“Ba-ker May-field!” clap, clap, clap-clap-clap
It was one of the sounds heard after the Browns 21-17 win Thursday night when Cleveland fans were celebrating like they won the Super Bowl. Of course, some fans were thinking “okay, this is a bit excessive even for a team who has gone 1-32-1 since 2016 (and really 2-42-1 since October of 2015)” but it is Cleveland. No, not saying it is a potshot on the fan base or anything like that. They just do things differently, even from most Midwestern city’s fan bases.
Anyway, after Tyrod Taylor who went down with a back issue, Mayfield came in the game. The Browns were stagnant on offense and Taylor was his usual Taylor self of being inconsistent/streaky. Mayfield came in and the team and the stadium just changed the whole dynamic. The place was rocking (whenever I was able to mute after hearing Joe Buck and Troy Aikman call one of the worst games known to man). It was neat to see.
Of course we know what happened. Mayfield led a nice comeback as he played great (not flashy, but he made the right decisions and right passes) and the defense held strong as the Browns ended 2 years of futility. So is this the start of something big for the Browns?
Since the Browns “re-joined” the NFL in 1999, they have been plagued by poor quarterback play (or inconsistent quarterback play at best). From the minute they drafted Tim Couch from Kentucky (who never saw a playbook with the Wildcats) through the likes of Jeff Garcia, Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel, etc. they had major issues there. And when you do not have a franchise quarterback, you are a team that is going to be in great futility for a while until you find one.
I still remember in the 2014 Draft when Browns fans were elated and celebrated when Johnny Manziel’s name was called for them. He came out flashing the money sign with his hands and such. He acted like “Johnny Football” as the world couldn’t touch him. When Manziel started with the Browns he would get on camera and say all the right things like you often hear “I will do anything to help this team,” “I will cut out the stuff and focus on football, etc.” Well, Manziel showed old habits die hard. We know the story. Manziel even in his pre-season games had issues of having players get into his head (flipping opposing teams the bird) and then when the regular season got in he just looked like a fish out of water. He would show up late for practices and was hung over. After two embarrassing seasons, the Browns couldn’t handle it anymore. The dream of Manziel leading Cleveland had turned into a night terror. And it may be a monster reason why the Browns went 1-31 for two seasons as they put in stock to a guy who had major issues and had a mentality of entitlement for him.
Enter Baker Mayfield. The first overall pick was not like Manziel as the reaction from fans was mixed. Mayfield isn’t the “prototypical” quarterback (standing at 6-1). But the concern was to some Browns fans and others was that he was Johnny Manziel 2.0. He was a lightning rod for controversy at Oklahoma with some of the antics on the field and then he got in trouble off the field with the cops in Arkansas (a move that was admittedly dumb). So the fanfare may have actually been a blessing where fans even in Cleveland were cautious about.
However, the thing that separated Mayfield from Manziel is a simple one: Work Ethic. As stated before, Manziel somewhat had it made growing up and at Texas A&M they pretty much gave him whatever he wanted with no ramifications for his actions (okay, he got suspended for a half against FCS Sam Houston State). Mayfield on the other hand, took a risk on himself and transferred from Texas Tech to go to Oklahoma as a walk-on. He knew the chances and it paid off. He didn’t sit around thinking the job would be given to him especially after how Trevor Knight played when he was there (i.e. beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl). And whether the Sooners were ever winning or losing, Mayfield still had the same fiery drive in him to keep going after teams. You have to applaud that. So from that perspective, I thought it was a major bonus in Mayfield’s corner. Had he the same mentality like Manziel at Texas A&M, a few things would have happened: 1. Mayfield would have been out quickly at Oklahoma. 2. The Sooners would have not been either a Playoff team in 2015 or 2017 or even a Big 12 Champion. Even if you looked at Manziel’s two years with the Aggies, the best they finished was 10 wins and then had an 8-win season in 2013 where in a few of those games, Manziel made some inexcusable mistakes.
“Well, they’re both arrogant!” Is another argument I heard. Yes. They are. And honestly, I think we have looked as arrogance as an overall negative thing. I think it is a positive really. And for a team like the Browns, they needed a guy full of that like Baker Mayfield. It is the same thing as I viewed with the Lions when they drafted Matthew Stafford. In my eyes, you have to have some arrogance when you quarterback out on the football field. Name a quarterback who ISN’T that has been successful. Now the difference separating Manziel and Mayfield in the arrogance category is that Manziel was arrogant and only out for himself when he was with the Browns (and Texas A&M). He did whatever Johnny Manziel wanted to do. Baker Mayfield, I’ve not seen a time when he was at Oklahoma or now with the Browns that it was about himself. He is out there celebrating with his teammates. He is out there rallying his troops. He knows he needs those guys. He will talk about that HIS TEAM is good, not just how he is good. I respect that from a guy like Mayfield.
“But all the antics…” stop (Mr. Cowherd). Most of it was in college and yes, I’m not fond of some of them myself. But do we need to punish the ones who are in college first and foremost? What about the guys who act like knuckleheads in the pros? I think it is much ado about nothing. I also think Mayfield is learning too so let’s get off our high horses on that.
Overall, I think Mayfield is right for the Browns. Now does that mean he will guide them to a Super Bowl? Probably not, but at least there is something in Cleveland now for the Browns where they haven’t had in a long time: hope. And Mayfield alongside the other young Browns players are a symbol of the end of the futility of football in Cleveland.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat