It’s not hyperbole to say that Baker Mayfield has been the greatest quarterback in Browns history this millennium. This time a year ago, the former No. 1 overall pick was fresh off a season where he helped break Cleveland’s playoff drought (hadn’t reached the postseason since 2002) and hand them a playoff victory for the first time since 1994. In that winning effort, he tossed three touchdowns and boasted a 115 passer rating.
While things were trending in a positive direction coming off of that playoff victory in January of 2021, Mayfield finds himself on a new club just one offseason later. This trade that now has Mayfield the newest member of the Carolina Panthers comes in the aftermath of the Browns pulling off an eye-popping blockbuster that landed them former Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Once that trade was executed in mid-March and Watson agreed to a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract, Mayfield’s future in Cleveland was nonexistent.
“It was surprising for everybody,” Mayfield told reporters when asked about how his Browns tenure ended. “Pretty unexpected. But if I’m focused on the past, then I’m not doing my job and being a Carolina Panther now. Like I said, I’m grateful for my time there. Yeah, shocked is pretty much the only way to describe it, but you roll with the punches and you gotta move forward. This is a test of adversity and how I’m going to handle it and how I can move forward and be the best teammate possible with our new home and I’m looking forward to it.”
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While the Browns enjoyed some success under Mayfield, it reportedly wasn’t the smoothest sailing. A recent report from The Athletic noted that Mayfield was “widely viewed as childish and immature.” Back in March, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen shared a similar sentiment when he said the Browns wanted an “adult” at the position. Given that his replacement in Watson has serious off-field issues still looming over him, nobody would fault Mayfield for having some ill-will towards his former club, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
“Cleveland is a special place,” he said. “There’s teammates and friendships and bonds — we all contributed to that special run [in 2020] and to help turn that around. There’s guys, lifelong friendships that I’ll have that are very special to me, very near and dear to [my wife] Emily and I that we’ll never forget about. But I’m never a ‘me’ guy. I’m a team-first ‘win’ guy. We had a good time there and I’m looking forward to being able to contribute with Carolina now.”
That said, Mayfield did admit that he has Week 1 marked on the calendar when he’ll face his former Browns team as he begins this new era in Carolina.