The Cleveland Browns’ 2021 season was a far cry from what many expected. Something significant was about to happen for a team that had been languishing for years in the playoffs since losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020.
Odell Beckham Jr.’s return from injury was a major boost to the team’s free-agent and draft-pick acquisitions.
In a season rife with internal strife, there were few positives to be found. When Beckham was sent home and eventually released by the team, players’ reactions seemed to say volumes about the troubles the squad was having internally. Baker Mayfield recognized this during the season.
On ESPN, Jake Trotter recently revealed further information about these issues. Mayfield’s injury and a lack of unity on the squad are discussed in detail.
Baker and OBJ
Several players pleaded with Cleveland to keep OBJ after his father openly criticized Mayfield and speculation about Beckham’s future escalated.
Johnson III, safety at the time, remarked, “I feel like the majority of this locker room would love to have him in this facility.” “Dissolve,” or “shrink.”
Beckham’s departure from Cleveland “poisoned the water” for Mayfield, according to one insider.
The offense and defense
Mayfield threw four interceptions in a loss to Green Bay on Christmas Day after returning the Browns on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Johnson, who had returned to Cleveland as a reserve/COVID-19 after Mayfield’s second interception, instantly tweeted, “RUN THE DAMN BALL.”
Baker and Kevin Stefanski
According to many sources, Mayfield was losing faith in Stefanski as he was losing faith in himself, even though the two had thrived together during Cleveland’s surprising playoff run last year.
The organization and Mayfield
Mayfield’s friends and family worried whether the Browns were trying to make Mayfield look as hapless as possible in prime time to make it easier for the team to explain why it might be moving on from him this offseason. This is according to many sources.
Front office and Mayfield
According to numerous sources, the Browns exercised Mayfield’s fifth-year option on his contract on April 23, 2021, but even after the team’s postseason win, Mayfield’s camp refused to engage in extension talks last offseason.
It was a message to Mayfield that the franchise was dubious if he would be their long-term quarterback of the future.
An earlier report noted that Jadeveon Clowney and Jarvis Landy would not have returned to Cleveland if Mayfield was the quarterback.
Trotter does a great job of detailing even more about the disconnect within the team. Mayfield is the center of the piece both because of the current situation as well as his position on the team. As the quarterback, his difficulties (physically and relationally, it seems) impact the entire team.
While not specifically stated, 2021 seemed to turn into Mayfield versus the world in Cleveland. Now the team and their one-time franchise quarterback are hoping he is anywhere else in the world but Cleveland.