New Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt is going to help 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield put his best foot forward this season.
“I have a belief and a philosophy of footwork, and it’s extremely important to me — [head coach] Kevin [Stefanski] as well,” Van Pelt said via the Beacon Journal. “I want the feet to be like Mozart and not like Metallica. With the footwork, it’s just a fluid motion. You’re really back there dancing through the pocket as you go through your progressions.”
As a rookie, Mayfield completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 3,725 yards, 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He struggled in 2019 and finished second-to-last in the league in completion percentage (59.4) and interceptions thrown (21).
“He’s obviously a skilled player, a talented player. I love the fire and the passion in his game. It’s our job as an offensive staff to help him and make him successful,” Van Pelt said. “The increase of interceptions, that’ll be something that’ll be a point of emphasis — making the right decisions, protecting the team and protecting the ball.”
Van Pelt has served as quarterbacks coach for the Bills, Buccaneers, Packers, and most recently, the Bengals. The former quarterback was drafted in the eighth round of the 1993 NFL Draft by the Steelers and played 11 years in the league.
After reviewing Mayfield’s tape, Van Pelt thinks proper footwork will be an integral part of succeeding in new head coach Stefanski’s system. The former Vikings offensive coordinator prefers his quarterbacks to play under center and likes to run play-action fakes and short-timed throws. The 24-year-old will have to re-learn to put his left foot forward as opposed to his right foot out of the shotgun.
“It helps in the three-step game, the quick game. There’s more rhythm. It’s not as robotic. It’s more fluid,” Van Pelt said. “It all starts with the feet. The feet never lie. They get you through your progressions. So just some of the ways that we’ll have him drop both from under center and in the [shot]gun will change slightly to help him.”
Van Pelt thinks the change is feasible but understands the difficulties of retraining the mind, especially under pressure.
“You work through it and you feel more comfortable with it, and then it becomes habit like anything else,” Van Pelt said. “Hopefully the muscle memory over the course of time won’t allow [regression to bad habits] to happen. That’s what we’re shooting for. But, yeah, it can happen. Yes, it does. It does early on.”