Stephen A. Smith says he supports new Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry and remains a fan of Baker Mayfield.
But when it came to Berry's introductory press conference, in which the 32-year-old general manager expressed unwavering support for the third-year signal-caller, ESPN's most vocal personality had a problem.
"My issue is with his willingness to come out and express his support for Baker Mayfield," Smith said on ESPN's First Take on Thursday. "Baker Mayfield, I hope he's somewhere listening because I'm rooting for him. I actually like him -- you don't deserve support. You deserve scrutiny. You threw 21 interceptions this year. What the hell is all of this stuff massaging Baker Mayfield? What have you done?"
As Smith noted, Mayfield is coming off a disappointing 2019 campaign in which he threw the league's second-most interceptions while laying claim to the league's second-lowest quarterback rating. Mayfield's production -- or lack thereof -- was only amplified by his prominence as a public figure and one of the league's most highly touted quarterbacks following his record-breaking rookie season in 2018.
"You threw 22 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and I said it 1,000 times and I'm going to say it 1,001: the man has more commercials on Progressive than wins," Smith said. "Please. Just stop it. Baker Mayfield does not deserve support."
Nevertheless, that's exactly what he received on Wednesday from Berry, who said he still has "a lot of belief in Baker as a quarterback, his talent and what we think he can become in the NFL."
Asked by First Take host Molly Qerim how he thought Berry should have answered the question, Smith had a retort.
"You know what, he didn't have a great year. We support this man, he's our quarterback, but he's got to produce, period," Smith said. "You don't excoriate him. You don't give up on him. But all this massaging that's going on -- for what? What have you done?"
Over the course of the segment, Smith reiterated his support for both Berry and Mayfield -- although he did express some concern over the 6-foot-1 signal-caller's height. But it was clear Berry's comments about Mayfield struck a nerve with Smith, who has perceived the Browns' treatment of the 24-year-old quarterback as coddling.
"I thought this was professional sports. I didn't know that Dear Abby and Dr. Phil and everybody was a part of the equation," an exasperated Smith said. "I'm sorry, I thought this was professional sports.
"Asking Baker Mayfield to ball ain't enough. We've got to massage him too. I mean, really? You gotta produce, period. Show up."