7 times Baker Mayfield was really bad at playing football
Seaside Joe 1197: He's Sam Darnold with better PR
One of the best things you can spill in your kitchen is uncooked spaghetti noodles, I’ve learned. Not only are they easy to clean up and still useable, but you’ll have so much fun playin’ pick-up sticks that before you know it you’ll declare a thumb war. Spill cooked spaghetti, or heaven forbid noodles+sauce, you might as well put your house on the market and get what you can get before the place is considered condemned. But as long as those noods haven’t hit boiling hot water yet, that’s not just a spill you can live with… It’s a spill that you live for.
Today’s Seaside Joe is brought to you by 106 spaghetti sauce spill stock photo images. Like this one that features meatballs that somehow didn’t get a dollop of sauce anywhere on their meatbodies other than their meatbottoms.
For now, the Seattle Seahawks have nothing but hard noodles in the quarterback room. They’ve got bucatini (Geno Smith), rigatoni (Drew Lock), and macaroni (Jacob Eason) and most fans are well aware of the fact that even if none of these options will whisk you away to Italiano because you won the showcase showdown, they’re all super easy to clean up.
And that’s all the Seahawks should want at quarterback in 2022: Someone easy to clean up. Not someone who takes you to Paris, never to be seen again.
The 1,197th edition of Seaside Joe will now eradicate any last hopes you have for Baker Mayfield, the “Kevin’s chili” of spaghetti of quarterbacks.
Be a wet noodle and subscribe to Seaside Joe for all the sauce:
Without talking about his draft status, tell me why Baker Mayfield is a quarterback who can elevate the Seattle Seahawks into legitimate playoff contenders.
Don’t use excuses this time. Certainly nobody has had to make excuses for Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, or any of the quarterbacks who we know have the power to elevate. You don’t have to make excuses for players who do the one thing that is asked of them at the position: Overcome obstacles to become successful.
They all had to do it. We separate the successful from the unsuccessful not because of excuses. We separate them because of results.
Baker Mayfield had an obstacle of a shoulder injury last season, but rather than find ways to mitigate it, he allowed it to sink his team’s playoff chances (the Browns only finished two games worse than the team in their division that went to the Super Bowl and we’ll talk about games that Mayfield single-shoulderedly lost for Cleveland) because of stubbornness and poor leadership.
Though Mayfield has navigated a few seasons with aesthetically pleasing TD:INT ratios, he is also a quarterback who will never be able to escape the fact that after four years of opportunities to be a franchise player, the Cleveland Browns decided he was not good enough to play for the Cleveland Browns anymore.
Is that analytics?
Despite tantalizing many fans with numbers that sure “seem good” like a 26 TD/8 INT season in 2020 with an 11-5 record, or a passer rating above 90 in two of four campaigns, Mayfield has STATISTICALLY been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL since he entered the league as the number one pick in the 2018 draft.
Out of 34 QBs with at least 750 attempts in the last four years:
Mayfield ranks 33rd in completion percentage (61.6%)
Mayfield ranks 25th in Adjusted Y/A (7) and 26th in Adjusted Net Y/A (6.1)
Mayfield ranks 28th in passer rating (87.8)
Mayfield has the fourth-highest INT rate (2.9%)
But only the 19th-highest TD rate (4.8%)
Mayfield has thrown the most interceptions in the NFL (56)
Mayfield has only led the Browns to more than six wins once during his four campaigns, yet most of his career has been an opportunity to be at least as good as Allen and Jackson, two quarterbacks taken after him in 2018 because he was arguably in the best situation.
Cleveland’s offense featured Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham, Jr., and Jarvis Landry in 2019, with an offensive line that at least featured a couple of stout interior linemen—though the tackles were admittedly a weakness. (There go “excuses” again.)
But the 2020 offensive line was called the best in the NFL at the conclusion of the season by PFF, the team had a new identity under head coach Kevin Stefanski, and Mayfield was supported by a running back duo that combined for 1,900 rushing yards with 23 touchdowns.
