One of the most highly-anticipated games for the 2018 season was Week 17 in Miami. The Dolphins were on a mission to start off their playoff run with an impressive victory, but they ultimately fell short and had to wait until next year. How will this loss affect expectations going forward?
Baker Mayfield, the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, has never lacked confidence. That’s what helped him win the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma, and it’s what made him the Browns’ No. 1 overall decision in the 2018 NFL Draft so interesting.
In the NFL, you must have confidence, but you must also have the ability to back it up. Talking the talk isn’t enough among the world’s finest football players. It’s also necessary for you to stroll it.
Mayfield’s recent statements must be worrying for Cleveland because of this. Will he be able to pay the cheque that his tongue has just written?
Baker Mayfield is getting one final chance with the Cleveland Browns.
The Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 stands on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of their game against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium | Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Mayfield has a lot of positive attributes as a starting quarterback.
He’s tough as nails and will play through pain if necessary. This past season, he demonstrated it in a huge manner, and a quarterback’s leadership doesn’t go ignored in a locker room.
On the football field, he also has a propensity for making plays. You don’t win the Heisman Trophy and get drafted first overall in the NFL draft because you lack skill. Mayfield has a high degree of skill in the game.
His consistency is the main concern.
In his four seasons with the Browns, Mayfield has thrown for 14,125 yards and 92 touchdowns, but he’s also thrown 56 interceptions and has a career QBR of 51.6, which is below average.
If we were talking about a mid-round selection or a career backup turned starter, those figures would be acceptable, particularly in terms of leadership. Are they, though, the kinds of stats you’d expect from a first-round pick? Are these the kinds of stats a quarterback expected to turn around a struggling organization would post?
The answer to that question is a resounding negative, but it won’t stop the Browns from extending Mayfield’s deal for another year. However, this has prevented them from granting Mayifled an extension, which is revealing.
According to ESPN, Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry said of Mayfield, “We’ve been with Baker for a long time — we know his work ethic, we know his desire, we’ve seen him [be] a terrific passer in this league, and we’re looking forward to him getting healthy and continuing to progress.”
Mayfield is putting himself in a position to underperform in 2022.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 warms up before a game against the Minnesota Vikings | Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
The Browns have no qualms about giving Mayfield one final chance. They did, after all, only a few months earlier invest the first overall selection in him. It makes sense to give him a “prove it” season before re-signing him or moving on and starting again in 2022.
The trouble is that Mayfield, who is never short on self-assurance, seems to be setting himself up for failure. It’s one thing to trust in yourself and your ability, and another to go above and beyond to meet Cleveland’s lofty expectations. It’s another thing entirely to just speak for the purpose of talking and come off as arrogant, if not completely ridiculous.
Talking about coming back for his “last chance” season, Mayfield told the media that “he’s never been more motivated,” specifically talking about proving his doubters wrong. He then dropped this line, which will surely come back to haunt him.
“When we go 17-0 next year, I’ll plant the flag,” Mayfield added.
Can a quarterback who is clearly ordinary lead the Browns to victory?
The Cleveland Browns’ Baker Mayfield #6 takes against the Houston Texans at FirstEnergy Stadium | Getty Images/Gregory Shamus
Mayfield’s statements on 2022 include some exaggeration; there has to be. With that stated, the statement’s meaning is obvious. Mayfield expects to make a complete recovery and lead the Browns to victory in 2022.
A 17-0 season is perhaps unrealistic, but it seems like he’s setting himself up for a pink slip if the Browns don’t make the playoffs in 2022.
To be fair to Mayfield, it’s possible that’s the case anyhow, so why not go out on a high note?
There’s really not much Mayfield can do to alter people’s minds about him until he’s in the MVP race or makes the Super Bowl. He has a bombastic style that can get the job done in the right circumstances, but he’s also prone to injury and making major blunders, which does not speak well for his long-term future as a franchise quarterback.
Mayfield may be best used if he is protected by a powerful rushing game and an exceptional defense. Cleveland has attempted to construct a team around him during the last several seasons, and on paper, it seems to be a good idea for next season.
Is that the sort of quarterback you pay a lot of money to in the long run?
Mayfield will be looking for a big-money contract extension if he performs well in 2022. In 2023 and beyond, Cleveland could accomplish a lot with the money he wants while still finding a good quarterback who can hand the ball off, execute play-action throws, and rely on a strong defense.
If Mayfield is just that, with a dash of arrogance thrown in for good measure, Cleveland can do better in the long run.
I have to say the idea of Baker Mayfield one day winning a Super Bowl in CLE — and Buckeye/#Browns fans not being able to enjoy it because they hate him for the flag plant — makes me happy. It’s just like @Cavs fans who couldn’t enjoy 2016 because they hated LeBron. pic.twitter.com/qctHjxjGxH
— Ed Greenberger (@EdGreenberger) December 9, 2021
After a spectacular victory in 2017, Mayfield planted the Oklahoma flag on Ohio State’s emblem, it seemed like the start of something big for the quarterback, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy and be the No. 1 overall pick in Cleveland.
Any mention of planting flags nowadays seems to be a desperate harkening back to a time when Mayfield’s fortunes were considerably brighter. That September night in Columbus, he was on the ascend. Going into his last season in Cleveland, he looks to be moving in the other way.
Overpromise and underdeliver is a classic example of overpromising and underdelivering. If the Browns’ season goes south once again, it will be the tale of Mayfield’s last year in Cleveland.
ESPN and Pro Football Reference provided the statistics.