Eighteen months ago and you couldn’t miss a Browns’ fan who treated Baker Mayfield as the second coming. Fresh off the team’s upset playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, one in which Mayfield fired three touchdowns, he seemed poised to become the team’s first franchise quarterback since Bernie Kosar.
Fast forward to last week and Mayfield was no longer on the roster. He went from savior to starter to see-ya, traded to the Carolina Panthers for a mid-round pick while the Browns ate a chunk of his salary. Carolina got him for a song and a dance, pitting him against Sam Darnold this summer in a battle Mayfield should win.
Reflecting back on all that’s happened, Mayfield told reporters he’s shocked by how it all went down.
“Yeah, shocked — I’d say was pretty much the only way to describe it,” he told Panthers’ reporters as transcribed by Yahoo’s Myles Simmons. “But you roll with the punches and you’ve got to move forward. This is a test of adversity and how I’m going to handle it, and how I can move forward to be the best teammate possible with our new home. And I’m looking forward to it.”
Things unraveled throughout last year. He injured his shoulder chasing down an interception early in the year, playing hurt the rest of the way. His play suffered and the Browns missed the playoffs. Bad blood between front office and Mayfield’s camp boiled over in Week 17. Leaving rookie right tackle James Hudson on an island against T.J. Watt, Mayfield was sacked nine times, completed barely more than 40% of his passes, and the Browns’ season was officially over. So was Mayfield’s. He didn’t play in the finale and went into the offseason with an uncertain future.
Cleveland crystalized things when they traded the farm for Houston’s Deshaun Watson, still accused of sexual assault and harassment, giving him a fully-guaranteed $230 million contract. Though some outsiders speculated the team would hold onto Mayfield with Watson’s punishment looming, there was no scenario in which Mayfield would put on a Browns’ helmet again. He was excused from spring workouts and dealt last week. Jacoby Brissett will serve as the #2 in Cleveland.
Mayfield will look for revenge in Week 1. Sly schedule-makers pitted the Browns against the Panthers in the season opener, creating one of the most interesting storylines though a game between Mayfield and a bad Panthers team against Brissett’s Browns will be far less entertaining to watch. Presumably, Pittsburgh hasn’t seen the last of Mayfield either. The Steelers and Panthers meet Week 15. By then, Carolina could be coached by interim head coach Ben McAdoo, but if Mayfield is healthy, he figures to still be starting.