Baker Mayfield Is Foolishly Setting Himself up to Overpromise and Underdeliver for the Cleveland Browns: ‘I’ll Plant the Flag When We Go 17-0 Next Year’

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has never been one to lack confidence. That’s what helped him win the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma, and it’s what made him such an intriguing pick at No. 1 overall for the Browns back in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Confidence is reasonable, but you also have to back it up in the NFL. Talking the talk just doesn’t cut it among the best football players in the world. You’ve also got to walk it.

That’s what has to make Mayfield’s latest comments concerning for Cleveland. Is he going to be able to cash the check his mouth just wrote?

The Cleveland Browns are giving Baker Mayfield one last shot

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns
Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns watches from the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium | Jason Miller/Getty Images)

There are undoubtedly things to like about Mayfield as a starting quarterback.

He’s as tough as nails and willing to play through pain. He proved that in a big way this past season, and that type of leadership from a quarterback doesn’t go unnoticed in a locker room.

He also does have a knack for making plays on the football field. You don’t win a Heisman and go No. 1 overall in the NFL draft because you’re devoid of talent. Mayfield can play the game at a high level.

The biggest question is his consistency.

Mayfield has thrown for 14,125 yards and 92 touchdowns in now four seasons with the Browns, but he’s also thrown 56 interceptions and has a career QBR of 51.6, which is decidedly average.

You’d live with those numbers if we were talking about a mid-round pick or a career backup turned starter, especially for the leadership. But are these the type of numbers you’d expect from a No. 1 overall pick? Are these the type of numbers that a quarterback expected to turn a long-suffering franchise around would put up?

The answer to that question is a firm no, but that’s not going to stop the Browns from letting Mayfield ride out the final year of his contract. That has stopped them from giving Mayifled an extension, though, which is quite telling.

“We’ve been with Baker for a long period — we know his work ethic, we know his drive, we’ve seen him [be] a talented passer in this league, and we’re looking forward to him getting healthy and continue to make improvements,” Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry said of Mayfield, according to ESPN.

Mayfield is setting himself up to underdeliver in 2022

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns warms up before the game against the Minnesota Vikings | Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The Browns are clearly comfortable giving Mayfield one last shot. After all, they did invest the first overall pick in him not that long ago. It makes sense to let him play out a “prove it” season and then either re-sign him or move on and start over after 2022.

The problem is, Mayfield, who again is never short on confidence, is already seemingly setting himself up for failure. It’s one thing to believe in yourself and your abilities and do everything you can to live up to what were some extremely high expectations in Cleveland. It’s another thing altogether to just talk for the sake of talking, and in the process, come across as downright cocky if not wholly unreasonable.

Talking about coming back for his “last chance” season, Mayfield told the media that “he’s never been more motivated,” specifically talking about proving his doubters wrong. He then dropped this line, which will surely come back to haunt him.

“I’ll plant the flag when we go 17-0 next year,” Mayfield said.

Can a decidedly average quarterback lead the Browns to glory?

Baker Mayfield looks downfield
Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns plays against the Houston Texans at FirstEnergy Stadium | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

There’s some hyperbole in Mayfield’s comments on 2022; there has to be, at least. With that said, the meaning behind the statement is clear. Mayfield is expecting to make a full comeback in 2022 and lead the Browns to glory.

A 17-0 season is likely unreasonable, but it does feel like he’s setting himself up for a pink slip if anything less than the playoffs is the final destination for the Browns in 2022.

To be fair to Mayfield, that could be the case anyhow, so why not go out swinging?

Outside of being in the MVP race or making a Super Bowl, there’s probably not a ton Mayfield can do to change the perception of him. He’s a bombastic personality who can get the job done under perfect situations, but he’s also prone to both injury and big mistakes, and that’s something that does not bode well for his long-term future as a franchise quarterback.

The best way to utilize Mayfield is to insulate him with a strong running game and an elite defense. That’s what Cleveland has tried to build around him over the past few seasons and, on paper, that could be a solid plan heading into next season.

With that said, long-term, is that the type of quarterback you give a bunch of money to?

If Mayfield plays remotely well in 2022, he’s going to want a big-money contract extension. However, Cleveland could do a lot with the money he would want, while still finding a competent quarterback who can hand the ball off, execute play-action passes, and lean on a solid defense in 2023 and beyond.

If that’s all Mayfield is, and sprinkle in some overconfidence, Cleveland can do better for its long-term future.

When Mayfield planted the Oklahoma flag on Ohio State’s logo after a big win in 2017, it felt like the start of something huge for the quarterback who went on to win the Heisman and go No. 1 overall to Cleveland.

Nowadays, any talk of planting flags seems like a desperate call back to when things were much better for Mayfield. He was on the ascension that September night in Columbus. He appears to be going in the opposite direction heading into his last-chance season in Cleveland.

Overpromise and underdeliver. If things once again go south for the Browns, that will end up being the story of Mayfield’s final season in Cleveland.

Stats courtesy of ESPN and Pro Football Reference. 

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