In case you haven’t seen it, Baker Mayfield was mic’d up for the Cleveland Browns‘ recent win over the Atlanta Falcons. While the result is extremely entertaining, one thing in particular stands out when watching it.
That’s a player attempting to avoid his fifth straight loss. A player who saw his head coach and offensive coordinator feud for the first three months of his NFL career, then watched both get fired eight weeks into the season. A player who, in the time since, has been tasked with making sure this season doesn’t become a waste.
It also serves as proof Mayfield can do something many failed quarterbacks before him never could – handle the chaos this franchise has become known for.
It’s sad how important it was for the team to consider this coming into the draft. It’s also a glaring indictment of how poorly the Browns franchise has been run since 1999. Still, when it came to Cleveland, Mayfield’s mental strength was just as important as any other attribute he brought to the table.
Again, consider what he’s already had to endure in a little over half a season. Coaches have been fired. Losses have come more frequently than what he experienced in college, many have been in gut-punching fashion. He’s seen teammates traded or cut hours before Sunday kickoff.
If any of this has affected him, he sure isn’t showing it. Instead, he’s improving in the wake of turmoil. In the two games since the Browns fired Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, Mayfield has completed 74% of his passes, throwing for 519 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception.
On top of this, he’s maintained his trademark fiery confidence, continuing to motivate his teammates even though he has every excuse to call this a failed season and just play out the string.
Think about that when you consider how previous Browns quarterbacks fared when the going got tough.
Last year, as his head coach bashed and benched him on a routine basis, DeShone Kizer significantly regressed. By the end of the season, he looked like a shell of a human being, leaving many to wonder if he’d ever recover from the emotional damage he endured during the winless season.
Brian Hoyer began calling out teammates for not stepping up as his grip on the starting gig weakened late in the 2014 season. Johnny Manziel didn’t have the mental strength to handle life in the NFL in general, much less with the Browns.
Essentially, most Browns QBs have been swallowed by the toxicity as opposed to enduring it. We really haven’t seen any Cleveland quarterback improve while his surrounding environment became more tumultuous.
Not until Mayfield arrived, that is.
It just goes to show how crucial it was for the Browns to ensure the quarterback they drafted could handle a situation like this. Had they instead picked someone who they didn’t trust in dire times, it could’ve been yet another QB misfire for a franchise which has cornered the market on such a thing.
This isn’t to say someone like Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen wouldn’t be able to survive this situation as well as Mayfield has. However, if there was even a hint of doubt, if they felt Darnold was too young, if they felt Rosen would start to rock the boat, drafting either player regardless could’ve been detrimental.
Chaos has been trending with the Browns for almost two decades now. While steps are currently being taken to change this, the potential for more turmoil was present when the Browns prepared for this year’s draft. With that in mind, they had to pick a quarterback with enough resolve to not only endure it, but to continue playing well despite it.
At the moment, it sure looks like Mayfield fits that bill to a T.