As much as the phrase "Super Bowl champion Nick Foles" flies in the face of the idea, the NFL is still a quarterback-driven league. Yup, 12 of the last 13 league MVPs and 16 of the last 22 No. 1 overall draft picks have been quarterbacks, after all. So when the Cleveland Browns brought in Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski to be their next head coach, the message was clear: His job is to be the guy who makes things work under center in The Land.
Writ large, we're ultimately going to judge his effectiveness on the job based on whether or not he turns Baker Mayfield into a legitimate gamer.
Mayfield, a Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma, headed to Cleveland as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. He showed flashes of his very real promise in his rookie campaign, but took a step back in 2019, throwing fewer touchdowns by comparison despite playing two additional games.
That's where Stefanski came in, a man who coached up Kirk Cousins in Minnesota to arguably his two best NFL seasons to date. And notably, the arsenal of weapons Mayfield has at his disposal are even more attractive than what Cousins had to work with in the Twin Cities. With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry out wide, and David Njoku and Austin Hooper at tight end, we're not far away from finding out just what Mayfield is made of -- as well as whether or not Stefanski is capable of reaching him like Lincoln Riley did at Oklahoma.
Mayfield turns 25 next week, so his NFL story remains very much unwritten. Head coaches, however, are resigned to accept a far shorter leash by comparison. The AFC North is perilous, but if Stefanski can't turn his quarterback's fortunes around and demonstrate progress, his first foray in a top job will be tarred by an inability to get a No. 1 pick to break through.
Fair or unfair, this is football. It's as simple as that.