Facing a weaker-than-average schedule of defenses according to FootballOutsiders, the Browns still only ranked 14th in points scored, 24th in passing yards, 11th in Net Y/A, and 10th in passing offense DVOA. Allen had the Bills ranked third in passing offense DVOA, and rookie Justin Herbert had the Chargers ranked seventh.
It’s only nitpicking if you’re not asking whether or not Baker Mayfield can elevate the Seahawks—a team that could have the worst offensive line in football next season and coming off of a campaign that might have been even worse than the 8-9 Browns—from a fourth place finish in the NFC West to playoff contenders.
Since the only purpose Seahawks fans would have to discuss Mayfield would be for those reasons—as compared to the “hard noodle QB options” Seattle already has that are cheap, no-strings attached, no diva mentality players who could all be gone in 2023—surely we aren’t nitpicking to say that Mayfield has never once through four seasons proven to be the type of quarterback who elevates those around him.
Browns Offense Strength of Schedule (via FootballOutsiders DVOA rankings)
2019: 2nd (tough)
2021: 30th (easy)
You may still find that statement to be untrue despite 60 career games that say otherwise. You may still think that “winning a playoff game” is the only resume marker you care about, even though many of those same Seahawks fans that pine for Baker also have a hardline stance against ever getting into bed with Jared Goff, Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Foles, or, idk, T.J. Yates.
You might still be under the impression that Mayfield was “finally getting good in 2020” and that the only reason he was bad in 2021 was because of a Week 2 shoulder injury that somehow wasn’t bad enough to pull him out of the game despite how often he was out there ruining Cleveland’s playoff hopes.
This is you begging for slop:
This is me telling you to go to bed without dessert with all the times throughout his career that Baker Mayfield has actually been a bad quarterback.
His rookie season
Mayfield was drafted to a team in hot water in 2018, as the Browns had gone 1-31 over the first two seasons of Hue Jackson’s Cleveland coaching career. With Tyrod Taylor starting Weeks 1 and 2, the team had started 0-1-1, notching a tie against the Steelers despite Cleveland’s defense forcing SIX turnovers that day.
Then in Week 3, Mayfield started to generate the same hype you still see today because he helped lead the Browns to a come-from-behind victory over the New York Jets after subbing in for Taylor late in the first half. Mayfield completed his first three attempts, all gaining at least 14 yards, and that was surely more exciting than Tyrod Taylor.
Except that there’s one aspect to that debut victory that gets somewhat ignored: THE NEW YORK JETS.
Fellow rookie Sam Darnold has obviously been even worse than Mayfield, while the 4-12 Jets fired Todd Bowles and his entire coaching staff after the season. Jackson would name Mayfield the starter after the win but the Browns went 1-5 over the next six games, only getting a 12-9 OT victory over a Ravens team helmed by the soon-to-be-benched Joe Flacco.
In almost any other situation, Mayfield would have been benched for how he played as a rookie. But Cleveland’s situation was unique in two important ways:
Any win or any tie or any close loss was considered a win because the Browns were at that point considered the worst team in NFL history
The Browns fired Hue Jackson after the eighth game of the season, there was little reason for interim head coach Gregg Williams to do anything other than give management the long look at Mayfield that they desired
Then in the second half of the year, semi-good things started happening.
Cleveland won five of six games, beating the Falcons (5-11), Bengals (6-10), Panthers (7-9), Broncos (6-10), and Bengals (6-10). Too late to make the playoffs, the 7-7-1 Browns still had a chance in Week 17 to finish with a winning record and play spoiler in the AFC North.
Facing first-and-10 from the Baltimore 39, trailing 26-24, with 1:18 on the clock, the rookie number one overall pick went incomplete short right, incomplete short left, incomplete short middle, and interception short middle.
At least he misses to all parts of the short field.
Proving once again that fans are sometimes DYING to be dazzled by greatness, even if it’s a total mirage and a lie, Baker Mayfield was being touted as a franchise savior and an up-and-coming superstar. He finished second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, ranked #50 on the NFL Top 100, and the Browns convinced themselves to promote Freddie Kitchens to head coach while trading a first round pick and Jabrill Peppers for Odell Beckham, Jr.
