In 2018, I cringed when the Browns announced who they were picking with the first pick in the NFL draft. Of all the people available, he was the last person I wanted to see wearing orange and brown. That person was, of course, Baker Mayfield.
The reasoning had nothing to do with his abilities. Baker made a name for himself at Oklahoma with his accuracy, big-play abilities, and…err..personality. He was fresh off a Heisman winning season, and it wasn’t a secret that he’d be a top pick in the upcoming draft. The Browns were in need of not only a solid option at QB, but they needed someone to give the franchise some swagger. Baker Mayfield did just that.
So, why the long face on draft day in 2018? Well, I’m also an Ohio State Buckeye fan.
The Flag Plant
The second week of the Buckeyes’ season featured one of the toughest games on their schedule and held major playoff implications. J.T. Barret and my Buckeyes would play host to the Oklahoma Sooners who were led by none other than Baker Mayfield.
A loss early is not the end of the world, but it makes the rest of your year incredibly tough requiring near-perfect football in order to have a chance at the College Football Playoffs. Both teams knew the stakes were high and the outcome was not in the favor of my beloved Buckeyes when the final whistle blew as we fell 30-16. It’s never fun being on the losing side of a big matchup. However, that is not where my dislike of Baker Mayfield began. No. It began immediately following the game.
Oklahoma played well and outplayed the Buckeyes in just about every facet of the game. Their victory was deserving, and their players deserved to celebrate. There is also a line when it comes to celebrating and Baker Mayfield crossed that line that day. I remember watching the post-game celebrations ensue as I took to Twitter (@FTSWerner) to rattle off my “There is still a lot of football left in the season” takes.
That’s when I saw Mayfield running with an Oklahoma flag towards midfield. Greeted by friends, Baker waves the flag back and forth and promptly plants it in the center of the block O.
As I mentioned, the implications of this early match-up were YUGE. Celebrations were expected from whoever was lucky enough to come out with the win. But planting your flag in the middle of an opposing team’s field is too far. Immediately, Baker Mayfield was on my sh** list. Which is where he has stayed for the better part of the last three years.
Baker’s Reign Has Begun
So, back to draft day. Baker’s name gets called as many suspected, and there lied the issue I’ve dealt with for the past couple of seasons. The man I despised was picked with our #1 pick which ultimately meant that the plan was to hand him the keys sooner rather than later.
Baker did not get the nod as the starter the first couple of weeks as veteran Tyrod Taylor was trusted to be under center as the starter to begin the 2018 season. However, when Taylor left the field week 3 with a concussion, Mayfield took over and the rest has been history.
When Baker took the field the Browns were already down 14-0 to the Jets. After two solid showings against the Steelers and the Saints, this was supposed to be their coming out party and an opportunity to grab their first win. With the odds stacked against him, Mayfield went to work. In a little over a half of football, Baker turned a 14 point deficit into a 21-17 victory. Out came the bolt cutters as the Bud Light fridges were opened for Cleveland’s first win in 635 days. That night, Cleveland drank on Baker’s dime.
And there I was… Conflicted. It felt wrong cheering on Baker and celebrating something that happened largely on the shoulders of his play. I’ll be the first to admit that I was Team Tyrod. I liked him in Buffalo and I thought he would be good for our team, but it was glaringly obvious that Baker was the guy for the job. And he proved so, putting together a great rookie campaign and breaking Peyton Manning’s record for passing touchdowns by a rookie in a season.
Trouble In Paradise
This past season was a tougher pill to swallow as #6 obviously underperformed and struggled for the better part of the season. Whether you want to chalk it up to the new play-caller, Freddie Kitchens, or a sophomore slump, it wasn’t pretty. The season ended the same way it began… disappointing.
Not only did it suck being the “same ole Browns”, but it sucked sitting on this giant fence and not being all-in on Browns football. Over the past two seasons, I’ve stayed relatively quiet about Baker Mayfield. I don’t own a jersey (my wife does) or have his fathead in my mancave, but I cheer him on and obviously hope for him to play well. However, It’s time to crap or get off the pot. I’ve decided to try and forget (I’m not really ready to forgive #GoBucks) and move on.
Baker Mayfield is MY quarterback and he’s going to get 100% of my support moving forward. With Stefanski at the helm and the ample amount of talent surrounding him, Baker is going to bounce back in a major way in 2020. Mark my words. Screenshot this. Take it to the bank. I’m jumping in the “Baker is trash” fight and I’m ready for the 2020 war.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who struggled with the Buckeye>Baker conflict. Some may have moved on quicker than I did while others may still have the salty taste in their mouth from 2017. But being half in on your own offensive leader has not been enjoyable and it’s time to make a change.
I’m ready to wake up feeling dangerous on Sundays knowing #6 is under center.
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