CLEVELAND — Speaking to reporters following the Cleveland Browns' 26-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday, Baker Mayfield was asked if he believes he's been put in the best positions this season.
But while the Browns' quarterback first declined to take stock of the entire 2021 campaign, he ultimately admitted that he believes he hasn't always been put in situations that have been set up for success.
"I'm not going to get into too many details about that as a full season evaluation. We've obviously been pretty banged up," Mayfield said, before ultimately relenting, "When it comes to what we've had to deal with all season, there's been a lot of ups and downs. Do I believe I could play better? Absolutely. Do I believe there's positions that we as an offense could have been put in that could have been better? Absolutely. There's so many critiques throughout the year. If there wasn't, we wouldn't be sitting here at 7-9. So it is what it is."
While as a whole, Mayfield's comments may seem innocuous, it's worth noting that they came just moments after he seemingly criticized Cleveland's offensive gameplan against Steelers All-Pro pass-rusher T.J. Watt. Lining up against rookie right tackle James Hudson III, Watt accounted for four of Pittsburgh's nine sacks.
“Obviously their front’s pretty good. It has been for years,” Mayfield said of the Steelers. “But when you’ve got T.J. Watt over there and we’re not giving our rookie tackle a whole lot of help, it’s not going to be good.”
Mayfield noted that he wasn't criticizing Hudson and he believed the Cincinnati product fought hard. The No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft also confirmed that he'll have offseason surgery to repair the torn labrum in his left shoulder, which has hindered his play through the bulk of the 2021 campaign.
But when it comes to the timing of his surgery and whether he'll play in Cleveland's regular-season finale vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, Mayfield said he'll make those decisions with his family and agent -- and notably, not the Browns. Taken as a whole, it would be tough to view Mayfield's comments as anything but an indication of an ongoing divide between the quarterback and his team as a critical offseason for both sides approaches.