Less publicized was the idea that Mayfield was roughly as good as Mitchell Trubisky and Andy Dalton that year, he tried to do way too much, and he was especially bad on the road, turning the ball over 13 times in seven games.
“But he was only a rookie.”
I agree. In the context of only knowing what we knew then, we could write off Mayfield’s uneven rookie season as being a learning experience. But with hindsight, growth from his issues under Hue Jackson has never happened… and regardless, nobody was forcing players to rank him as the 50th-best player in the league at the time.
That only solidifies the idea that Mayfield has been overrated since the draft. Unless you think it is fair to call Davis Mills a top-100 player right now, because Mills was at least as good during his rookie season as Mayfield was in 2018.
Mayfield did throw 27 touchdowns as a rookie, then a new first-year record that has since been broken by Herbert, but this has proven to be his most effective season as a scorer and he would not be the first athlete to peak early.
As a rookie, Mayfield ranked 12th in DYAR, 14th in DVOA, and he threw more touchdowns than Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield, Dak Prescott, and Matthew Stafford, all of whom played a full 16 games. However, ranked 25th in QBR, 19th in passer rating, and tied Josh Rosen and Jameis Winston for the fifth-most interceptions. Many said he was leaving 2018 on a high note… but he started 2019 on a C1.
Games 1-8 in 2019
The Browns entered the 2019 season as the darlings of the NFL, the hot pick to finally breakthrough the ass ceiling. The most perfect TEAM example of how desperate so many people are to rate “potential” the same as “production”.
But yeah, that did not happen.
In Week 1, Mayfield threw three interceptions in a 43-13 loss to the Titans. (The Marcus Mariota Titans). In Week 2, they beat the Jets, but Mayfield completed only 54% of his passes and threw another pick. In Week 3, Mayfield completed 50% of his passes and threw a pick in a loss to the Rams. In Week 4, the Browns did beat the Ravens, but Mayfield threw another pick. In Week 5, Mayfield was 8-of-22 with two interceptions in a blowout loss to the 49ers. In Week 6, Mayfield threw three interceptions in a loss to the Seahawks.
The first time that Baker Mayfield did not throw an interception during the 2019 season was Cleveland’s BYE in Week 7.
Then he came back in Week 8 to throw an interception in a loss to the Patriots.
Having acquired OBJ in the offseason, the Browns still started 2-6 and Mayfield’s stats through eight games: 58% completions, seven touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 23 sacks, three fumbles, 7.2 Y/A but only 5.77 adjusted Y/A.
That means that by midseason, Baker Mayfield ranked 31st in passer rating (ahead of only Darnold and Rosen, behind Flacco, Daniel Jones, Trubisky, and Dalton), tied first in interceptions with Winston, tied 27th in touchdowns, 30th in AY/A and adjusted net Y/A, and 32nd in completion percentage.
He was playing behind PFF’s highest-rated offensive line for the 2019 season. His offensive weapons were OBJ, Jarvis Landry, and Nick Chubb, all of whom played in every game that year. But for apologists—which again, don’t need to exist for quarterbacks who have succeeded—this could all be boiled down to Freddie Kitchens.
All offseason, Kitchens was “so dope” to the media and everyone loved rallying around this underdog mentality that would center itself around a quarterback who went first overall and should be the furthest thing from an underdog. To mitigate having to blame the quarterback, the media (and eventually the Browns) flipped on Kitchens instead.
Only one is bad? Why not both?
Mayfield rarely rallies his team to victory (he has three fourth quarter comebacks over the last three seasons, including zero in 2021) but he did rally his stats in the second half of the 2019 campaign, throwing seven touchdowns in wins over the Bills, Steelers, and Dolphins over the next three weeks. But that would crash down again before another disappointing Browns season concluded.
Weeks 13-17 in 2019
Baker Mayfield threw at least one interception in each of his final six games of the season, and Cleveland lost four of their last five—only getting a victory over the 2-14 Bengals in Week 14.
And that day, Mayfield went 11-of-24 for 192 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions. He was practically no better in a Week 17 loss to those same Bengals, completing 44% of his passes with three interceptions and six sacks taken in a 33-23 defeat to the NFL’s worst team.
