After four up-and-down but frustrating seasons with the Cleveland Browns, quarterback Baker Mayfield is now officially a member of the Carolina Panthers after getting traded there.
He had a few good moments in Cleveland, but by and large, the disappointing and bad moments outnumbered the good ones.
Now Mayfield will have to salvage his image, value and career in a situation that may not be fully hospitable to someone like him who needs to be in a healthy, developmental environment.
Although Browns fans may still feel animosity towards him, they also need to acknowledge that Mayfield is unquestionably the best QB the franchise has had since its modern iteration opened for business in 1999.
As flawed as he is, it’s not even a question.
Mayfield Was The First Promising QB Cleveland Had In A Long Time
It is no secret that the Browns have been a second-rate franchise for decades and that only recently have they begun to build a roster that has had any chance of being competitive.
When the current Browns franchise was founded in 1999, a few years after Art Modell became public enemy No. 1 for moving the original version to Baltimore, it had to make do with Tim Couch under center.
Couch was the top pick in the NFL draft that year, after three stellar seasons with the University of Kentucky Wildcats that saw him set several NCAA records.
But in five seasons in Cleveland, he failed to live up to expectations, finishing his career with an anemic 75.1 passer rating while finishing with more interceptions (67) than touchdowns (64).
For the next 15 seasons, the team had a revolving door at QB, starting with Kelly Holcomb and ending with DeShone Kizer, a man who led the NFL in interceptions during his lone year with the team in 2017.
Kizer’s play was so miserable that year that he actually threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.
For the first 19 seasons of the current iteration of the Browns, they only had one season in which they enjoyed the services of a Pro Bowl QB: 2007, when Derek Anderson threw for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns.
But when Mayfield broke onto the scene, he instantly showed off his potential by notching 27 touchdowns, setting a new NFL rookie record.
Two seasons later, he connected on 26 touchdown passes against just eight interceptions while leading the Browns to its first win in the postseason since the 1994 season.
Baker Mayfield 2020 mixtape pic.twitter.com/FTUj0sRSTG
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) July 19, 2021
No other QB has even come close to that while wearing a Browns uniform.
Someone Will Likely Surpass Mayfield Not Too Long From Now
Now that Deshaun Watson is going to be under center for Cleveland, it will have its most talented QB since at least Bernie Kosar.
Some may not consider Watson a truly elite signal-caller, but at worst, he is on the second tier at that position along with men such as Joe Burrow, Derek Carr and possibly Matthew Stafford (although Stafford may not qualify as a truly elite QB).
Let’s ride 🔥🔥🔥 @deshaunwatson pic.twitter.com/PW2k8vme2H
— connor (@C__216) July 7, 2022
Once the former Houston Texan serves his likely suspension, he will have the opportunity to carry a young, ascendant Browns team to the playoffs.
If he makes that into a habit while delivering multiple playoff wins and at least getting them to one AFC Championship Game, perhaps he can make a name for himself in the annals of franchise history, but only if fans end up forgiving him for his sexual misconduct allegations.
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