CLEVELAND — The comparisons have been there since his time at Oklahoma. Baker Mayfield -- running around defenders, pointing directions to wide receivers, slinging footballs into spaces most quarterbacks wouldn’t consider -- he looked like the second coming of Brett Favre. We have the images of both men burned in our minds. Sprinting wildly downfield after long touchdown throws to celebrate enthusiastically with teammates. Baker, as Brett did nearly a quarter-century earlier, wears his love for this game like a loud suit; neither player able to hide their passion, their energy or their charisma.
Hell, Baker played into the comparisons to the gun slinging Favre by recreating the 1991 draft day photo for his own draft day in 2018. It was nearly an exact replica, right down to the jean shorts and the over-sized cordless phone. There are so many comparisons between Brett and Baker. Size. Style. Leadership. But would Baker ever be mentioned in the same sentence as Brett when it comes to the one category teammates most respect?
Myles Garrett answered that question after Sunday’s 31-21 Browns win against the Houston Texans at FirstEnergy Stadium. Tied at seven with 10 minutes left in the first half, Mayfield would throw his only interception of the game. The pick was not on Baker, but instead rookie wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, who inexplicably stopped his route. Making matters worse, Mayfield injured his left shoulder trying to tackle the intercepting Justin Reid. Suddenly, Browns fans’ anger with the turnover in a tight game turned to serious concern as the CBS cameras caught images of Mayfield wincing in pain as his left arm dangled lifeless by his side. Admit it, we all saw the 2021 season flash in front of our eyes. Even the foolish few, who are still not convinced Baker is the Browns’ long-term solution at quarterback, had to be frozen with fear. Mayfield slowly made his way to the sideline, then eventually the locker room. The Texans would follow up the interception with a six-play, 47-yard touchdown drive to take their only lead of the day at 14-7.
Would Baker be able to answer the bell or would the injury to his non-throwing shoulder be too much for him to play through? To Mayfield, there was never a doubt.
That was Baker’s one-word answer when asked after the game if there was a chance he would miss even a single snap following the injury.
“It kind of popped in and out, but I will be good,” Mayfield added.
Coach Kevin Stefanski, when recapping the day’s injuries, said, “Baker has a left shoulder injury. He is sore, but he gutted it out. He did a nice job.”
But Myles Garrett’s comments were perhaps most telling.
“The guy is tough,” Garrett said. “Honestly, (I) wouldn’t say carbon copy, but he is like Brett Favre 2.0 with less picks though.” (Laughter)
And there it was. Brett Favre 2.0.
Hearing his style of play be compared to Favre’s must be incredibly humbling for Mayfield. But comparing his toughness to ole No. 4 has to be a completely different level of compliment. Favre IS the NFL’s ironman. He was to football what Cal Ripken was to baseball, but even more impressive. From the time Brett Favre became a starting quarterback in the NFL in week 2 of the 1992 season until week 13 of his final season in 2010, he never missed a single start. Favre started a mind boggling 297 straight games in the regular season. Throw in the playoffs and it reaches 321 games. Both are records, and it's not even close. Think about that. Playing a gladiator sport at the most hunted position, Favre simply could not be kept out of the action. Even playing into his 40s, Favre was the picture of reliability. If John Wayne played football he would have been Brett Favre. Though it is still very early in his career, Mayfield appears to possess the same toughness, the same grit, the same I-will-be-out-there-at-all-cost mentality of the old gunslinger. Since taking over the starting job for an injured Tyrod Taylor in week three of his rookie season, Mayfield has not missed a start. While that’s a modest 47 straight games, it’s a start.
When Mayfield returned, he was perfect the rest of the way, instantly leading the Browns on an impressive 75-yard touchdown drive, running the final five yards himself. The Browns never trailed again.
It’s fun to look at the similarities between Favre and Mayfield.
Obviously, Favre went on to have one of the most decorated careers for a quarterback in the history of the NFL. When he left the game in 2010, Favre held the record for most passing yards, most passing touchdowns and wins by a quarterback. Along with holding the record for consecutive games started, which many feel will never be broken, Favre was a league Most Valuable Player three times, won a Super Bowl and was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. All things considered, I’m not sure there’s another player in the history of the league that a current player would be more honored to be compared to.
Garrett’s comparison was high praise for a teammate. So, 2.0 it is. But there’s still plenty of work to be done.
* STRONG START: Second-year safety Grant Delpit made his NFL debut and recorded his first sack and forced his first fumble. He finished with five tackles, bringing much needed depth to the back of the Browns defense.
* PRACTICALLY PERFECT: Baker Mayfield is coming closer and closer to perfection. After completing a whopping 75 percent of his passes in the opening loss to KC, Baker was 19-21 throwing the ball. He hit his first nine and last 10 passes of the game. He had just one incompletion to go along with the interception that could easily have been avoided if Schwartz had made a play on the ball. Mayfield’s completion percentage was 90.4 percent for the game and is 83.7 percent for the season.
* SOUTHERN DOMINANCE: Since losing the season opener to the Tennessee Titans in 2019 the Browns are now 5-0 against the AFC South.
* GROUND AND POUND: The Browns have seven rushing touchdowns through the first two games of the 2021 season. That ties, the most rushing TD’s through the first two games of any season in Browns history. Since the merger in 1970, only the Dallas Cowboys of 1971 had more rushing TD’s through the first two games of any season.
* 1-2 PUNCH: The Browns are 12-4 in games Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt score at least one touchdown.
* CHUBB LOVE: Nick Chubb ran for a team leading 95 yards and a TD on just 11 carries. He has now scored at least one rushing TD in eight straight games, giving him the longest such active streak in the NFL. Eight straight games with at least one rushing TD is also the second longest streak in team history. Chubb’s 31 career rushing TD’s is tied with Marion Motley for the sixth most rushing scores in team history.
* INJURED DAWGS: Jarvis Landry was injured on the game’s second play. He finished with one reception for nine yards, breaking his streak of at least two catches in 111 consecutive games. That was the fourth longest streak in NFL history. He suffered a knee injury and the Browns expect more information later Monday.