As the team review series begins to wind down, it’s time for me to kick off the NFL offseason for thirty of the thirty-two teams. Today, the Face of the Franchise Series begins. I’m choosing one player from each NFL franchise that made a significant impact in 2018, putting some of their most exclusive memorabilia up for sale. Today, the Cleveland Browns are on the clock and its featured player…. Baker Mayfield! At the end of this article, I’ll leave a link where you can find your Baker Mayfield Jersey, one of the hottest products across the NFL landscape.
Who is Baker Mayfield?
Mayfield is arguably the most dynamic player in the league and the first legitimate franchise quarterback the Browns have had since returning to the league in 1999, but Mayfield is more than just the league’s hottest rookie back in 2018. In college, he was a TWO-time walk-on at both Texas Tech and Oklahoma, where he eventually earned a scholarship.
While his on-field antics such as attempting to plant an Oklahoma flag on the 50-yard-line after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes early in the 2017 season and his infamous crotch grab while yelling obscenities against the Kansas Jayhawks. One also couldn’t look past his arrest in February 2017.
All of his above actions and questionable decisions led for some to compare him to former Texas A&M standout Johnny Manziel, who coincidentally was also drafted by the Browns in 2014.
Despite some of his shortcomings, Mayfield has drawn more comparisons to none other than Brett Favre. His confident and sometimes cocky demeanor, along with a gun-slinging mentality, has made scouts think of Mayfield as a young Favre. And finally, before the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayfield parodied Brett Favre’s draft day party, including wearing a pair of jorts combined with an early 1990s cordless phone.
Mayfield’s collegiate accomplishments are almost infinite. Mayfield was the 2017 recipient of the Heisman Trophy, given to the best overall player in college football. He also received the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award, the Davey O’Brien Award, and was voted the 2017 Player of the Year by the Associated Press.
He was a three-time All-Big Twelve and a two-time First-Team All-American, and finally, the number one overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Rookie Year with the Cleveland Browns
Mayfield opened the season as the backup to then-starter Tyrod Taylor. The plan was simple; let Mayfield sit for a year to learn while Taylor holds the reins for 2018. Such a plan backfired when Taylor, whose completion percentage was an abysmal 48.8, was injured in the Week Three Game against the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football.
Mayfield was thrust into action on national TV. Many Browns fans saw flashbacks to the 29 previous failed quarterbacks that have strapped on a Browns uniform since 1999. From Tim Couch to Charlie Frye to Brady Quinn to Colt McCoy to Brandon Weeden to Johnny Manziel to Cody Kessler, all of whom were drafted to be the future of the franchise and none of whom remain with the team today. McCoy, Weeden, and Kessler are backups elsewhere and Manziel played in Canada and spent time with the AAF’s Memphis Express.
With the Browns down 14-0 against the Jets, Mayfield came out firing. And he came out firing all night long, leading the Browns to their first win in 635 days, one of the longest droughts in NFL history. The next week, then-coach Hue Jackson stated Mayfield would take over as the starter from Taylor.
Mayfield lost his first start in a 45-42 shootout to the Oakland Raiders in what became one of the more controversial finishes in the 2018 season. After several mediocre starts, the Browns cut ties with Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, leading fans to believe the 2-5-1 Browns to be on a downward spiral, as the fan base had seen year after year since 1999.
But Mayfield turned the Browns into a force in the second half of the season. He led the team to a 5-3 record from Weeks Nine to Week Seventeen, defeating teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and sweeping divisional rival Cincinnati Bengals for the first time since 2002.
A Week Seventeen narrow loss to the Baltimore Ravens led Baker to accept the fact he’d have to wait another season before taking the Browns to their first winning record since 2007, but he did something no quarterback in NFL history had ever done; throw for 27 touchdown passes in a single season, breaking the previous record held by Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning.
It was the most touchdown passes thrown by a Browns quarterback since 2007, when Derek Anderson threw for 29 touchdowns in sixteen games. Mayfield, however, only played in thirteen-and-a-half games, averaging 2 touchdown passes per game over Anderson’s 1.8 per game, something no Browns quarterback had accomplished since Frank Ryan achieved the feat in 1966, throwing 29 touchdown passes in 14 games.
Mayfield’s 2018 Stats
Baker Mayfield outperformed his fellow rookie quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson by a significant margin. In 2018, he completed 310 passes out of 486 attempts for a 63.8 completion percentage and 3,775 yards. He averaged 7.6 yards per pass attempt, threw 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions with a passer rating of 93.7.
He led all rookie quarterbacks in QBR, pass completions, pass attempts, completion percentage, attempts per game, passing yards, yards per pass attempt, pass yards per game with 266.1, passing yards per game, and as stated, the all-time leader in touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback.
He was also a seven-time NFL rookie of the week, the AFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 16, and the rookie of the year for Pro Football Talk, the Pro Football Writers of America, Pro Football Focus, and was part of the PFWA All-Rookie Team.
He also set several Browns franchise records for a rookie quarterback with passing touchdowns, QBR with 55.7, passer rating with 93.7, pass percentage, net yards per pass attempt with 6.95, highest adjusted pass yards per pass attempt with 6.77, lowest percentage of sacks per pass attempt at 4.9%, most passing completions, most passing yards, most passing yards per game, most fourth quarter comebacks with 3, most game winning drives with 4, most passing yards in a game with 397, most passing touchdowns in a game with 4, tied with Tim Couch for most passing completions in a game with 29, and highest pass completion percentage in a game with 85%.
He set an overall franchise career record with the highest streak of multiple touchdown passes per game with five and a season record with most yards per game, again that number was 266.1.
Before his second breakout game against the Atlanta Falcons, Mayfield said he “woke up feeling dangerous.” Well, the Browns just became one of the AFC’s most dangerous teams with a legitimate quarterback finally at the helm. Baker Mayfield has become the face of the Cleveland Browns and since LeBron James’ departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers, the face of Cleveland Sports.
The Cleveland Browns have never played in a Super Bowl, but Baker Mayfield might just be the quarterback to take them there. With Mayfield and new coach Freddie Kitchens, who was his interim offensive coordinator after Haley’s firing the Cleveland Browns are on their way up after following an 0-16 season with a 7-8-1 record.