You don’t need to give Baker Mayfield a reason to be pissed off; he’ll make one.
Baker Mayfield is unabashedly out for blood — and sometimes, revenge.
In a league often lacking in big personalities, the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback stands out as a fiery outlier, especially at his position. Quarterbacks learn long before they’ve reached the NFL how to answer questions without saying anything of substance.
You’ve heard the tired clichés like “we have to take it one game at a time” and “we need to play a full 60 minutes” over and over. So it’s refreshing when someone decidedly different comes along. Mayfield is certainly that.
His rise to NFL stardom had its share of hurdles. He was an undersized, lightly recruited prospect who had to fight his way into the Texas Tech starting lineup as a walk-on. He had to do it again at Oklahoma after leaving Texas Tech following his freshman season.
The massive chip on his shoulder that came with being overlooked propelled his rise through the ranks.
Mayfield‘s 2017 got off to a rocky start when he was arrested in February for public intoxication, but he ended that year as a unanimous first-team All-American and the Heisman Trophy winner. A few months after that, he was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and finished his first season with the league record for touchdown passes by a rookie.
Now he enters his second season with the Browns as a legitimate NFL star. He had the 12th-best selling jersey in the latest numbers released by the NFLPA — ahead of players like Todd Gurley, Russell Wilson, and Julio Jones. This year, Mayfield has Odell Beckham Jr. as a member of his receiving corps and the Browns are the favorites to win their first-ever AFC North title.
Somehow through all those good times, Mayfield has found a way to feel disrespected. It’s actually impressive at this point. How he uses that as motivation is nothing short of a talent.
Mayfield even found a way to get fired up for a game vs. Kansas
Winning a national championship in college football often requires getting through the entire season without a loss. Most of the time that means winning a few big games and avoiding any shocking losses against underdogs. Staying focused for each is a challenge, though.
Yet it wasn’t hard for Mayfield to get up for a massive game at Ohio State and then plant a flag in the middle of the field after the Sooners’ win.
Revenge was on Mayfield’s mind for a year after the Buckeyes sang their alma mater on the field at Oklahoma in 2016 — something Ohio State does after every game.
“Everybody that was here for last year’s huge loss definitely remembers that. And we talked about it during camp,” Mayfield said. “We’ve never been here for a team to sing their fight song on our field. Quite frankly it’s just embarrassing.”
So sticking an OU flag on the Ohio State logo was Mayfield’s way of turning the Buckeyes’ triumph into payback fodder.
But what about when Oklahoma was a 38.5-point favorite against a Kansas team on a nine-game losing streak? Yep, Mayfield still found a way to feel resentful — even if the Jayhawks were probably asking for it a bit by opting against pregame handshakes.
Mayfield went full scorched-earth on Kansas with 257 passing yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Oklahoma won 41-3 and Mayfield hit the Jayhawks sideline with a crotch grab that was (hilariously) pixelated by ESPN.
lol ESPN blurred out Baker Mayfield grabbing his crotch. THE HORROR pic.twitter.com/Xfv7KccbwY
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) November 19, 2017
That was one of 12 wins in a season when Mayfield led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff. He probably didn’t need Kansas to provide him any extra incentive to play well, but it was a telling moment of Mayfield’s personality. Give him a motive to seek revenge and he’ll absolutely take it.
Mayfield got pissed at Hue Jackson for … uh … having a job
In two and a half seasons as head coach of the Browns, Hue Jackson led the team to a grand total of three wins. His 3-36-1 record was historically awful and may never be topped.
So there’s reason for Cleveland faithful to dislike Jackson. There’s even reason for Mayfield to have some disdain for a coach who got his rookie season off to a rough start. When Jackson got fired, the Browns were 2-5-1 and Mayfield had a 78.9 passer rating — well south of his final rating of 93.7 for the season. It probably didn’t help either that Mayfield only cracked the lineup because an injury to Tyrod Taylor forced Jackson’s hand.
But curiously, Mayfield was offended that Jackson accepted an offer to become a defensive assistant for the Bengals after the Browns fired him.
#Browns Baker Mayfield admitted he didn’t like Hue Jackson defecting to the #Bengals so soon. Gave him a chilly reception pic.twitter.com/hF480gMc7N
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) November 25, 2018
“He was here trying to tell us to play for him,” Mayfield told reporters. “Then he goes to a team we play twice a year. That’s how I feel. We have people we believe in calling the plays now.”
Jackson didn’t ask to leave the Browns. He was canned midway through the season and jumped at the chance to stay in the NFL coaching ranks by joining a team where he already had two prior stints. That was short-lived and Jackson was let go by the Bengals in January.
