Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner was not always the most likely Super Bowl-caliber quarterback, but once he got his shot to lead the St. Louis Rams, he proved that he had what it took to win a championship. He’s not so sure that Baker Mayfield can do the same for the Cleveland Browns.
The Mayfield situation in Cleveland is one of the most fascinating in the NFL. The team has picked up his fifth-year option for 2022, which will pay out over $18.8 million next year. However, it’s fairly rare for a team to even allow things to progress to a fifth season if they’re sold on their quarterback as the one who can lead them to a championship.
Mayfield has helped rejuvenate the Browns to the point that, when healthy, they’re seen as a legitimate playoff thread. Given how bad the franchise has been, that’s not nothing. However, the offense has been led by the Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt-helmed rushing attack, and generally operates at its best with Mayfield as more of a game manager. That is probably not the type of player that is going to get a giant Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen-type deal.
During an appearance on The Herd, Warner raised the pertinent question about Mayfield and the Browns: are they happy with becoming a regular competitive playoff team, vs. the doldrums they were in a few years ago, or do they want to make the hard decisions that it takes to enter true Super Bowl contention, and is Mayfield the one to get them there?
"Cleveland has to make the determination with Baker Mayfield. Are they good enough around him to win a championship? Or, do they need to find that dog at the QB position that they believe can carry them?"
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) October 21, 2021
“I’m not sure Baker’s a guy that can carry a team,” Warner said. “That’s what everybody wants. Everybody wants that guy where you go ‘Oh, when the chips are down, and we gotta depend on this guy, we can count on him to win a Super Bowl for us.’ There are not very many of those guys.
“And so, the dilemma becomes ‘Do we keep a Baker Mayfield, who is very good and has led us to places we haven’t been in a long time, also knowing maybe he’s not the guy we can lean on to carry us.”
Warner admits that it’s not an easy decision. While Mayfield may not be the guy, there may only be 10 quarterbacks of that caliber at a given time, and that may be generous. They’re extremely hard to acquire through the draft, and rarely change teams otherwise.
It’s very easy to say that the Browns should cut bait on Mayfield, but they’ll be taking on a ton of uncertainty if they do.
“Cleveland’s going to have to make that determination,” Warner said. “Are we good enough around him, because he’s a good quarterback, to win a championship? Or, do they need to find that dog at the quarterback position that we believe can carry us?”
Right now, the concern for the Browns is getting Baker Mayfield and the rest of the team healthy. He is likely heading for offseason labrum surgery, and will miss tonight’s game against the Denver Broncos with the lingering injury in his non-throwing shoulder. That situation just makes the Browns’ decision more difficult.