The people who tuned into ESPN’s “Get Up” Friday morning hoping to see more verbal sparring between Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and former NFL coach Rex Ryan had to be disappointed.
But the people who hoped to detect signs Mayfield might actually mature after regressing in his second NFL season must have been relieved to some extent.
Mayfield played nice with Ryan, admitting he’s been humbled on the heels of a devastatingly disappointing 6-10 season and acknowledging he no longer feels a need to respond to critics like he has so many times in the past.
“It’s a humbling experience. It’s a different ball game. I mean, let’s just be honest, I put my foot in my mouth a lot this past year,” Mayfield said. “And I’m going to internalize that, and I think that’s the way I need to handle it.
“I mean, rest in peace, Kobe [Bryant], but that’s the way he did it. He motivated himself. He didn’t talk a lot. He talked to his teammates, drove them to be better people, better men, and so that’s the way I need to handle it. I don’t need to respond to the things that don’t matter, things that don’t help us win.”
Ryan ripped Mayfield in September after the Browns started the season 1-2, calling the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft “overrated as hell” and a “one-read” QB.
Sitting beside Mayfield on the “Get Up” set during Super Bowl festivities in Miami, Ryan explained he ripped Mayfield because he had high expectations for the Browns, especially after they traded for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in March, and picked them to win the AFC North.
When Ryan asked what caused the Browns to implode last season, Mayfield pointed to himself. He threw 22 touchdowns against 21 interceptions, second-most in the league. His completion percentage (59.4) and passer rating (78.8) both ranked next to last. No one saw those numbers coming after a 2018 season in which Mayfield broke the NFL single-season rookie record for TD passes with 27, threw 14 interceptions and registered a completion percentage of 63.8 and a passer rating of 93.7.
“It comes down to me doing my job,” Mayfield said. “I’ve never turned the ball over so many times. … You can’t win like that. So that falls back on me. I’ll take all the blame for that.
“So it comes back on communication, just being on the same page, doing my job the best I can and not worrying about the outside stuff, not replying to you [Rex Ryan]. But just doing my job and doing what really matters.”
Ryan said Mayfield’s answer shows the 24 year old is “starting to get it.” A former head coach of the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, Ryan explained he previously questioned whether Mayfield would “get it” because of the QB’s obsession with trading verbal barbs with critics.
For example, after Ryan levied his criticism in the fall, Mayfield said, “In the wise words of [former Browns coach] Freddie Kitchens, if you don’t wear orange and brown, you don’t matter. Rex Ryan doesn’t have any colors right now for a reason.”
Reflecting on their trash talk, Ryan told Mayfield, “I was surprised that you were not just going back at me, but going back at other people ’cause that doesn’t help you win games.”
Mayfield replied, “No, it doesn’t. And that’s what the focus needs to be about is what can I do to help this team win? What can I do to make our franchise better, head in the right direction? Do the things [to show] why I was picked in that spot and make it happen.”
Mayfield said refraining from back-and-forth exchanges with doubters doesn’t mean he’ll lose the chip on his shoulder.
“I’ve always played with an edge, but it didn’t come around to people noticing it until the cameras were all around, till it was a big deal where I was getting the spotlight and people made a big deal of that,” Mayfield said. “I just have to be me. I have to continue to do that, but I don’t need to reply to the stuff on the outside.
“So I need to internalize that and motivate everybody else around me.”
Mayfield purposefully avoided making any claims about how the Browns will bounce back in 2020. He simply stressed the importance of them laying a foundation the right way under new coach Kevin Stefanski when the offseason workout program begins April 6.
“I know we’re going to work,” Mayfield said. “I know what we’re going to do to handle it. I’m excited to get back to work with this new staff, starting fresh, starting clean with everybody.”