Baker Mayfield deserves more credit and praise for how he has been playing
Sunday night was a night of rejoicing and breaking streaks for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns won their first playoff game since 1994, and won their first road playoff game since 1969.
The fact that these streaks were broken against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, and without their head coach and several other key players due to Covid-19, means that this truly isn’t the “same old Browns.” Many in the organization deserve credit for making this team what it is, but a lot of this credit needs to go to quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield entered this season with question marks from many, including media members that both cover the team locally and nationally. Many were in awe after an impressive rookie season in which Mayfield set the rookie passing touchdown record, doing so in just 14 games, but after a sophomore slump that saw his numbers and performance drop, those same people began to question whether the Cleveland Browns truly had their franchise quarterback.
After a Week 1 thrashing at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens to start this season, those questions got heightened, and many said Mayfield’s days were numbered under center in Cleveland. Baker kept working with his new head coach Kevin Stefanski, however, and stood by his word from the offseason to not be so brash and let his play do the talking for him. As the weeks went by, Mayfield and the Browns offense began to find a rhythm, by running the ball, controlling the clock, and finding ways to win the game.
Of course, as it always does, this brought out even more questions about Mayfield, with some suggesting that he was now just a game manager and couldn’t take over a game and win it with big throws when they were needed. But alas, time and time again, Mayfield stepped up and would deliver clutch throws, often to a depleted wide receiver corps.
Then comes the Wild Card matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that has dominated the Cleveland Browns for the last decade and longer. Baker Mayfield enters the game without his head coach, along with four other assistant coaches, and is playing behind a makeshift offensive line. Throw in the fact that the Steelers defense entered the game with the most sacks in the league, and had the league’s best defense throughout the entire season. You’d expect chaos and offensive struggles from the Cleveland Browns.
Except, the exact opposite happens. Baker Mayfield leads his men into enemy territory and walked away with a dominating win, and they don’t allow a single sack. Yes, credit should go towards the offensive linemen who played. Yes, credit should go to the coaches who stepped into new roles for this game and executed a great game plan. But also, yes, Baker Mayfield deserves more credit for what he did and has been doing in 2020.
Baker Mayfield let his play do the talking on Sunday night, and calmly led his team to the first road playoff win in 52 years. If any other quarterback in the NFL were to do what Baker did on Sunday, they would be talked about for the remainder of the week on every sports show. Instead, Baker Mayfield will get talked about for a short moment, at best.
Baker Mayfield deserves way more credit and praise for how he has elevated his play this season. Part of the thanks should go to Kevin Stefanski for working with him, and scheming within his abilities.
Mayfield, however, still had to work to help turn around this team and his poor performances. In doing so, he’s helped turn the Browns into a new beast to be reckoned with in the AFC for years to come.