Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Baker Mayfield's Attitude Frustrating NFL Vets

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 9, 2019

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 07: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns looks on from the sidelines against the San Francisco 49ers during the third quarter of an NFL football game at Levi's Stadium on October 07, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Baker Mayfield leaving more than a few league elders upset, Christian McCaffrey makes his case as the NFL's best running back, and why Washington's coaching job has become the worst in football. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.

    

1. Respect your elders

When Richard Sherman trashed Baker Mayfield over supposedly not shaking hands before the 49ers blasted the Browns on Monday night, the veteran cornerback was also making a larger point I've heard some veterans privately make about the second-year quarterback.

"What's amazing, and annoying, was him not shaking hands at the beginning," Sherman told Michael Silver of NFL.com. "That's some college s--t. It's ridiculous. We're all trying to get psyched up, but shaking hands with your opponent—that's NFL etiquette. And when you pull bush league stuff, that's disrespectful to the game. And believe me, that's gonna get us fired up."

(Truth be told, in this video, while not clear, it appears Mayfield shook Sherman's hand. No matter, Sherman tweeted on Tuesday that whatever handshake he did get was "petty" and "Bs.")

The larger story, however, is not about the handshake, but about how some veterans believe Mayfield is too cocky for someone who hasn't won anything yet.

Players, and not in insignificant numbers, have been saying quietly for some time they believe Mayfield acts like he's a better player than he is. Said one defensive player who has a Super Bowl ring: "He acts like he's won 10 Super Bowls. He hasn't won any."

Players will tolerate cockiness if it can be backed up with ability and winning. And sometimes, not even winning. Great play gives you great leeway in this league.

But Mayfield also has run afoul of the expectation that players should show other players respect, especially veteran ones.

It's also possible some players are jealous of Mayfield's high profile.

But veterans like Sherman—and many othersbelieve that younger players should have respect for the players who laid the foundation for them (and he's right).

This isn't the playground or high school. This is a professional league built on the backs of preceding generations of players.

And to a number of players across the league, it appears Mayfield doesn't understand that yet. 

   

2. There's no escape for Baker

Tony Avelar/Associated Press

A lack of respect isn't the only thing dogging Mayfield. According to one NFC scout, Mayfield's biggest problem is his inability to utilize what he did in college—his ability to escape and buy time—in the NFL.

Mayfield was one of the better athletes while at Oklahoma. Now, he's not. He's average. And that has limited his ability to escape a collapsing pocket. All of the powerful and fast pass-rushers he's seeing now are just as fast, if not faster, than he is.

So when he bounces to the outside, he is easily boxed in.

Consequently, Mayfield has been relegated almost solely to being a pocket passer, and that's not his game. It's only part of it.

The Browns need to change that and transform Mayfield back into the quarterback he was much of last year and in college. Maybe it's scheme. Maybe it's personnel. Maybe it's Mayfield's mindset. Whatever the possible solution, they need to do it fast before this season spirals into oblivion.

     

3. McCaffrey the great

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 06: Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers stiff-arms Josh Allen #41 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half of their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

When Christian McCaffrey slices through a defensive line like thisor like this, or engineers any number of eye-popping maneuvers, it often seems like teams aren't prepared for his athleticism. It looks a little like he's running at the speed of light and defenses are chasing him on a skateboard.

How does he keep seemingly surprising opposing defenses?

"He is a complete back that can do it all," his former teammate, wide receiver Torrey Smith, told B/R. "He can run the wide receiver tree and he can run between the tackles. Hell of a leader, too."

Put it all together, and it's clear the NFL has a new top running back. It's not Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley II, Alvin Kamara or even Saquon Barkley.

It's McCaffrey.

Through Week 5, the third-year Panthers star leads the NFL with 587 rushing yards and has 31 catches for 279 yards. He already has seven touchdowns and has accounted for 47 percent of the Carolina offense.

Besides making fantasy teams unbeatable, McCaffrey's ascendance gives the Panthers a fighting chance without their former MVP, quarterback Cam Newton. Having helped the Panthers to a 3-0 mark in Newton's absence, McCaffrey is the captain now of the franchise.

This may seem blasphemous, but the Panthers might have uncovered a more dynamic team, a better team, without Newton. It's pretty clear that he is starting to physically break down. And it is not any secret that it has become increasingly difficult for Newton to throw accurately down the field. That has allowed defenses to focus many of their resources on stopping McCaffrey, daring Newton to beat them. This season, before he was sidelined with a foot injury, he couldn't.

