Quarterback Baker Mayfield proved to be exactly what we thought he’d run in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Too short, too slow, and too cocky.
With Mayfield’s era in Cleveland ending with Brown trading him against the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday, the No. 1 overall pick leaves a legacy of inconsistency.
Every day with Mayfield was a rollercoaster ride. He overcame his shortcomings as a rookie and into the second half of the 2020 season. He pulled the franchise off the 1-31 cliff, which included the 0-16 defeat that established former General Manager John Dorsey to pick the Heisman Award winner from Oklahoma.
In 2020, Mayfield’s Browns made their first appearance in a playoff since 2002 and scored their first post-season win since January 1, 1995.
The case against Baker Mayfield
But 1½ good seasons out of four don’t make a quarterback the franchise. There were too many failed fourth-quarter winning attempts, too many passes to compare, too few wins with so much talent around him.
Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam opted for a dramatic promotion in a controversial trade for Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson on March 18 despite 22 pending civil lawsuits against the quarterback for alleged sexual misconduct during massage appointments. That number has reached 24, although 20 have since been settled.
Mayfield went 30-31 (including the playoffs) with Brown. Watson, a three-time Pro Bowl pick, was 28-25 with the Texans with a less talented backing team.
The league met Mayfield in 2021, when he attempted to play through a complete tear in his left shoulder that he suffered in Week 2. Due to poor physical abilities due to multiple injuries, Mayfield struggled. Many of his passes sailed high, and his receivers and tight ends weren’t willing to put their bodies in harm’s way to go up and get it.
Coming into the draft, Mayfield measured 6ft, which was proven when he didn’t have the ability to escape defenders at the next level.
Browns coach Kevin Stefansky and general manager Andrew Berry found out that Mayfield wasn’t Drew Bryce, a 13-time Bowler pro for the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints despite his 6-foot-6 stature. Mayfield was no athletic equal to the 5-foot-11 Russell Wilson, who relied on the running ability to score a record 104-53-1 as a start at the Seattle Seahawks before moving to the Denver Broncos in March. A third-round pick, Wilson ran a 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds in the 2012 NFL Combine; Mayfield scored 4.84.
Baker Mayfield held a limit on his commercial market
But Mayfield’s physical limitations weren’t the only reason he became the quarterback, and no one wanted him, just like most of the other 29 players before him at Cleveland.
This is largely due to Mayfield’s guaranteed salary of $18.858 million in 2022. In a trade with Carolina, which is awaiting a physical release, Brown agreed to pay about $10.5 million of that and received a conditional draft in the fifth round in 2024.
But salary wasn’t the only obstacle in finding a business partner. Mayfield’s lack of leadership, and the arrogance and ego that piqued Dorsey’s curiosity, didn’t play well in Brown’s locker room.
Coming into the 2018 draft, the biggest questions about Mayfield were about his maturity. His time in Oklahoma included his arrest on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, absconding, and flag raising in Ohio, and a crotch-grabbing incident in Kansas.
Dorsey put those aside, and threw away the gambling in which Mayfield would grow.
We are still waiting.
After last season, Brown’s players have spoken out, saying their unit and siblings are not strong enough.
“I think the leaders of this team separated offense from defense — not in a bad way, but the defense is worried about the defense, and the attack is worried about the offense. Maybe we should go ahead and try to network a little bit more together,” John Johnson III said of safety.
Rookie full back Jeremiah Osu Kuramoah said the atmosphere was not as close as it was at Notre Dame.
“It’s something I’d really like to see is just this team to be a team and brothers to be brothers, just the unit that has to be a unit,” Osoo Kuramoah said in January.
The middle player sets the tone and lays the foundation for that bond, even if others have a strong voice.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Brown wanted “what they consider an adult” in the quarterback, although Jimmy Haslam denied the permit came from ownership.
Some of his teammates may have held the broken relationship with receiver Odell Beckham Jr. against Mayfield, as three-time Pro Bowler Beckham made his way out of Cleveland in early November. This may be a bigger factor than Mayfield’s poor performance as the defense have played their best in their last seven games.
Mayfield, who was on the hunt for a new team after the Watson deal and the signings of quarterbacks Jacobi Brissett and Josh Dobbs, did himself no favors in terms of convincing potential employers that he could be a team-building leader with his comments on “Hey Neva you know: You know what I mean?” Audio notation.
“It’s a huge fight inside the locker room of my position as a quarterback,” Mayfield said on the podcast. “Some of these guys don’t play the game because they love it, they play it for a retirement fund. They make tons of a million dollars and don’t care about winning.
“How can I get the best out of people who make a lot of money? I can always motivate people when we’re not making money. That was easy. I can face them. I can do all that… You’re trying to get to that level.”
It turns out there was a validity period when Dorsey spoke of Mayfield as the “Piper Piper” that his Oklahoma colleagues followed. Grabbing his crotch, and flag-planting, Bragadosio fell with Brown, despite the public support he received from some of them.
Beckham ran off to the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams and silenced his close friend and fellow Brown Receiver Jarvis Landry afterward probably painted a more accurate picture.
Given what is expected of the first-choice midfielder overall, Mayfield was a huge disappointment. These picks are supposed to be the cornerstone of the franchise for a decade or more, the one who puts his team into playoffs each season. If we hadn’t seen the likes of Johnny Manzel, Mayfield might be seen as a bust, but ending the 17-year drought takes that label out of the equation.
But in terms of talent surrounding Mayfield, he hasn’t been backed like any of the other 29 before him. One of the best offensive lines in the league. The best back players in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Pro Bowl receivers at Beckham and Landry. Defense leader in the three-time Pro Bowl championship finisher Miles Jarrett. He closed the corner in Pro Bowler Denzel Ward twice, the fourth overall pick in 2018 who was recently rewarded with the kind of contract extension Mayfield failed to earn.
Four coaches (including caretaker Greg Williams) in four years haven’t helped Mayfield, but that excuse can’t cover the flaws in his game and in his character in the locker room.
How great mayfield prices in the future will be. Apparently, Haslams and Berry have no fear that Brown will face him in the Super Bowl. The two teams will meet in the season opener in Carolina on September 11th.
Mayfield may turn into Andy Dalton, a decent quarterback who could take a team to the playoffs, but he’s not elite enough to win the Lombardy Cup. There’s also the possibility that Mayfield may be just another NFL backup as many have lined up under the Browns.
It’s not a bad life, as Derek Anderson and Colt McCoy testify. For Mayfield, accepting that will require some growth – personally, not physically.