Baker Mayfield is frustrated. Freddie Kitchens is frustrated. Odell Beckham Jr. is frustrated, although not so frustrated that it prevented him from staging a viral marketing attempt by gifting some OBJ signature, fake goat hair cleats to Tom Brady, who’d just spent the afternoon sending Cleveland to a spiraling 2-5.
You got to have priorities, of course.
With the Browns, frustration is everywhere. Not enough wins. Not enough targets. Too many losses. Too much confusion.
It is most evident, and most important for the Browns franchise, with Mayfield, the still-promising young quarterback, whose season is in a tailspin.
Baker Mayfield butted heads with a reporter on Wednesday as frustration continues to build amid the Browns’ 2-5 season. (USA Today Sports)
Wednesday he had to take to Twitter to defend and explain himself — “I’m frustrated” — for walking out of a media scrum that came after he had an impassioned back and forth with a reporter which, of course, came in the uncertain middle of this roller-coaster season.
“If I was to act like it’s OK to lose, then y’all would say that I’ve gotten complacent. My sense of urgency is at an all time high. And if I offend anybody along the way … that’s too bad.”
Mayfield is right about that. There shouldn’t be — and really hasn’t been — anyone questioning his want to win.
Knowing how to win in the NFL, let alone having anyone around him capable of steadying the ship and showing him how, is the real issue.
Headed into what is essentially a must-win game at Denver, Cleveland’s season appears to be on the brink. Maybe this entire experiment is also.
Young gun QB. Likable but inexperienced head coach. Talented but excitable wideout. Star-studded roster heavy on skill players, light in the trenches.
For this to ever have worked, everything needed to go right. Needless to say, that hasn’t been the case.
For Cleveland, the concern should be on its most valuable asset — Mayfield, the former Heisman winner it drafted No. 1 and showed tremendous upside as a rookie.
Here in Year 2, he’s a target in the league and easy to mock. His 12 interceptions nearly equal last year’s 14, but in half the number of games. He has thrown just six TDs. His QB rating of 67.8 is among the lowest in the league. His completion rating of 57.6 is down from last year’s 63.8.
Mayfield is also pressing. The mistakes and early deficits are putting him in tough positions — he’s admirably more than willing to risk picks in trying to lead wild comebacks. There is dysfunction around him — endless false starts and poor coaching decisions.
It can rip apart any player, let alone a young one. Quarterback careers are fragile, things tend to go in one direction or the other and here in Year 2, the trend isn’t good. Mayfield isn’t what he was. That ought to sound alarm bells with the Browns.
Something has to give. A win sure wouldn’t hurt.
“We have to take responsibility and take it personal to do our jobs the very best to the highest ability,” Mayfield said of the self-inflicted wounds. “Doing everything right. Physical mistakes are going to happen, but that is OK. Guys understand that we are human.
“But the mental aspect of it and the penalties and things like that are things we need to iron out, and that we will get fixed,” he said. “I am taking it personal on the offense to establish that within everybody, and we have everybody on board right now. I think the defense has the same M.O. and we are going to feed off each other.”
The highlight of Mayfield storming out will get the attention, but most of what he actually said Wednesday (such as the above) sounded good. Maybe the end was just blowing off steam. Or maybe it’s a glaring sign of how turbulent this is.
The question for Cleveland is whether there is anyone who can help Mayfield manage the spotlight. No other second-year starter has this much riding on him.
Sam Darnold is in a bigger media market and on a worse team, but there is patience in New York to watch him develop. Lamar Jackson is on a real Super Bowl contender, but Baltimore is a cohesive unit with an experienced coach.
Mayfield is out on an island.
Kitchens hasn’t instilled discipline in the players. The front office couldn’t get additional offensive line help to buy the QB an extra second in the pocket.
And Beckham Jr. is distracted enough that he’s wearing expensive watches during games, bringing signature shoes to give to Brady after them and then wondering why he isn’t getting the ball more.
“It’s never really been me, like, ‘Give me the ball,’” Beckham said. “But at the same point in time, I’m hungry. I always want to eat.”
They all want to eat but right now are starving. Frustrated, they all claim, perhaps Mayfield the most.
You can’t question his passion to win, but it’s clear that someone in Cleveland has to help him learn how to do it before it’s too late, for this season or perhaps worse.
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