Browns Quarterback Baker Mayfield Is Taking The Heat For the Team's Struggles. Is it Fair?
For the Cleveland Browns, good quarterback play has been at a premium. Constant turnover and controversy surrounded the position for the better part of 20 years, until Baker Mayfield was selected with the first overall pick in 2018.
Since taking his first snap in game three of that same year, Mayfield has not missed a start for the team and has since started 51 straight games.
With this game experience, however, comes controversy. Though Mayfield has had early success compared to past quarterbacks for the Browns, some struggles have raised question marks by some fans on whether or not he is a franchise quarterback, or whether he should be paid top dollar this offseason.
Commentator Terry Pluto says quarterbacks are always at the center of attention, getting more credit than they should when they win and more blame when they lose.
And, Pluto has been getting a lot of fan emails about Mayfield, one writing: "Maybe we should dump Mayfield and spend another 20 years finding a QB."
Pluto says fans should look at Mayfield's performance Sunday "through rational eyes" before heaping the blame on the QB for the loss.
"If the standard is greatness all the time, everybody is going to be frustrated because there is only a couple of great quarterbacks playing in any given year."
Dominating the headlines leading up to this week's matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers was the status of Mayfield's shoulder injury.
In its daily injury report, the team said that Mayfield was suffering from "soreness" in his non-throwing arm from a game against the Texans last month.
Mayfield kept practicing and was never placed on the injury list.
Then, last Wednesday, news of Mayfield's torn labrum leaked.
"The Browns certainly didn't put it out. Sometimes it could be someone affiliated with the agent or the family drops word to a national media guy to protect their guy from a lot of the criticism. I believe that's what happened," Pluto said.
Then Pluto said the media, "in the 24-hour news cycle of all Baker, all the time," took it and ran with it. At one point last week, Case Keenum, the team's backup quarterback, was trending on Twitter.
But Pluto believes Mayfield's poor performance in game four wasn't because of the injury.
"I went back and looked at that game. Most of the problems Mayfield had in Minnesota are what I would call [bad] judgements and play calls," he said.
Then Sunday, Pluto said Mayfield rebounded, passing 305 yards and two touchdowns in the team's 47-42 loss.
"[They] scored more than 40 points on the road against a really good L.A. Chargers team that had not allowed more than 24 points in a game all year," Pluto said.
Pluto also points to the defense, which allowed 42 points.
"I give him a lot of credit for maturing."
Pluto says as the team continues to break away from decades of losing, they're often going to draw the attention of national media outlets like ESPN that are looking for ratings. And Pluto says that means lots of conversation about the quarterback.
"[Mayfield] was a guy that when he was younger, he could be obnoxious and annoying so he was an easy target then," said Pluto. "He has grown out of a lot of that. I give him a lot of credit for maturing."
Reason for optimism
Pluto describes Mayfield as a "good, not great" quarterback, and one who fans could get behind.
"You can win a lot of games with him, as it has been shown already. If the standard is greatness all the time, everybody is going to be frustrated, because there is only a couple of great quarterbacks playing in any given year," Pluto said.
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