Baker is better than I thought

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Baker is better than I thought
August 25
14:09 2021

As we head into the 2021-22 NFL football season, I began to think about the quarterbacks in the league that could make the move to being superstar players. There are a couple that are really good and with another great season under their belts, they could be considered elite by some.

We all know who the elite guys are, but there are a couple of quarterbacks that are still young and need to string together a few more quality seasons to join that elite status. One of those guys who has an opportunity to join the ranks of the top 10 is Baker Mayfield.

Last season, Mayfield led the Browns to the playoffs and their first playoff win since the early ‘90s. The Browns are expected to be one of the contending teams in the AFC this season and Mayfield will have a lot to do with that.

I will readily admit that I was not a big Mayfield fan when the Cleveland Browns took him number one overall in the 2018 NFL draft out of Oklahoma. For me, he reminded me too much of former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was also selected by the Browns with the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Mayfield and Manziel were both brash and arrogant young men who seemed to be really cocky on the field and were not shy about letting people know how good they felt they were. Both also had a couple of run-ins with law enforcement in college that sort of gave them a bad boy image. I could dive more into that, but I’ll save that for another column.

Mayfield did win the Heisman Trophy as a senior in 2017 and there was a lot of talk about where he would be drafted. There were other players and a couple of other college quarterbacks I felt were better than Mayfield. For one, I thought Josh Allen, Sam Darnold and Lamar Jackson were better players as far as quarterbacks are concerned. The jury is still out on Darnold, but Allen and Jackson are bona fide stars in the NFL.

My feelings on Mayfield were that he was more than likely all hype with little substance to back up that trash talk. The image that was stuck in my mind was the disrespectful gesture he did during the Kansas vs. Oklahoma game in November of 2017.  

The NFL has a way of exposing pretenders pretty early and Mayfield got the opportunity to show what he had pretty early. Mayfield stepped on the field for the first time during the regular season after then-starter Tyrod Taylor was injured. With the Browns down 14-0 and having lost 19 games in a row, expectations were not high. To his credit, Mayfield threw for 201 yards and led the Browns to a victory.

By season’s end, Mayfield had a very impressive stat line and led the Browns to a 6-7 record as the starting quarterback. He had a nearly 64% completion percentage and threw for 3,725 yards with 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. At the time it was a record for most touchdowns thrown in a season by a rookie (it has since been broken by Justin Herbert last season).

After his rookie season, I had to take back what I initially thought about Mayfield. Although it was for only one season and the greats are judged on their full body of work, I had to give him credit for what he accomplished. I was eager to see what his sophomore campaign had in store.

His second season was a letdown for me. I think Mayfield wanted so badly to live up to the hype that he had created. But with the Browns switching head coaches and offensive coordinators so quickly, I knew it would be difficult for Mayfield to build upon his rookie season.

Mayfield did start all 16 games of the 2019 season, but I am sure it was not the year he was hoping for. The Browns only finished with a 6-10 record and he also threw 21 interceptions that season as well.  

Mayfield did not let the 2019 season linger in his head. The 2020 season was in question due to the pandemic, so it was questionable who was going to be on the field any given week. He performed well enough all season for the Browns to earn their first postseason berth since 2002 with an 11-5 record.  

The Browns beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round and Mayfield threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.  Mayfield is set to have a breakout 2021 season on paper as this is the best team he has had as quarterback of the Browns.

As we head into this season, Mayfield has his best chance to get to a Super Bowl. Cleveland is one of the best teams in the AFC and their running back tandem of Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb is the best in the league. Couple that with their stellar defense and we could see something magical from the Browns.

If Baker continues this upward trend in his career, this could be his best season yet. I have to admit he got off to a better start to his career than I anticipated. He has overcome several coaching changes and now that he has Kevin Stefanski and Alex Van Pelt for a second season and a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., Mayfield could do what hasn’t been done in Cleveland.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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