is a yes. It’s somewhat of an unexpected development following last year’s successful campaign, but it’s a stark reminder that life comes at you fast in the NFL. Head coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed that Mayfield won't play in Sunday's finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. It means Mayfield has now officially wrapped up what is arguably his worst professional campaign. The former No. 1 overall selection completed just 60.53% of his passes (2% less than he completed last season), threw for a career-low 3,010 yards in 14 appearances, and threw five more interceptions (13) than he did a year ago (8) despite making two fewer appearances. Where Cleveland goes from here will be fascinating. General manager Andrew Berry decided to exercise the fifth-year option on Mayfield's rookie contract, meaning that Mayfield is under contract for the 2022 season at the acceptable figure of $18.8 million. Berry and the Browns have, however, been hesitant to make a sizable, long-term financial commitment to Mayfield despite his representation's wishes to secure an extension. The Browns will have alternative options in the offseason and may seek veteran competition or a young signal-caller worth grooming. We’re anticipating an offseason of musical chairs at the quarterback position, with talented players such as Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, and Russell Wilson potentially being on the move. Although it may be difficult to envision the Browns landing a star of that caliber, other serviceable options such as Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota may also be available. The 2022 NFL Draft may also present some tempting options. The Browns are currently slated to pick 13th overall, which could place them in the wheelhouse necessary to land a Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder, or Matt Corral. Mayfield will now undergo surgery in an attempt to heal ahead of a critical 2022 campaign that could ultimately determine his future. Mayfield's production has undeniably been hampered by a plethora of injuries including a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, an ailment he played through since initially suffering the injury in Week 2. Berry, Stefanski, and their trusted confidants must make an assessment regarding how much of Mayfield’s regression was a result of the injuries. Anything and everything is on the table when it comes to Mayfield and who will line up under center for the Browns in 2022 and beyond. It’s going to make for a captivating situation that Browns faithful will surely follow along with strong opinions and great intrigue.
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