Newly elevated quarterback Kyle Allen isn't as talented or experienced as Newton (and Allen has lost four fumbles), but he's more of a passing threat than Newton at this time. Teams at least have to respect Allen, who has completed 67 percent of passes for five touchdowns and no interceptions this season.

Allen gives McCaffrey more room to run than Newton did, and McCaffrey is taking advantage of it by dominating the league. That's what can happen when you're the best back in football.

    

4. McCaffrey the MVP?

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

The MVP award is Patrick Mahomes' to lose, but if McCaffrey keeps this up, he will give Mahomes a fight, as my B/R colleague Mike Tanier pointed out on Sunday.

USA Today's Charles Curtis gave an idea of just how good McCaffrey has been this season in highlighting some of the records he is on pace to break. It's truly historic. Whenever your name is in the same sentence with Jim Brown, things are good.

In a quarterback league, Mahomes is the clear front-runner.

But McCaffrey is making a convincing argument that the vote could be a close one.

    

5. What's the deal in San Francisco?

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 07: Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers runs off the field after beating the Cleveland Browns at Levi's Stadium on October 07, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

San Francisco is 4-0 for the first time since 1990.

So are the 49ers the real deal?

Hell yes. The 49ers are a tough and smart team, and they grind opponents down. They have a physical running game and a nasty defense, and they are healthy. And if Monday night was any indication, they also have Richard Sherman playing like the Richard Sherman of old.

It's true the 49ers' opponents are a combined 5-15, but in the NFL it's difficult to beat even the terrible teams.

Are they the best team? No. Are they a legitimate one? Absolutely. 

    

6. 'The worst job in football'

Nick Wass/Associated Press

The Washington football team fired coach Jay Gruden on Monday. He likely was relieved to be gone.

The team, now 0-5, is a mess with a horrendous owner and an incompetent team president. One AFC assistant coach called it "the worst job in football."

"They will get interest [in replacing Gruden] because it's an NFL job, but it's a s--t job."

The reputation for dysfunction is so pervasive that the odds of getting any coach who could make a difference are slim.

Sure, the new guy will say the right things and maybe even really believe he can turn things around, but so did Gruden. And look where he is now.

    

7. The more things change…

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

We talk about teams like the 49ers, Saints and Packers and how well they're doing. How they have a plethora of stars and good quarterback play. Or we marvel at McCaffrey, Mahomes and any number of emerging stars.

Meanwhile, arguably the greatest organization in the history of sports just keeps churning along, practically unnoticed outside of New England

The Patriots are 5-0 and will likely beat the Giants on Thursday to go 6-0.

According to Patriots.com, this is the fifth time the Pats have gone undefeated through their first five games of a season and the fourth time under Bill Belichick.

Yes, it's true that the five wins this year have come against the Steelers, Dolphins, Jets, Bills and Washington, who have a combined record of 5-18. And the Giants enter Thursday with a 2-3 mark.

But with the history the Patriots have, is there any doubt they can turn it on anytime, anywhere? They've earned the benefit of the doubt, and they have one of the best defenses of the Belichick era.

They have some issues, the biggest perhaps being the offensive line. But this is a defending Super Bowl champion that has won the title with a lot less cohesion. It's something to watch.

    

8. Unstoppable

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 03: Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks scrambles to extend a play during the game against the Los Angeles Rams at CenturyLink Field on October 03, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Seahawks top the Los Angeles R
Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Russell Wilson is off to the best start of his career (which is saying something). The Seahawks QB is completing a staggering 73 percent of his passes, and his 12-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio is the best of his career through five games. 

That's not just a career season, but an MVP one that has Seattle at 4-1 and starting to generate some legit NFC title contender buzz.

    

9. Worst of the worst

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Four teams remain winless: the Bengals, Dolphins, Jets and Washington. 

That's a lot of stinkiness. I'm not even sure stinkiness is a word, but if it isn't, it should be.

Four winless teams is tied for the second-most winless teams through five weeks during the Super Bowl era, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

    

10. Can't-miss TV

It's obviously subjective, but this is easily one of the best starts to the season in a long time.

Butch Dill/Associated Press

Entertainment value is part of the reason, but so, too, is the expanding level of expertise. The high level of coaching and playing isn't just limited to a few historically good franchises, but also can be seen from Kansas City (Mahomes) and Carolina (McCaffrey) to New Orleans (Michael Thomas) to Seattle (Wilson) to Green Bay (the Packers defense). And then there's the coaching excellence on display in San Francisco and Oakland and, of course, New England.

Yes, the officiating is still as putrid as it's ever been—if not more—but the level of playing and coaching is outstanding.

Except for Washington. Always except for Washington.

            

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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