Anyone who thought Baker Mayfield might back down from his unusually sharp words about former Browns coach Hue Jackson doesn’t know Cleveland’s rookie quarterback very well. On Wednesday, Mayfield was happy to provide a better idea of what to expect from him, telling reporters, “I’m not a cookie-cutter quarterback, never have been, never will be."
“I speak my mind,” he added (via cleveland.com).
Mayfield certainly did just that, following a Browns win Sunday at Cincinnati with a frosty midfield greeting for Jackson, who joined the Bengals’ staff just a few weeks after being fired in Cleveland. In his postgame comments, Mayfield said of his team’s ex-coach: “That’s just somebody that was in our locker room asking for us to play for him, and then goes to a different team we play twice a year. Everybody can have their spin on it, but that’s how I feel. … We have people that we believe in calling the plays now.”
The next day found Mayfield calling Jackson “fake,” in response to criticism of the quarterback made on ESPN’s “First Take” by former NFL player Damien Woody, who said that he “needs to grow up” and pointed out that Mayfield transferred in college from Texas Tech to a Big 12 rival in Oklahoma. “I didn’t lose 30+ games be fake and then do that,” Mayfield wrote to Woody on Instagram.
Asked Wednesday if he had any regrets about his comments on Jackson, Mayfield said, “No, people took it as me personally attacking Hue, that’s not it. It’s the fact that I get to have my own opinion on how it transpired and he gets to do what he wants. That’s how it is. … I didn’t like the move and people don’t have to care. I’m not looking for anybody’s approval.
"I don’t regret any of it. It’s about this team and what we have, and we have to stick together and play together.”
Mayfield declined to elaborate on what about Jackson struck him as “fake,” saying, “There’s just things that happened inside the building that I’m not going to get into detail with, it’s in-house information and it doesn’t matter.”
Mayfield came into the NFL with some questions about his maturity, following incidents at Oklahoma that included an arrest for public intoxication, disorderly conduct and fleeing arrest. He also made a widely noted crotch-grab in the direction of the Kansas sideline during a game, but claimed Wednesday that those were the “only mistakes” he made in his stellar college career.
“People get maturity confused with me being 100 percent comfortable in my own skin,” the former Heisman Trophy winner said. “So that’s absolutely how I am, I’ve always been that way. It’s not immature. It’s me being who I am every day. Being that same guy for our team, and I think that’s very important for us right now."
Mayfield has been a different quarterback, at least in terms of on-field performance, since Jackson was fired in late October, with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams elevated to interim head coach. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley was also let go, and was replaced with running backs coach Freddie Kitchens.
The changes certainly seem to have worked. In six games with Jackson, Mayfield threw for eight touchdowns against six interceptions, with a 1-4 record as a starter. Since the firing, he has gone 2-1 with nine touchdowns and just one pick.
Even though it has only been a three-game stretch of relative success, that means plenty in Cleveland, where the Browns went 0-16 last season and 3-36-1 over Jackson’s two-plus seasons. Mayfield’s elevated play — he’s second only to the Saints' Drew Brees in passer rating since the coaching change — has also proven that he can do more than just talk the talk.
Mayfield told reporters Wednesday that it “doesn’t bother” him to hear that Brees or another elite quarterback, such as Peyton Manning, would not have behaved the way he has.
“They’re their own person. I’m not trying to be exactly like them,” he said. “Yeah, there are things that I absolutely admire about both of those guys, but I’m never trying to be anybody else. I’m going to be the best version of myself, and that’s what has gotten me here.”
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