The Browns entered the 2019 season as many analysts’ favorites to win the AFC North, but they left another year with their tail between their legs and on the look for yet another new head coach. This time they would seemingly strike gold with Kevin Stefanski hot off of a stretch in which he made Kirk Cousins look “kinda okay” with the Vikings.
Stefanski’s first goal had to be cutting down Mayfield’s interceptions and poor decision-making on the field, erasing his “hero ball” mentality until Mayfield could prove that he could play “any kind of ball” first. In that regard, Stefanski worked miracles in 2020.
But below the surface of a TD:INT ratio, Mayfield remained one of the NFL’s least impactful starters at quarterback.
2020: Against good defenses
Though Mayfield finished the season with 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions, cutting his INT% to a respectable 1.6 (tied for 8th), those safer throws came at a cost of more scoring, and essentially Stefanski was doing all in his power to take responsibility away from the “franchise” quarterback.
Even though 26 touchdowns is already a bit of a modest total (tied for 12th-most), nine of those scores came in two games: 5 against the Bengals (ranked 28th in pass defense DVOA) and 4 against the Titans (30th in pass defense DVOA).
There were 18 quarterbacks in 2020 to have at least three games with three touchdown passes, but Mayfield was not one of them. Trubisky, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers all had at least three, but not Mayfield. He had the same number of those games as Drew Lock, Jared Goff, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Joe Burrow. He had the same number of those games as Gardner Minshew even though Minshew only made nine appearances that year.
In fact, Minshew and Mayfield had the exact same passer rating (95.9) in 2020. Minshew was playing on the Jaguars. Mayfield had a top-ranked offensive line with Joel Bitonio, Jack Conklin, Wyatt Teller, and first round pick Jedrick Wills. He had Chubb and Kareem Hunt both going over 1,100 total yards. He had Landry. He at least had OBJ for seven games.
And he had a two touchdown ceiling. He had seven games with zero or one touchdown. Put Mayfield up against any defense that showed up to play, he was not an effective quarterback and that’s during his most effective season to date.
Number of times their teams have scored 15 or fewer points with these 2018 NFL Draft quarterbacks:
2018: 3 (of 14)
2021: 7 (of 14)
Total: 21 of 59 (35%)
2018: 5 (of 13)
2019: 4 (of 13)
2020: 7 (of 12)
2021: 4 (of 12)
Total: 20 of 50 (40%)
2018: 0 (of 7)
2019: 0 (of 15)
2020: 0 (of 15)
2021: 1 (of 12)
Total: 1 of 49 (2%)
2018: 4 (of 11)
Total: 11 of 60 (18%)
2020: On third down
During the best season of his career, Baker Mayfield was one of the NFL’s absolute worst quarterbacks on third down. Here is a comparison on third downs in 2020 between two quarterbacks who I think are of nearly the same value:
Mayfield: 69-of-125, 55%, 751 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT, 6.0 Y/A, 75.8 rating, 52 1st downs
Darnold: 59-of-112, 53%, 663 yards, 6 TD, 5 INT, 5.9 Y/A, 69.9 rating, 37 1st downs
Of 21 QBs to throw at least 100 third down attempts in 2020, Baker Mayfield ranked 20th in completion percentage and 18th in passer rating.
I don’t remember anyone talking about his shoulder or Freddie Kitchens back in 2020.
I think it is very fitting that the Panthers would be “highly interested” in Mayfield. This is the same team that re-committed to Cam Newton well past his valuable years; signed Teddy Bridgewater to a starter’s contract when he clearly wasn’t a starter; traded way too much for Darnold and then exercised his fifth-year option; re-committed to Darnold again should they not find someone to replace him prior to Week 1.
Don’t follow Carolina’s lead, how bout that?
In the 2020 playoff loss to the Chiefs
Despite their inconsistency on offense (31st in variance) and a below-mediocre season on defense (25th in DVOA), the Browns went 11-5 in 2020 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2007. That kind of thing gets people excited, especially for any long-suffering franchise that finally shows signs of life—it’s in all humans to root for underdogs—but Cleveland’s suffering was far from over.
