After months of trying, the Cleveland Browns finally unloaded troubled quarterback Baker Mayfield, sending him to the Carolina Panthers for a low draft pick, and the feeling in The Land seems to be “good riddance.”
Mayfield certainly has talent, and one has to hope that he’ll eventually find an environment that will allow him to mature and flourish.
He had some good moments in Cleveland, such as his auspicious rookie season and the 2020 campaign, but by and large, frustration seemed to be the predominant emotion among fans when it came to him.
He has shown his frustration in plain view at times, and on a couple of occasions, he has even made some inappropriate gestures during games.
Now, a report by Jason Lloyd of The Athletic has detailed some of the incidents involving Mayfield off the field.
According to Lloyd:
“Mayfield was widely viewed as childish and immature. His behavior annoyed teammates and divided the locker room. He was often difficult to coach.”
Mayfield Was Seen As Something Of A Toxic Influence
When the University of Oklahoma product came to Cleveland by virtue of the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, there was hope that the beleaguered franchise had finally found its star quarterback.
Mayfield threw for a then-NFL rookie record 27 touchdown passes and finished second in the Offensive Rookie of the Year running, and when Cleveland brought in star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. the following year, it looked like it was finally building a winner.
There was some thinking that, as Lloyd put it in his article, Mayfield would be “Cleveland’s new LeBron [James].”
Instead, Mayfield became more like the second coming of Johnny Manziel.
Lloyd talked specifically about the problems between him and head coach Kevin Stefanski.
“Mayfield and Stefanski were terrific dance partners in 2020, guiding the Browns to the postseason and the team’s only playoff win of the new era,” wrote Lloyd. “Stefanski spent their first season together trying hard to get Mayfield comfortable early in games with simple pitch-and-catch routes before getting more aggressive as the game progressed. It worked well for a while, but the relationship soured like so many others involving Mayfield.
“By the time it was over, there was a lack of trust on both sides. Mayfield was annoyed Stefanski missed a meeting the day after the Browns were thrashed by the Patriots and thought the play-caller should attend every session. Stefanski was absent because he was meeting instead with Myles Garrett, according to a source, after Garrett lashed out to the media postgame over the coaching staff’s lack of adjustments at New England.
“In one of those ‘careful what you wish for’ moments, Stefanski never missed another meeting and privately shined a glaring spotlight on his quarterback during film sessions from that day forward.”
Mayfield has looked like a very solid or even good QB at times over his four pro seasons, but he is mistake-prone, and that tendency became magnified in crunch time, something that cannot be attributed to his shoulder injury.
“In a league built for close finishes, Mayfield had a passer rating of 17.8 in the final four minutes of games last season when the Browns trailed by one possession or less. For those insisting it was the shoulder injury hindering him, Mayfield’s career passer rating was 51.1 under the same parameters — 59th in the NFL. His 19 career interceptions in fourth quarters are the second-most in the league since 2018.”
Everything seemed to come to a head in Week 17 at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“By the end of last season, however, it was clear Stefanski had lost faith in his quarterback. Mayfield lost confidence in himself and what he was seeing and therefore his head coach could no longer trust him. Mayfield was irate by the protection calls in his final game at Pittsburgh when he was sacked nine times and had five passes batted down at the line. He asked out loud why there was no help on the edge for rookie tackle James Hudson, who was overwhelmed by T.J. Watt and a Steelers pass rush that battered Mayfield for four quarters.
“There was an eerie feeling surrounding that night. Watching it live, it felt like Mayfield’s final game as a member of the Browns, and ultimately it was. It looked from the press box like the Browns were setting up Mayfield to fail, almost deliberately delivering him a message. The team privately felt like Mayfield had plenty of chances to get rid of the ball and part of his problems that night were systemic to his issues throughout the season: a lack of confidence and an inability to trust what he saw.”
Getting sacked nine times in an NFL game is something that seemingly only happens when playing Madden – if one is terrible at the game.
Despite Mayfield’s talent, perhaps him getting traded will be addition by subtraction for the Browns.
Cleveland May Not Have Been The Right Situation For A Player Like Mayfield
Someone such as Mayfield who is immature, mercurial and possibly arrogant needs to be in a team culture that values accountability, positivity and growth while providing him with a coaching staff and perhaps a mentor he will be receptive to.
It’s possible that Mayfield simply cannot flourish in any situation due to being too flawed and troubled, but if there is a healthy situation for him, it wasn’t the Browns.
The franchise has been in turmoil ever since it was restarted in 1999 following Art Modell moving its original iteration to Baltimore, and even though it is starting to build what looks like a competitive team on paper, winning cultures take time to develop.
The Panthers do not seem to have that winning culture, but at least there Mayfield won’t have to deal with a long-frustrated fan base, nor will he have the expectation of taking teammates such as Beckham, Nick Chubb or Jarvis Landry to the playoffs.
Perhaps Mayfield will be able to simply play and regain his composure, and if he does well and behaves himself, he could attract a better situation next spring.