Mayfield's Leadership Style

Don’t ever change, Baker.

Jim Rome
July 18, 2019 - 12:38 pm
Baker Mayfield

USA Today


I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not only on the Cleveland Browns bandwagon, I built that wagon and put gas in the tank. And now that Baker Mayfield has done an interview with Mina Kimes, I’m gunning the engine: I’m redlining it. Because some of the quotes are exactly why there is only one Baker Mayfield.

It only took Baker one season and less than a full season if we’re being accurate to be anointed as a franchise quarterback. And when you get that title, most guys go full-blown robot, because that’s what teams want. They want some sort of a cyborg who is the first to arrive at the facility, the last to leave, and goes home at night to plug into the wall and download more plays.

So….Check Baker on that idea. As Kimes writes: "You get this term" -- Mayfield had paused, making air quotations with his fingers -- "'franchise QB.' That's like being a politician." Man. That is a brilliant take. A franchise qb is like being a politician, is so good. And so right. 

And I love that he’s just dropping air quotes on the idea of him being a franchise quarterback, like he’s not going to take on that title and just start acting like a phony because other people want him to.

And then there are the expectations around the Browns this year. Kimes asked him if having all this hype feels weird: "For them," he says, flicking his wrist toward the door. "Not for me." He cocks an eyebrow and grins. "For everybody else around here, it's been pretty terrible to be part of this team for a while."

Hell yes. Not anymore. And according to Baker, he knew it was coming. And it changed pretty much from the moment he stepped on the field against the Jets and completely his first pass, to Jarvis Landry, between two defenders and picked up a first down.

"It was like a weight lifted off their shoulders," Mayfield says, before imitating an imaginary fan and whispering: "Thank you." He shakes his head. "You could tell the energy was in the air. You could feel it: This might be the first win. And when it finally happened, it was like, 'Well, what do we do now?'"

What we do now is keep on winning.

But take a step back, there’s something larger at work here.

Cleveland is a city that has been dumped on for years. You don’t need me to recap it. Everyone knows it.

Jo Noah dropping his remarks.
Everyone with a burning river reset.
The Drive.
The Shot.
The Jersey With All The Quarterbacks Names.
For decades, if you’ve wanted a cheap, easy laugh, Cleveland was there for you.  Cleveland was the butt of the joke.

And then along comes Baker Mayfield and he gets it. He gets Cleveland. He gets the passion. He gets the pain. And he gets what it feels like to start changing that. Because while everyone has been dumping on Cleveland for years, everyone was dumping on Mayfield, saying he was never, good enough, big enough, talented enough. And all that did was create an enormous chip on his shoulder; all that did was have him running to pump copious amount so rocket fuel into his veins. And all he did after that was WIN.  EVERYWHERE. AND AT EVERYTHING. IN OTHER WORDS IF ANYONE IS BUILT FOR THIS, IT’S BAKER MAYFIELD, AMERICAN’S QUARTERBACK.  Other guys have tried to fake their way into turning this around. They’ve tried to act tough or pretend that they have what it takes to be the one who turns this around, but they didn’t have it. None of them. But Mayfield does. And that’s not just something I’m saying now; IV’E BEEN SAYING IT.

Especially when you consider what he was dealing with last year. Do you remember that coaching staff? Hue Jackson as head coach, Todd Haley as offensive coordinator, Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator.

It’s easy to forget now how big a mess that was. That was an all-star staff of dysfunction. And as much as you think you know, Baker says you don’t know. 

"People have no idea. Any time you combine the personalities we had -- at offensive coordinator, at defensive coordinator and head coach -- heads are gonna clash. That's just a known thing."

And he’s dealing with that as a rookie. And still managing to keep the team together and around him. Because he has that “it”. I saw it on Radio Row before the Super Bowl. He has something that you can’t teach, you can’t bottle, and you can’t describe.  BUT YOU KNOW IT WHEN YOU SEE IT.  AND THIS DUDE HAS IT COMING OUT HIS EARS.

Then Jackson is fired. And Haley is fired. And Triple G, Gregg Williams takes over as head coach. And Baker keeps on delivering. Especially once he started working with Freddie Kitchens.

And if you think that chemistry with Kitchens is fake, think again. Kitchens did, because his initial perception was " a lot like everybody's -- that he was kind of an outlandish, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kinda guy. What I found was somebody totally different."

Totally different from reality and very similar to his own experience: "At the core of everything is the fact that he's always been told no: You can't do this. We're looking for someone else. You're not this. I think we have that in common."

Now he’s had an entire offseason with Kitchens and he has the arrival of Odell Beckham Jr as well. And here’s something else about Mayfield.

Don’t be fooled by the attention he gets. He’s not a me-first guy. He will go to battle for his guys. When people take a run at Odell, Baker’s there to get his back and fire back.

"He's here to work, and he wants to be surrounded by people who love him and support him and allow him to be himself. He's here to play in front of fans who actually care, who will actually show up to every game and pack the stadium and love him for who he is."

How’s that taste, Giants fans? Baker’s saying he’s got your guy and your guy is going to be playing in front of fans who are loyal, who show up, and who love him. How’s that feel? Does it sting? Because if it does, that’s probably a sign that he’s right.

And here’s something else, for Giants fans who are bent about that or for anyone who’s bent about Baker and is waiting for Cleveland to crash down to earth. He knows that. He knows you’re waiting for them to stumble. He knows you’re waiting to JAM A CROW SANDO DOWN HIS ESPHOGAUS AND CHASE IT WITH SOME humble pie FOR DESSERT so that he’ll turn into some robot franchise quarterback who says nothing at all.

He knows it and he’s not going to do it.

"I'm gonna be myself and believe in that. And if you don't like it, that's OK."

Hell. Yes. Don’t change. Don’t ever change, Baker.  AND IT’S BETTER THAN OK.  IT’S THE BEST THING EVER.