Expectations for the Cleveland Browns’ 2019 season are higher than they’ve been in years, and a big reason for that is quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Beginning his second season, last year’s No. 1 overall pick has Cleveland and the NFL buzzing for the way he played last season and his exuberant on-field personality.
They remind a certain Hall of Fame quarterback of someone – himself.
‘The sky is the limit for Baker’
Browns beat writer Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal spoke to Brett Favre about the claim that Mayfield plays a lot like Favre did in his heyday.
Favre’s response? Claim checks out, though Mayfield isn’t the only one he thinks plays like he did.
“There’s no question that the sky is the limit for Baker,” Favre said. “And, yeah, I think his style of play, and I’ve heard the same thing about [Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick] Mahomes, and I agree with both, that their styles of play — if you had to pick a former player — would certainly match up to my style.”
Browns general manager John Dorsey, who was with the Green Bay Packers during Favre’s time as starter, sees similarities between Favre and Mayfield, and Cleveland receiver Odell Beckham Jr., a big fan of Favre growing up, has said it as well.
The ‘unexpected’ nature of their games
Favre said it’s the “unexpected” nature of Mayfield’s and Mahomes’ games that are reminiscent of his style.
“It’s a play-action fake that you’ve never seen before or a flip, underhand pass or diving over three defenders or ducking your head and getting the extra yard,” Favre said. “Those are the type of things that are the unexpected that will become, at some point, maybe expected with a guy like Baker or Mahomes.
“Playing [quarterback] the way I played and the way Baker and Mahomes play is they just kind of have that added little sixth sense.”
Former Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf (whose son Eliot is Cleveland’s assistant GM) agrees that Mayfield has some Favre-like qualities.
“Sure does,” Wolf said. “He has a similar throwing style. He seems to display an awful lot of confidence about his ability to be able to make things happen and come on in and win you a game, and he’s done that. Imagine if they started playing him at the beginning [of last season]. They might have had a winning record.”
‘I was so naive’
The Browns were 6-7 with Mayfield as a starter last year, part of a 7-8-1 season that represented a major improvement over the 1-31 mark the team posted over the 2016-17 seasons.
In his first season as starter, 2017 first-round pick Mahomes was named NFL MVP as the Chiefs went 12-4 and lost in the AFC title game.
Mayfield will be trying to get Cleveland to the postseason for the first time since 2002, something else Favre can relate to – the Packers had also gone years without a playoff appearance when he joined the franchise in 1992.
“I was so naive I didn’t realize how difficult it is, nor did I really care,” Favre said, though he and Green Bay went to the playoffs in 1993, his first full season as starter. “I just was like, ‘Hey, now’s the time to have fun. I’ve got nothing to lose.’ I get the sense that Baker has that mentality, and that’s exactly what you need in this situation.
“He’s the best [fit for the Browns] just like I was the best fit – and you don’t know this at the time – but I was the best fit for Green Bay at the time because I had this aw-shucks attitude.”
Mayfield, not surprisingly, grew up idolizing Favre, though in a recent ESPN The Magazine feature he revealed that as a kid he was a shy teacher’s pet, and it wasn’t until he was going through the college recruiting process that he started really speaking his mind.
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