When Baker Mayfield was traded by the Cleveland Browns to the Carolina Panthers a few weeks ago, fans were looking forward to a Week 1 contest between the two teams.
But that matchup has now lost its luster after the decision to suspend Deshaun Watson for the first six games of the regular season.
Mayfield vs Watson would’ve been an interesting grudge match, at least for Mayfield, but he insists that he doesn’t care about the fact that Watson won’t be under center for Cleveland during Week 1.
No matter what you think of him, Baker Mayfield's a class act. #browns #Panthers pic.twitter.com/dkiXPkgcLx
— Jadon (@Flee2daCleve) August 1, 2022
“That, honestly, is none of my business,” Mayfield said. “I don’t play against the other quarterback. It’s the most cliché thing to say, but that’s just the truth. When it comes down to it, I’m game-planning against their defense. And if I’m playing or not, I’m trying to help this team win. And that’s my mindset going into it. So I gotta keep getting better.
“But I’m not focused about Week 1 right now. … We’ll handle that when it comes, but for now it’s about getting the Panthers better, and our offense continuing to get better as well.”
By deflecting the question and showing no interest in playing against his successor, Mayfield is showing the type of maturity he didn’t really show when he was in The Land.
Mayfield Has A Shot At Resurrecting His Career And Reputation
While he was with the Browns the past four seasons, Mayfield has moments of brilliance and promise scattered among longer periods of disappointing or even ugly play.
He has been turnover and mistake-prone, as he committed 21 interceptions in his second season and 13 in 14 games last year, and he has unfortunately made a habit of making costly mistakes in fourth quarters and overtimes.
Mayfield has also been mercurial, and he hasn’t been the easiest QB to coach, especially in 2021 when he reportedly had a rift with head coach Kevin Stefanski.
But of course, there were highlights that got Browns fans excited and convinced them that he could perhaps be the team’s franchise QB for years to come.
The most notable one came in the 2020 playoffs when Mayfield led the team to its first postseason victory since the 1994 season, versus the Pittsburgh Steelers of all teams.
It wasn’t exactly easy, but he got it done.
In 2020, Baker Mayfield played with badly bruised ribs, Jarvis Landry was playing with a broken rib, and Nick Chubb suffered a MCL Sprain and came back like he was never injured. Despite these injuries, they helped end the 18 year playoff drought. There is no quit in this team. pic.twitter.com/JZgnDzsUXU
— HEELBERY (@JohnHillbery) April 1, 2021
Even with all his flaws, Mayfield was easily the most talented signal-caller the Browns had possessed in a very long time, and one of the more talented QBs in franchise history.
But of course, talent doesn’t automatically translate to results, and Mayfield just didn’t get enough results to please management.
Now, he is getting to work in a new environment.
Will Mayfield Even Be Starting Himself In Week 1?
What Mayfield said about not caring that Watson won’t be on the other side in Week 1 could be moot anyway.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has made it clear that the starting QB job will be an open competition between Mayfield, incumbent Sam Darnold and rookie Matt Corral.
If the former Browns signal-caller doesn’t win the starting job for Carolina, it will be another big blow to his reputation around the NFL.
He is entering the final year of his contract, and a second-string job this season will likely dissuade other teams from expressing interest in him next spring during free agency, let alone dissuade the Panthers from keeping him.
Pardon the cliche, but this is the start of the rest of Mayfield’s football life.
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