Pat McManamonESPN Staff WriterClose
- Covered Browns, Cleveland sports since 1998
- Previously worked at Fox Sports Ohio, AOL Fanhouse, Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com
- Cleveland native, proud father of two daughters
BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said Wednesday that he has no regrets about calling former coach Hue Jackson “fake,” and he snapped back at those who questioned his maturity.
“People get maturity confused with me being 100 percent comfortable in my own skin,” Mayfield said. “So that’s absolutely how I am. I’ve always been that way. It’s not immature. It’s me being exactly who I am every day, being that same guy for our team, and I think that’s very important right now.”
Mayfield acknowledged that he referred to Jackson as “fake,” but he declined to explain why.
“There were just things that happened inside the building that I’m not going to get into detail with,” Mayfield said Wednesday. “It’s in-house information.”
Jackson has not been available to the media since Mayfield said Sunday that he took it personally that Jackson had joined the Cincinnati Bengals‘ coaching staff after being fired by the Browns. Cleveland defeated Cincinnati 35-20 on Sunday.
After ESPN’s Damien Woody criticized Mayfield on First Take, Mayfield shot back with a comment on First Take’s Instagram post.
Mayfield’s brother, Matthew, later followed up with more criticism of Jackson, saying he was “uniquely and statistically bad at his job.”
Baker Mayfield acknowledged that he understands it’s tough to put the word “fake” in the public realm without elaborating, but he still declined to say more.
“I get it,” he said, “but I don’t have to go into details. That’s how it works.”
Mayfield said he’s going to state his opinion, that he always has, and that nobody should be surprised when he does.
“People took it as me personally attacking Hue,” he said. “That’s not it. It’s the fact that I get to have my own opinion on how [the move to Cincinnati] transpired, and he gets to do what he wants. That’s how it is.
“Although I’m an athlete, I’m not a cookie-cutter quarterback. Never have been, never will be. I speak my mind. That’s how I am. I didn’t like the move and people don’t have to care.
“I’m not looking for anybody’s approval. I don’t regret any of it.”
Interim coach Gregg Williams would only say that the Bengals game was over and “we are on to the Texans,” referring to the Browns’ next opponent.
Mayfield has played extremely well since Jackson was fired, completing 74 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns, one interception and a rating of 129.5. The Browns have won two of three games since Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were fired.
The team’s most impressive win came in Cincinnati, where the Browns built a 28-0 lead in the first half. After the game, Jackson went to greet Mayfield, who gave his former coach a quick — some called it abrupt — handshake. Mayfield then said after the game that he did not appreciate Jackson joining a rival, which led to criticism from analysts.
Mayfield especially bristled at Woody comparing Jackson joining the Bengals with Mayfield transferring to Oklahoma from Texas Tech. That led Mayfield to answer via social media.
He did not deny his actions are calculated to galvanize his team.
“I do everything with a purpose,” Mayfield said. “So when somebody comments on my story when they really don’t know anything about it, I get to voice my opinion just like he’s on a talk show voicing his. So like I said, I’m entitled to that and there’s certain things about me being myself which, yeah, I think helps this team.
“But in no way am I trying to create a distraction. And I think everybody in this locker room knows that. I think people on the outside can say what they want. Inside this locker room we have each other.”
Mayfield said his brother’s post was “protective.”
“That’s what you want family for,” he said. “I expect some of these guys in this locker room to go to war with me too. That’s just how it is.”
Mayfield said he does not feel that Jackson was holding him back and that his improved recent play is not because Jackson was fired.
“I mean, obviously the easiest answer is to look on that and say, ‘Yeah, I’ve played a lot better since then,'” he said. “But that’s not it. It’s just been about me doing my job at a high level. It’s not about that [the firings].”
“Yeah, quarterback is a little different from some of the guys to have a voice, but that’s just how I’ve always been,” Mayfield said. “I’m not going to change for anybody.”
“If you look at Baker’s body of work since he’s been here, I think he’s shown that he’s a confident, sometimes cocky player,” guard Joel Bitonio said. “But you need to be that to be a quarterback in this league. People go about it differently. And he plays the game the right way. He works the right way. He does things the right way. And I’m happy he’s our quarterback.”
Asked about the “fake” comment, Bitonio demurred, saying, “You guys can ask Baker about those things.”
“I have an opinion; I’m entitled to that,” Mayfield said. “But the most important thing is me doing my job, and I can manage both.”