Love him or hate him, Baker Mayfield moves the needle. Win or lose, the Browns’ quarterback will be a topic of discussion on every sports talk show come Monday morning.
Entering the 2021 season, the Browns picked up Mayfield’s 5th-year option for 2022, but could not reach a long-term extension. Due to his subpar performance this year, deciding not to extend Mayfield may have been the smart decision in the long run.
Mayfield has done nothing this season to convince the Browns to give him an extension. Mayfield deserves a lot of the criticism thrown his way. The 6-6 Browns boast a roster that could make a Super Bowl, but a quarterback with 2400 yards, 11 TDs, and 6 INTs won’t lead to a Lombardi Trophy.
Coming out of Oklahoma, Baker’s biggest strength was his accuracy, compiling a completion percentage of 70.0 or better in his final two seasons. 70% would be hard to replicate in the NFL, but in his four years with the Browns, Mayfield has a 61.9 completion percentage. This year, Mayfield ranks 27th in completion percentage for quarterbacks who have started at least four games.
No quarterback other than Lamar Jackson receives more criticism than Mayfield. If players don’t get the ball, it’s always Baker’s fault. Just look at the Odell Beckham Jr. saga as an example. At least Lamar is criticized by personalities that cover the sport. Mayfield has to deal with the parents of his teammates making Facebook statuses and IG videos. If you thought helicopter parents disappeared in professional sports, just ask the fathers of OBJ and Kareem Hunt what they think of Mayfield.
Baker Mayfield is a problem on the field, but the Browns did him no favors whatsoever. The majority of the blame should be pointed at Kevin Stefanski, Andrew Berry, and the Cleveland Browns front office.
Mayfield is not fully healthy. The Browns’ quarterback has a torn labrum and fractured humerus bone in his non-throwing shoulder. It will require surgery at the end of the season with a recovery period of 4-6 months. On top of these injuries, Mayfield also has dealt with a knee contusion and a bruised heel.
As a fierce competitor, no one can question Baker’s toughness. He’s playing through a lot of pain, and you can see his grimaces during the games these past couple of weeks.
Despite these injuries, the Browns decided to still trot Mayfield out at less than 100% health. Baker might say he’s good to go, but he continued to limp after every big hit or scramble this past Sunday night. Why was he playing in the first place?
The Browns had a chance to rest their quarterback after suffering a knee contusion in a blowout loss against the Patriots. Instead, Baker hobbled his way to a 16-13 victory over the winless Lions and a 16-10 loss to the Ravens. Ask yourself this question: If Case Keenum started the past two games, what would the results be?
I’m a gambling man, and I bet 90% of people would say the team would go 1-1 with Keenum, which is exactly what Baker did. Had the Browns elected to sit Baker the last two weeks with a bye this week, he would’ve had three full weeks of rest. Instead, he has one week to deal with his lingering issues before facing the Ravens at home on Dec. 12.
Here’s the bigger problem with what the Browns have done to Mayfield. With extension talks expected to restart in the offseason, how can they fairly evaluate their injured quarterback for the rest of the season? If Mayfield struggles the remaining five games, he will blame his injured left shoulder for his poor play, which is a valid reason. The Browns had a chance to sit Mayfield for three weeks and give him the best chance at a fair evaluation for five games. Instead, Baker will have one week of rest before facing the same Ravens team that held the Browns to a season-low 40 yards rushing.
The Browns had a chance to get Baker as healthy as he’ll be all season with multiple weeks of rest. By skipping over this opportunity, it could cost them not only their quarterback’s trust in the organization but more importantly, a playoff berth.
Do you agree with the Browns’ handling of Baker Mayfield? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.