The Browns were 18th in DVOA and they faced the third-easiest schedule in the NFL according to FootballOutsiders.
None of that mattered in the wild card round, as the Pittsburgh Steelers imploded in the first quarter against the Browns: The first play was a botched snap that Cleveland recovered for an immediate touchdown; then Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception on the next drive; then the Steelers had a three-and-out; then Roethlisberger threw his second interception of the first quarter.
The Browns led 28-0 before Mayfield threw his seventh pass of the game.
But the divisional round was not as kind, as the Kansas City Chiefs led 19-3 at halftime, then Mayfield threw an interception to Tyrann Mathieu on the third play of the second half. Cleveland would close the game to 22-17 in the fourth quarter, but had no firepower on their final drive and the Chiefs won despite Chad Henne replacing Patrick Mahomes for the last 20 minute of the game.
Jarvis Landry was targeted 10 times and only gained 20 yards. Mayfield was 23-of-37 for 204 yards, one touchdown, one interception, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. The Chiefs were a great team that year but essentially average on defense and pass defense.
For certain players, there is palpable desperation to turn them into a hero. So you couldn’t drown out the people who were gushing over his wild card win, even if you mentioned that only seven days later he averaged 4.84 adjusted Y/A against a league-average pass defense in a suffocating loss.
That’s fine, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning all have bad playoff games. Even worse than that one. But Mayfield lacks the flipside of the coin and he’s the quarterback who people are discussing as some team’s entrenched starter for next season. I’m not worried about one game, I’m only looking at this one quarterback’s resume and looking for reasons to believe…
I’m coming up empty.
During the entire 2021 season
Ever since the worst franchise of the Super Bowl era decided that they would rather trade three first round picks and pay $230 million for Deshaun Watson than to give Mayfield a fifth chance with his guaranteed $18 million salary, I keep hearing about how I’m not even allowed to bring up 2021 because of a shoulder injury.
“Mayfield was terrible last year.”
“HE PLAYED THROUGH INJURY, WELL ACTUALLY HE’S A HERO”
Well actually, I get to talk about the 2021 season if I want to and if Mayfield was too injured to be good, then he shouldn’t have been playing. Besides, what evidence do we have before the injury or after the injury that Baker Mayfield will be any better in 2022 than he was last season?
As pointed about by Jackson Krueger in this analysis of Mayfield’s 2021 season, for the video titled “Does Baker Mayfield Suck?”, if Mayfield was too injured to play then the Browns should have replaced him with Case Keenum because he was making damaging throws throughout the year.
With a chance to beat the Chiefs in Week 1 (prior to injury), Mayfield thought this would be a cool pass to throw. This turned a potential win into a definite loss.
Again prior to injury, this time against the NFL’s worst team in the Houston Texans, Mayfield wasn’t even close to a completion on his second pick of the season.
Some interceptions are understandable or excusable. Many of Mayfield’s are flat out embarrassing, including the two he had against the EXTREMELY BAD LIONS DEFENSE.
But surely none hurt more than the FOUR interceptions he threw against the Packers in a 24-22 loss at Lambeau Field. At midfield with under a minute to play and only needing a field goal to win, Mayfield was intercepted for his fourth time.
Mayfield finished 2021 with zero game-winning drives and zero fourth quarter comebacks for the 8-9 Browns. Had he been a hero instead of those zeroes against the Chiefs and Packers, Cleveland would have gone 10-7 and they would have WON THE AFC NORTH! Instead, the Browns missed the playoffs again and decided to fire him as the starting quaretrback.
By the way, Mayfield did sit out three games last year and Cleveland went 2-0 when Case Keenum started. They also started Nick Mullens once and Mullens threw a go-ahead touchdown against the Raiders with 3:45 on the clock, only losing on a last second 48-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson.
Nick Mullens came closer to a game-winning drive for the Browns in 2021 than Baker Mayfield did. Keenum had four game-winning drives for the Broncos in 2018, which gives him more game-winning drives in the last four years than Baker Mayfield.
You can’t bake this stuff up.
