- NFL Network analyst Steve Smith Sr. ripped Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield during a recent on-air segment
- The Carolina Panthers legend suggested Mayfield is holding the Browns back and is too emotional to succeed
- Smith’s comments aren’t entirely fair to the veteran quarterback, especially after he played through numerous injuries in 2021
Any hopes of a friendship between Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and NFL Network analyst Steve Smith Sr. likely ended in November 2021, when the Carolina Panthers legend outright said the Oklahoma product isn’t a good player.
Four months later, the gloves remain off, and Smith isn’t holding his punches when it comes to Mayfield, especially on the eve of the quarterback’s potential departure.
Steve Smith Sr. ripped into Baker Mayfield during a brutal on-air rant
The end appears nigh for Mayfield in Cleveland, and he’s at least choosing not to live in denial. Amid rumors the Browns would trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, Mayfield shared a letter thanking the fans who supported him since he arrived in 2018.
Smith didn’t want to hear it.
In an on-air segment as part of NFL Network’s Free Agency Frenzy on Wednesday, March 16, the five-time Pro Bowler tore into Mayfield for wasting receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.’s careers. Beckham won a Super Bowl ring with the Los Angeles Rams after the Browns cut him last season, and Cleveland recently released Landry, a five-time Pro Bowl selection.
Smith also addressed Mayfield’s emotional letter and the quarterback’s reflective tone.
“At the end of the day, I find it interesting that Baker now is emotional; he wears his emotions on his sleeve. I do too. But the difference between Baker and I is [that] I won. I won a triple crown. I led the league in something besides crying.”Steve Smith Sr.
Smith also encouraged the Browns to officially move on from Mayfield and consider acquiring San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
“Get [Mayfield] outta there and let the Browns go ahead and eat because he’s been holding this team back,” Smith said. “And thank you, Baker. You got OBJ a Super Bowl. So, hats off to you.”
Smith’s comments aren’t entirely fair to Mayfield, not that the Panthers legend likely cares
Smith isn’t the first ex-player to criticize Mayfield, and he absolutely won’t be the last. Let’s not pretend the Oklahoma product isn’t deserving of negative feedback, especially after he took aim at Browns fans following a victory last November.
However, Mayfield isn’t the failure that Smith, Terrell Owens, and others have made him out to be in recent months.
Remember when he completed 11 touchdowns against only one interception in 288 pass attempts in his final nine games that year? The Browns went 6-3 in that span en route to qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2002. Cleveland almost certainly wouldn’t have reached the playoffs in 2020 without the third-year quarterback’s strong play.
Smith is absolutely entitled to suggest Mayfield is too emotional. However, wouldn’t most people be emotional or feel underappreciated if they played through various injuries and tried their hardest at keeping the team in playoff contention? Mayfield played almost the entire season with a completely torn labrum and fraying in his left, non-throwing shoulder. He also suffered a knee contusion in Week 10 and later revealed his leg went numb as a result.
Despite the Beckham drama and the club’s constant injuries and COVID-19 problems, the Browns officially remained in the postseason hunt until Week 17 of the 2021 campaign. Mayfield kept playing until the team had no way to earn a wild-card berth. Isn’t that what players want from their starting quarterback?
Smith’s visceral attitude would feel more deserved if he believed Mayfield quit on the Browns by having surgery and rehabbing away from the team. But that’s not how things happened, and it’s essential the truth isn’t forgotten.
Mayfield’s next opportunity, wherever it is, will go a long way in determining his long-term NFL future
Sometimes, the best solution for all parties is to move on and start anew. As of publication, the Browns hadn’t yet acquired Garoppolo or Watson, and Mayfield remained on the active roster as a result. However, the quarterback’s tweet all but guaranteed he won’t be filming his Progressive commercials at FirstEnergy Stadium this summer.
Regardless of where Mayfield plays next season, he needs to make the most of it and try learning from what went wrong in Cleveland. Not criticizing the fans, especially those who supported the team through countless dismal seasons, would be a great start.
If a healthy Mayfield resembles his 2020 form with his next team, he’ll be in an excellent position to earn a significant contract. Unless, of course, his next team extends him this summer rather than allow him to potentially test unrestricted free agency next year. Such an outcome appears unrealistic, but all it takes is one team to feel comfortable in buying high on Mayfield’s future.
Luckily for Smith, it doesn’t appear that team will be the Panthers. Instead, the two-time NFC champions might need to settle for a combination of Cam Newton and Sam Darnold as next year’s starting quarterbacks if the franchise can’t acquire Watson.
We apologize for the image, Panthers fans. You’re free to blame Smith for putting the negative energy in the air.