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Baker Mayfield is Starting Fires Everywhere, Even at His Own Feet

Baker Mayfield keeps embracing the role of glossy magazine cover boy with the same gusto he’s tackled spearheading the Cleveland Browns’ reclamation project. This is tremendous news for content creators everywhere because when the quarterback opens his mouth, he tends to say things that pique interest. The latest case in point comes from an interview with GQ in which Mayfield opines — among other things — on the New York Giants’ curious decision to take Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Near our booth, a SportsCenter segment about the New York Giants catches Mayfield’s eye. “I cannot believe the Giants took Daniel Jones,” Mayfield says, about New York’s much-maligned draft-day decision to spend the sixth pick on the quarterback from Duke (whose college record was a measly 17–19). “Blows my mind.”

I tell Mayfield that I’m mystified that so many supposedly expert quarterback scouts seem unable to predict what makes a good NFL quarterback.

“Some people overthink it,” Mayfield says. “That’s where people go wrong. They forget you’ve gotta win.”

It’s not hard to sense that Mayfield is reflecting on his own history now. Despite compiling a 39–9 record in college, he faced a chorus of criticism before the draft. Those past slights are buried in a shallow grave. (A Browns teammate, Joel Bitonio, tells me that Mayfield plays with “the mentality of proving everybody who’s ever said something negative about him wrong.”)

To Mayfield, the characteristics of a great quarterback are simple. “Either you have a history of winning and being that guy for your team,” he says, “or you don’t.”

Mayfield has a stadium-sized Tostitos chip on his shoulder. Here he is using the selection of Jones, which has little to do with his own situation, to scoop up the haters’ salsa and season it to taste. He didn’t have to get personal with Jones, but at this point his track record of using springboards as an end to a means of self-motivation is quite clear.

Predictably, the zinger has been noticed and aggregated. A top quarterback saying this about another member of the fraternity, out of nowhere, is newsworthy. One can quibble with the strategy and sanity of Mayfield’s techniques until they’re blue in the face, yet he won’t be changing any time soon.

Perhaps most interesting in this conversation is the fact that he’s not introducing any type of new take into the ecosystem. The Jones doubters are numerous and well-microphoned. The Giants have been pilloried with great regularity for the experiment, which could eventually prove to be a successful one.

For instance, here’s Mayfield foil Colin Cowherd giving voice to the Big Blue is Making a Huge Mistake Camp.

A fun thing to do today would be keep track of who is ripping Mayfield for sharing a similar opinion they shared a few months ago. Obviously there’s a difference between a pundit pundit-ing and a fellow quarterback doing the same. But if even a widely accepted and consensus take gets put through the ringer just because it’s a gut response to who’s making it, is there any hope for Baker to have a “normal” NFL quarterback experience?

Not that there’s much hope of that anyway, as an audible in personality likely isn’t in the cards.

The overarching point with the Mayfield media circus is that he damn well better deliver. He’s writing checks his body needs to cash. Badly. The same can be said for Odell Beckham Jr., a likeminded and even more gifted player. They seem to be intentionally putting more pressure on themselves and the team with each passing day.

Winning shuts everyone the hell up. But losing, after loading the gun for critics at every opportunity, just makes the firing squad worse. In this karmic universe, it won’t be long for those Mayfield came for come from him.