Why no NFL team wants Baker Mayfield so far
Even after all of this, I KNOW some of you are still saying, “But Ken, he has to be a better option than Drew Lock and Geno Smith!”
To that I say two things:
Does he really have to be? I’m with you that Smith is not of starter quality and that Lock is all-around one of the worst quarterbacks of the last three seasons. But Lock may actually be a better deep ball passer (he did have more deep ball completions than Mayfield in 2020 and by a fairly wide margin the deeper you go down the field) and neither of them have resumes that should inspire a fanbase to believe. The reason that Seattle currently prefers Lock to Mayfield is simply out of cost.
And that’s the second thing, the reason why no team, especially not the Seahawks, has had significant interest in trading for Mayfield… He’s a $4 million player with an $18.8 million salary.
On the surface, it may seem very simple. That the Browns just “need to eat some money” and that another team needs to pay the remaining portion of it.
But how do you balance that out when the Browns don’t want to pay Mayfield anything and the acquiring team doesn’t feel confident that Mayfield can even win their quarterback competition? Yes, I said that: Mayfield would still need to win a quarterback competition in Seattle.
You don’t actually think that alwayscomPete Carroll, who has already said that Drew Lock is behind Geno Smith because Smith came in with a two-year advantage of being on the team, is going to immediately hand the job over to a player who ranked 29th in QBR, 23rd in DYAR, 23rd in DVOA, had the fifth-highest interception rate (which we know Carroll hates), failed to produce in Stefanski’s system, and may not even be fully recovered from a shoulder injury, the degree of which effected his play in 2021 nobody knows—that can’t be what the Seahawks want to do, right?
“Hey, Baker, welcome to the team. You know Shane Waldron, right?”
Is Mayfield really expected to pickup Seattle’s playbook in August so that he can start (behind a tenuous offensive line, with no depth at receiver, and no proven talent at tight end) in September or October?
At Texas Tech, the problem was Kliff Kingsbury. Then as a rookie, the problem was Hue Jackson. Then in 2019, the problem was Freddie Kitchens. Then in 2020, the problem was Odell Beckham. Then in 2021, the problem was his shoulder.
Who is going to take ownership for Mayfield’s issues if he has problems again in 2022? Is it ever going to be Baker Mayfield’s fault?
Maybe that is a risk you take on Mayfield if he’s added to the roster for $3 million in March, but it is not a risk that makes sense when the question being asked is “What should the Seahawks give up to acquire his services for up to $19 million in August?”
What should the Seahawks give up to acquire Mayfield for $14 million?
Hopefully now we can see the impasse that Cleveland is having in any potential negotiations with the Panthers or Seahawks or any other team that for no obvious reason would want to acquire Mayfield; neither team is one good quarterback away from the Super Bowl and Mayfield is not even a good quarterback.
So if the Browns are being told, “We won’t trade for Mayfield unless you pay $15 million of his salary” then Cleveland is probably hanging that phone up and hoping that some team suffers an injury in two months that makes that franchise as desperate to acquire a quarterback as the Browns were in getting a replacement for their former franchise quarterback.
I don’t know if it’s sad or just wild that fans now see “$10 million” as a pittance sum, but keep in mind that not a single player on the roster has a cap hit of $11 million or greater in 2022. At any price above $10.1 million, Mayfield would be the most expensive player on the Seahawks. And whatever Seattle or Carolina would have to pay Mayfield, that is money that they will be prohibited from spending on players in 2023 because it’s cap space that they can’t roll over.
Given that the only realistic goals for the Seahawks next season should be “development” and “survival”, sacrificing ANYTHING to acquire a quarterback of Mayfield’s status would only act to further prohibit the team from making necessary moves for advancement in 2023.
Hold onto your spaghetti: Baker Mayfield is Sam Darnold but with better PR, a better supporting cast, and better coaching.
I said hold onto your spaghetti!!!
If you would not trade for Sam Darnold (and trust me, the Panthers would love to sell you that bridge), then you should not want to trade for Baker Mayfield. The Seahawks are already in clean up mode, there’s no reason to add more sauce to the mix.