Baker Mayfield Rumors: Associates Wondered If Browns Deliberately Made QB 'Hapless'

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 5, 2022

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 03: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) looks on during the game against the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 03, 2022 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Those close to Baker Mayfield reportedly wonder if the Cleveland Browns purposely put the quarterback in a position to fail late last season.

According to ESPN's Jake Trotter, people within Mayfield's inner circle felt the Browns have been trying to make him look "as hapless as possible" during a Jan. 3 Monday Night Football game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers last season.

Mayfield, who dealt with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder for most of the season, struggled in a 26-14 loss, going 16-of-38 for 185 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was also sacked nine times after getting sacked five times the previous week in a loss to the Green Bay Packers.

The Pittsburgh game ended up being Mayfield's final start with the Browns, as he sat out the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals and shifted his focus toward getting offseason surgery on his shoulder.

All told, Mayfield had a rough 2021 season that saw him go 6-8 as a starter and complete 60.5 percent of his passes for 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

It was a far cry from what he accomplished in 2020, when he had a career-best touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio of 26-8, went 11-5, took the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and beat the Steelers in the AFC Wild Card Round.

At that point, it seemed like the 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick was destined for a huge contract with the Browns, but they held off and decided to move on after his poor showing in 2021.

Cleveland cemented its decision to end the Mayfield era in March when it acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson in a blockbuster trade with the Houston Texans.

The Browns even gave Watson a fully guaranteed $230 million contract despite the fact that he is facing 22 civil lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual assault or sexual misconduct during massage sessions.

Mayfield is still a member of the Browns roster since the organization has been unable to find a trade partner, but it is highly likely he will be gone eventually either via trade or release.

While Mayfield has never been close to an elite quarterback during his NFL career, he threw a career-high 27 touchdown passes and finished second in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting in 2018, and his 2020 season earned plenty of praise.

He could represent an upgrade for teams with suspect quarterback situations such as the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks or Detroit Lions, especially if he gets back to full health following surgery.