Months later, Jackson still hasn’t found another coaching gig. That shows exactly why it was a good idea for him to take another job when the opportunity presented itself.
Mayfield was still able to convince himself that he and the Browns were wronged, and used it to stoke a four-touchdown performance in a 35-20 win against the Bengals — capped by an icy postgame handshake with Jackson.
A month after that, Mayfield got another win over Cincinnati. He made it crystal clear that he was still holding a grudge by giving a staredown so devoid of subtly that it’d make Cersei Lannister jealous.
Baker Mayfield staring down Hue Jackson pic.twitter.com/GIOTBemQF1
— Vikings Blogger (@firstandskol) December 23, 2018
In the two wins against the Bengals, he totaled seven touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 135.8 passer rating — more proof that a pissed off Baker Mayfield is a force to be reckoned with.
Mayfield will still find fuel for his fire, even if he has to work harder for it
The Browns have more cause for optimism than they’ve had in decades. Even if they still haven’t had a winning season since 2007, no team looks primed to be more fun to watch in 2019.
Even the NFL knows it. The schedule makers put Cleveland on primetime in three of the first five weeks of the season.
Mayfield, in particular, is set up for a huge year after finishing his rookie season on a tear. He thrived when Freddie Kitchens took over as offensive coordinator eight games into the 2018 season, and now Kitchens is his head coach. Quarterbacks almost always up their passer rating in year two of their career, and Mayfield wouldn’t be far from MVP chatter if he manages to do so in 2019.
Fans are actually excited about the Browns, so you’d think Mayfield would have less reason to feel slighted. But with high expectations come doubters. One of those throughout Mayfield’s still-young career has been Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd. When the radio host went after Odell Beckham Jr., Mayfield defended his new teammate with choice words for Cowherd.
Once again, you’re a clown…. now I know you’re just trying to get me fired up. “Most memorable moments”… he’s 26 and his greatest moments are ahead of him. You forget the kids and people he inspires. That goes much further than football…
— Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield) May 16, 2019
“He’s supposed to bring out facts and he chooses to put out irrational opinions,” Mayfield said of Cowherd in an interview with Complex Sports. “People can say what they want, they can say I’m not really supposed to comment on this, but a liar is a liar and a guy that is really just full of it needs to be put in his place.”
Mayfield has always paid attention to the critics. Before the 2018 NFL Draft, he told Russell Wilson that he was jotting down a list of all the haters.
Mayfield is keeping a list of the media members who have crossed a line, he says, and he stores screenshots of offending tweets in his phone. All of it serves as motivation when he’s working out alone, he told Wilson.
When prospective agent Bus Cook tried to sign Mayfield on as a client, he got the dial tone for not knowing that the quarterback walked on at Texas Tech.
“Every agent does the same thing, they give their resume, what they’re about, all this stuff,” Mayfield said of Cook before the draft. “Finally, when he was about to give me a chance to talk, he asked, ‘So, when did Bob Stoops start recruiting you?’ And I literally — I said, ‘Excuse me?’ And he repeated the question.” And then I said, ‘Yeah, I gotta go.’ And I just hung up.”
It doesn’t take a lot to get on Mayfield’s bad side. New Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury probably understands that better than anyone in the NFL. Kingsbury was at Texas Tech during Mayfield’s brief time there, and the quarterback’s unceremonious departure from the program led to him blasting his former coach on the way out.
“When I got hurt, there was no communication between me and my coach,” Mayfield told ESPN in 2014. “When I got healthy, I didn’t know why I wasn’t playing right away. At that time, we were losing a couple games in a row. I was still clueless as to why I wasn’t playing. That was really frustrating for me because I started the first five games and we won. So, I just didn’t really know exactly what he was thinking or what the situation was.”
Mayfield got his revenge with 13 touchdown passes in three wins against Kingsbury’s Texas Tech teams between 2015 and 2017. He’ll get another shot this season now that Kingsbury is leading the Cardinals. The Browns travel to Arizona in December — giving us the chance to see payback-mode Mayfield in action.
Meanwhile, Kingsbury has only given the token answer you’d expect from a coach when asked about Mayfield’s grudge.
“I know a lot has come from Baker’s side, but I loved coaching him, loved the chip on his shoulder, cheered for him in every game except one,” Kingsbury said in July 2016. “It’s been fun to see the success he’s had.”
Those are the kind of answers you’re used to hearing in the NFL, especially from coaches and quarterbacks. Not from Mayfield, though. He’ll take a situation — no matter how small — and use it to fuel a vendetta that can only end with his enemy’s destruction.