I’m finding the almost constant barrage of Baker Mayfield slander by media this offseason extremely redundant. I would understand it if he has been conducting himself like some kind of a knucklehead. I might understand it if he showed very little promise on the field this past season. But that hasn’t been the case. Mayfield’s short time in Cleveland has been the exact opposite of what I was promised by his detractors.
The issue with being a sports pundit now, you are slightly more bound to your words. There was a time a sports analyst could make an inaccurate bold prediction without it being retweeted a million times and rubbed in their face. As a result sports journalism is now spiked with a lot of bitter guys, who refuse to eat their share of crow. So if Baker isn’t going to make a fool of himself on the football field, his vocal army of detractors will be sure to try to make a fool of him off of it.
Is there really that much shame in being wrong? I was convinced the Browns were going to select Sam Darnold. I began watching the abbreviated games that highlighted Darnold’s throws. After watching as many throws as I could find I came away underwhelmed. And since there were 5 quarterbacks in the first round conversation, if none of those guys were standing out against Darnold how good could they really be?
I bought into the talk of Baker’s size, maturity, and arm strength. The way we’ve completely devalued college experience, the fact Baker had a distinct advantage was an afterthought. Since the only times that I have seen Baker play was against the Ohio State Buckeyes, I had watched him with a bias. He was great those games, I just didn’t want him to be.
So I’m not ashamed to admit I was wrong about Baker Mayfield, I had my reasons. Thankfully I can’t get too many old tweets rubbed in my face, because I was far more vocal about not wanting Darnold. And even more, thankfully, I decided to hold off on the slander after we drafted him.
I went a different route, while everyone was firing away their hot takes on Twitter, I decided to give Baker’s throws a look. I promised myself that before I said another word about our new quarterback, I owed it to him to watch him. I poured over as many throws I could find. I watched them objectively. I started wondering where the arm strength concerns came from. I always take notes when I genuinely try to scout a guy. Baker’s was by far the most complimentary I had ever written. So I was wondering why some people were comparing Baker to another quarterback I scouted a few years back. That guy’s notes ended up being three words, “Draft Mike Evans.”
It was a strange feeling, believing like the Browns may have actually done the right thing. But being a Browns fan means belief comes with trepidation. I was still okay with Tyrod Taylor starting the season, but certainly had my curiosities about our rookie backup. And when he was forced into duty, he delivered.
While I was waiting for the immature Baker to arrive, instead I got my fill of childish behavior from Hue Jackson and Todd Haley. It took The Browns half a season to figure out their coaching mess. All that time leaving Baker in an offense that completely clashed with his playing style. Even after having half his year wasted, Baker completely adapted to a whole new coaching philosophy and broke records.
I thought Baker Mayfield was the ultimate Rocky story. I thought he was that rare, likable type of cocky. I thought he did everything there was to do, to shut his haters up. Yet here I am wrong again. During the greatest off-season the Browns have ever put together, there is a negative piece about Baker floating around somewhere every day. What’s worse is even the local beat joins in the fun. Then they wonder why Baker is icy towards them, and decide to dump on him for that.
Last year Baker walked into the doors of Berea to join a team that was unsure if it could even win a game. He left as the king of the castle. It wasn’t an accident, just not all of us had seen it coming right away. It took me a couple of hours on YouTube to figure it out. But now that I think about it, Baker might be one of the biggest stars in the NFL in the very near future. Maybe he will give his time to a newer writer who will proudly play the role of his unlikely apologist.
I guess I shouldn’t worry too much, Baker has overcome much more than some ignorant talking heads in his career already. As much as he gets dumped on, he’s also playing for a team that is being spoken about as Super Bowl contenders. Now I think it’s a little early to think about that, but I’ve been wrong before.