The NFL draft has come and gone, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield went #1 overall, but you probably already know that.
Baker will walk into the 2018 season with sky-high expectations – the Browns have started 29 quarterbacks since they returned to the NFL in 1999. The 29 includes names like Robert Griffin III, Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Josh McCown, blah, blah, blah… you get the point. Mayfield is not going to have big shoes to fill but he will have to satisfy what is probably, no, what is definitely the most desperate fan base in the NFL. Cleveland is 1-31 in the first two seasons under Head Coach Hue Jackson. According to my calculations, that is REALLY bad…
Luckily for Mayfield, despite having a good amount of detractors, he has found one former New York Jets’ quarterback that supports him: Chad Pennington.
The 2x NFL Comeback Player of the Year winner provided Baker Mayfield with plenty of advice when he spoke with the Akron Beacon-Journal.
“My first piece of advice came from a place of transparency and honesty in saying that, ‘Baker, you have to remember who you are,’” Pennington told Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal. “‘And that is a guy who was a twice walk-on in college, and without your work ethic and your talent, you would probably be a [graduate assistant] somewhere coaching.’”
Pennington also told the rookie Mayfield to not let the glitz and glamour distract him as he transitions to the NFL – this includes the 9 part Facebook documentary that Mayfield produced leading up to the draft.
“We talked about keeping it strictly about football, eliminating some of those distractions,” Pennington said. “I certainly understand the business side of building your brand, but like I tell all the rookies I speak with, your brand is not how many followers you have on Twitter and friends on Facebook. Your brand is how you work and how you treat people, and if your work ethic is right and you treat people right, your brand will be built the correct way.”
Pennington was not all negative in regards to social media, he understands that it is part of today’s world and implores Baker to find the positives in what can be a sea of negativity.
“You [should] have a healthy perspective on it where you use it as motivation but you don’t take it so personal that it completely controls every action and reaction that you have,” Pennington said. “… We think that this relationship with the media should be so tense and adversarial. But when I look back upon it, I think most people within the media are good people, a lot of them are closet fans of the team they’re reporting on, they just don’t want you to know it, and if you treat them with respect and understand they have a job to do and so do you and you keep that healthy and professional, it can be something that bodes well for you.”
Finally, Pennington gave Mayfield perhaps the best advice that he can hear going into the summer. That advice? Patience.
“I sat for two years and three games and, for me, it was fantastic. I learned so much and when I got my opportunity my third year, man, I was ready to roll.
“I love the fact that [Mayfield], in his mind, is competing for the job. That’s how you want his mindset to be. You just want him to be able to handle it if he doesn’t win the job to make sure that he does everything in the quarterback room to help that room be successful. That’s most important. When that room is stable, then the team is stable. When that room is not stable, the team is not stable.
“You want it to bother him [if he’s not the starter], but not to that point where he is a detriment in the room. As long as he understands that and whomever the starter is — he fully supports him, he’s a fan, he does everything to learn from him but also support him on and off the field — that will naturally happen. When it’s his time, it will be his time, and everybody will know it, and it will happen organically. You don’t have to force it.”
Mayfield was one of the most polarizing figures in college sports over the past 5 years. Now he is taking that intense competitiveness and stepping into a city that is desperate to win. Being able to have guys like Pennington looking out for him will only provide Baker with more tools to succeed at the professional level.