Often candid to a fault, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield opened up a fault line in Cleveland with his comment to NFL Network that there have been “a lot of internal things” along with outside noise.
So what are the “internal things”? Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer took a stab at listing them.
First, Cabot reports that there’s been a “disconnect all season” between Mayfield and coach Kevin Stefanski in terms of playcalling. On Sunday, Mayfield complained that the Browns became “too conservative” after building a big lead. He’s undoubtedly not referring to himself when he says it.
Second, criticism of Mayfield on the team’s in-house radio show, Cleveland Browns Daily, “hasn’t always played well” with Mayfield. That’s one of the very real challenges of team-produced media. If the hosts and analysts go too easy on the players, coaches, etc., they look like shills. If they go after key members of the organization more aggressively, they can piss off those who view them as coworkers — because they are.
Third, the OBJ fiasco from early November has created problems. Per Cabot, the fact that many players supported Odell Beckham Jr. after his father posted a video showing all the times OBJ didn’t get the ball when open “was hard on Mayfield, and the ordeal took its toll.”
Fourth, there’s been a “major disconnect” between player and team as to “messaging” about his injuries. The coaches downplay them, Mayfield talks about them.
Fifth, some defensive players “have been frustrated” with Mayfield’s points production.
And we’ll add a sixth one of our own. Mayfield’s unresolved contract situation lingers in the background of all of these points of contention, likely magnifying them. At the core resides the question of whether the Browns value Mayfield in the way he believes he should be valued. If not, they’ll need to find a way to hold it all together for one more season, before he can become a free agent.
Sunday’s win becomes a Band-Aid (or maybe a temporary tourniquet), but the reality is that the Browns will be under a significant microscope over the next three weekends, with an NFL Network game at the Raiders on Saturday, a Christmas Day visit to Lambeau Field, and a Monday night trip to Pittsburgh for Ben Roethlisberger‘s final home game. If they sputter, they’ll hear it more loudly than they do when their games are tucked within the haze of the 1:00 p.m. ET kickoffs on a Sunday afternoon.
And everyone will now be looking for any signs of acrimony or friction or tension between Mayfield and, well, pretty much anyone.