Baker Mayfield is gone, but details about what led to his drawn-out breakup with the Cleveland Browns are starting to emerge.
A major issue for the Browns was what was described as “childish” behavior from Mayfield, per Jason Lloyd of The Athletic.
“Mayfield was widely viewed as childish and immature. His behavior annoyed teammates and divided the locker room,” Lloyd wrote on July 7. “He was often difficult to coach.”
He also pointed to a particular exchange between Mayfield and head coach Kevin Stefanski that strained their relationship and led to a lack of trust between the sides.
After the Browns were thrashed by the Patriots 45-7, Stefanski missed a meeting with his QB, with the Browns skipper instead tending to a pressing situation with Myles Garrett, who took a very public shot at the coaching staff for a lack of adjustments.
“In one of those ‘careful what you wish for’ moments, Stefanski never missed another meeting and privately shined a glaring spotlight on his quarterback during film sessions from that day forward,” Lloyd wrote.
Mayfield Clashed With Coaching Staff During Rough Year
The rift between quarterback and coach emerged at times during the year, with the most telling example coming after what was Mayfield’s final game as the starter in Cleveland. Mayfield was sacked nine times and decided not to play in the Browns’ season finale.
“When you’ve got T.J. Watt over there, and we’re not giving our rookie tackle [James Hudson] a whole lot of help, it’s not going to be good for us,” Mayfield told reporters.
The latest details also jibe with a report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, who said the team wanted an “adult” at quarterback.
“The one thing I was told is that it’s just not a match emotionally,” Mortensen reported in March. “Whereas Baker Mayfield’s passion and emotional leadership was embraced at Oklahoma — and even in the beginning with the Browns — things have changed, and they want what they consider ‘an adult’ at that position and that Baker Mayfield probably is going to be moved.”
Jake Trotter of ESPN said that report was the “final straw” for Mayfield during the saga, leading to his trade request, which would eventually become inevitable after the Browns dealt for Deshaun Watson.
Mayfield Gets Fresh Start in Carolina
Both sides needed to put the drama to bed, and the Browns finally pulled the trigger on sending Mayfield to the Panthers earlier this month. The sticking point was Mayfield’s salary, which was set to be $18.8 million, but the sides found a creative solution. The Panthers will pay just $4.85 million of Mayfield’s salary, while the Browns will pay $10.5 million, per ESPN. Mayfield converted the leftover money into incentives, which he can earn during the season.
A conditional draft pick was also involved and the Browns will receive a fourth- or fifth-round pick in 2024, contingent on Mayfield’s playing time in Carolina.
Mayfield is in need of a bounce-back year after he completed 60.5% of his passes for 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. While Mayfield was inconsistent, at least part of it can be attributed to a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder he suffered while trying to make a tackle in Week 2 against the Texans. He had surgery to repair the injury this offseason but will be a full participant when training camp rolls around.
It’s assumed Mayfield will be the starter in Carolina, taking over for Sam Darnold, although he’ll have to earn it. Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is 10-23 over his two seasons in Carolina and his future will be very much linked to how Mayfield — or whoever is at quarterback — performs.