Why more attention should be paid to what the young quarterback does on the field than off it
Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield is just in his second professional season. However, he has already developed quite a reputation for his outspoken personality, which has made him quite the polarizing figure to both the media and fans and resulted in significant criticism. While he may not be everyone’s cup of tea, a better approach would be cutting him some slack and seeing where he lets his talent take him before typecasting him.
Mayfield went 6–7 in 13 starts last year but threw for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns, against 14 picks. These were excellent numbers for a rookie that did nothing to disparage his status as the first overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft.
It’s been a tougher go in 2019, as he is 4–6 in his first 10 starts, with 2,394 passing yards and a 11/12 TD/Interception ratio; while his QB Rating has fallen from 93.7 to 76.8.
While Cleveland has struggled to reach .500, their quarterback has made consistent news since joining the team with various spats and remarks. He’s had documented beefs with reporter Tony Grossi, wide receiver Antonio Brown, former NFL coach Rex Ryan, San Francisco 49ers rookie Nick Bosa and sports talk show host Colin Cowherd. His insistence in always responding is what not only manufactured his reputation, but also helps fuel his competitiveness on the field.
If Mayfield was a 10-year veteran, his frequent verbal and online sparring might be more alarming. However, the simple fact is that he is still just 24 years old.
While it can also hurt him, someone as passionate as Mayfield can’t help but be a leader, which he has shown during his short time with the Browns. Just recently, he was non-surprisingly outspoken about teammate Myles Garrett and the skirmish he was involved in with the Pittsburgh Steelers, which resulted in an indefinite suspension for the defensive end. The quarterback was unequivocal in condemning the melee. “It’s inexcusable. I don’t care, rivalry or not, we can’t do that. That’s kind of the history of what’s been going on here lately, hurting yourself… That’s inexcusable. He knows that. Well, I hope he does now. It’s tough. We’ll see.”
Although Mayfield was given a new shiny toy when the team traded for superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. this past offseason, the pair haven’t clicked yet — with just 692 yards and a lone touchdown to show for their collaboration. Cleveland’s offensive line hasn’t been much help, as they have lagged back in the pack in overall effectiveness. When compared against the units of other teams.
The good news is that Mayfield appears to be figuring out his challenges. He has thrown five touchdowns and no picks in his last three games — which have been three of his best games of the season. Getting improved play from his line and on a better wavelength with Beckham are not huge asks and both have a good probability of occurring sooner rather than later.
The loss of Garrett for the foreseeable future will be difficult, but perhaps encourage the young quarterback to step up his game even more. In Beckham, he has a dream partner that could help him immensely in advancing his career and production. In the meantime, give Mayfield a break and look past some of the distractions that have been undeservedly given more press than his play.