The Cleveland Browns have real Super Bowl aspirations in 2021.
That means everyone needs to be at full strength, with Baker Mayfield leading the way as the star of the show on offense.
To follow a current trend, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has opted to bench his starter for Week 1 of the preseason.
#Browns backup QB Case Keenum will start Saturday night in Jacksonville. Baker Mayfield will not play. Keenum had a nice scrimmage on Sunday, throwing TD passes on both of his two-minute opportunities vs. the 1st team defense
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) August 11, 2021
This comes as no surprise and shows how the Browns have indeed taken that next step into being a competitive team.
Nothing To Prove
The entire NFL went without a preseason in 2020 and that led to Mayfield’s squad going 11-5.
Baker Mayfield on whether he cares if extension negotiations linger into the season: “I’m not doing the negotiations so quite frankly I don’t give a damn. I’m worried about winning…” pic.twitter.com/OynrmhzCcz
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) August 8, 2021
Stefanski knows what his quarterback can do and it makes no sense to risk injury, especially against a Jacksonville Jaguars team looking to make a statement Saturday.
One can expect Urban Meyer to coach the game like it counts.
So the team is staying safe and allowing Mayfield to just hang on the sidelines.
With the regular season expanding to 17 games, health becomes that much more in focus.
A quarterback who is awful at the start of the season due to the lack of preseason reps probably isn’t that good in the first place.
That is why we are seeing contending teams outright say the starting quarterback is out this month.
There is also a benefit to this as backup quarterbacks will get first-team experience.
That is always valuable and for the Browns, veteran Case Keenum will get a chance to stay fresh in the offense in August.
Other teams in this situation, such as the Indianapolis Colts, get to see what some unproven backups can do.
A New Culture
Browns fans have eaten up preseason football in the past, the same way they do with training camp and everything leading up to the actual games.
But a new culture has been born and Stefanski isn’t trying to be tough to his players or prove any points.
He clearly is just focused on winning and that means the preseason in Cleveland will be about filling out the back-end of the roster.
This is a weird shift for Browns fans, but a good one.
After two decades of quarterback drama, there is a player in place who is now set to land a massive multi-year extension.
He must be protected at all costs for the team to succeed and an actual competent coach in Stefanski is in place as well who knows this to be true.
This is all great news for Browns fans, who now just need to be a bit more patient before seeing the team at full strength on Sundays.