CHARLOTTE — Baker Mayfield and Myles Garrett shaking hands, acknowledging each other and respecting each other on the field after Sunday’s stirring 26-24 Cleveland Browns victory over the Carolina Panthers, didn’t change the outcome of this game.
But it destroyed the narrative that Mayfield lost the respect of teammates in Cleveland and was so “childish and immature,” according to one report, that the club wanted “an adult” at the position, according to another report.
“It was two competitors,” Garrett said of the brief exchange. “Player to player. Man to man …”
That leads to the question whether what Mayfield did Sunday earned him newfound respect from Garrett, who is Cleveland’s best player and one of its leaders.
“No,” Garrett said before a dramatic pause. “He didn’t lose my respect. I don’t think the guys had a problem with him as a football player. He was playing injured. That earns our respect in my eyes as well. He’s been able to lead those kind of drives before against multiple teams. I just didn’t want to be on the other end of that.”
Mayfield didn’t get into details but shared the general message of what Garrett told him.
“He just said, ‘keep going,'” Mayfield said.
Browns QB Search Turned Away From Baker Mayfield
And that’s apparently what he’s done so far because, you’ll recall, it wasn’t long ago that Mayfield was supposed to be the leader and face of the Cleveland franchise. That changed last offseason even before the Browns decided to chase Deshaun Watson.
The club made it clear it didn’t want Mayfield as its leader anymore and those multiple stories with unnamed sources slimed Mayfield as someone not esteemed by the organization and its players.
Honestly, it didn’t look that way when Nick Chubb and others were hugging Mayfield after the game.
“It was good to see my good friends,” Mayfield said.
The other side of the Mayfield divorce is that he was at times not a very good quarterback. And the Browns, with an otherwise championship-caliber roster, wanted an upgrade.
That upgrade search isn’t looking good in the short-term with Deshaun Watson back in Cleveland serving an 11-game suspension. And it looked downright questionable when Mayfield authored a second-half comeback.
Mayfield Rally Made Panther Seem Like Winners
Mayfield overcame a poor start and a 20-7 deficit in leading his team to 17 fourth-quarter points that gave Carolina a 24-23 advantage with only1:17 to play.
Mayfield helped engineer a seven-play, 64-yard drive in only 1:01 by completing passes of 26 and 21 yards to give the Panthers their lead.
“On offense, I felt we went down and won the game,” Carolina coach Matt Rhule said.
And that’s exactly the way it looked when Mayfield was greeted along the Carolina sideline as if he’d just directed a championship comeback of some sort.
But that was before anyone at Bank of America Stadium saw Cleveland rookie kicker Cade York connect on a 58-yard game-winning field goal.
“It’s disappointing,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield, who completed only 10 of 19 passes for 101 yards and an interception in the first half, had himself a second half in which he completed 6 of his 8 passes for 134 yards and 1 TD.
“Baker kept battling, he kept attacking,” Rhule said.
Maturity In Defeat From Baker Mayfield
Not good enough, obviously. But even in defeat Mayfield showed that the childish label hung on him before his Cleveland exit seems dubious because he certainly offered some some mature perspective following this loss.
“Everybody made this out to be the Super Bowl but despite what everybody’s going to make this, there’s 16 more games,” Mayfield said. “The Super Bowl’s not until February. It’s the beginning of September. So, like I said, high anticipation but we’re going to flush this. We’re going to learn. We’re going to be better coming back.
“I’m disappointed in the fact we did beat ourselves in the first half. But I’m a fighter. I’ve fought my whole life. That’s not going to change. There’s 16 more games.
“Just like our team — we showed the entire second half, we’re going to fight. We’re going to be in games. We’d like to be up late in games actually, yeah, but when we’re not, we’re not going to give up. That’s not the culture we have. That’s not what they built here prior to me getting here and that’s not what I’m ever going to accept.”
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