Last year, when the Eagles sent quarterback Carson Wentz to the Colts, Wentz was able to tell himself that he was right and the Eagles were wrong. After one year in Indy, it became obvious that he was wrong about who was right and who was wrong.
This year, the Browns have sent quarterback Baker Mayfield to the Panthers. Is Mayfield telling himself that it’s the team’s fault that things didn’t work? Does he take any responsibility for how things went in Cleveland?
It’s an important point to keep in mind moving forward, Eventually, and inevitably, Mayfield will encounter adversity in Carolina. Whether he doesn’t win the starting job (it’s possible Sam Darnold gets the gig) or struggles in the early part of the season or gets injured or has a bad showing in a win and snubs the media or whatever, at some point his maturity will be tested.
Enter his passion. The passion is the root of the periodic displays of immaturity. He wants to win. When he doesn’t win (or when things don’t go his way), he gets salty. He gets snippy.
Former Browns coach Freddie Kitchens, whose one-year tenure saw Mayfield regress from his success as a rookie, said in a recent appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio that Mayfield’s passion is “an attribute . . . not necesarily a detriment.”
It can be both. For the best quarterbacks, the challenge becomes using the passion to push the right buttons, but to not let the passion cause problems. That’s the strangest thing about the obsession with winning that so many pro athletes exhibit. In a kid, the compulsion to win at anything and everything is viewed as a negative. In an adult, it’s regarded as admirable.
“The difference between good, great, and elite is sometime the passion you bring to the game,” Kitchens said.
He’s right. Still, that passion causes the adult to behave at times like a child, it’s not good. It poisoned the well for Mayfield in Cleveland. It may have contributed to Kitchens, now a senior football analyst at the University of South Carolina, getting fired after only one year as the head coach.