BEREA — Baker Mayfield won’t be silenced. And he won’t conform just because some people expect him to act a certain way.
“I’m not a cookie-cutter quarterback, never have been, never will be,” he said Wednesday. “I speak my mind. That’s just how I am, so 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.”
The “move” was former coach Hue Jackson taking a job on the Bengals staff.
The “it” he doesn’t regret is how he treated Jackson on Sunday in Cincinnati before and after the Browns beat the Bengals 35-20, and then how he reacted to criticism for that behavior.
He rebuffed Jackson’s postgame hug attempt, then explained he didn’t like the decision to join a division rival 15 days after being fired by the Browns at midseason.
“People took it as me personally attacking Hue, but that’s not it,” Mayfield said. “It’s the fact that I get to have my own opinion on how it transpired and he gets to do what he wants.”
On social media Monday, Mayfield called Jackson “fake” and ridiculed his 3-36-1 record with the Browns. Mayfield wouldn’t expound on the reasons for the “fake” comment.
“There’s just things that happened inside the building that I’m not going to get into detail with, it’s in-house information and it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Publicly Jackson heaped praise on Mayfield from before the Browns drafted him with the No. 1 pick until after he was fired. Perhaps Mayfield didn’t find that sincere or carried a grudge for not being given a chance to win the starting job before the season.
Mayfield has long been a polarizing figure. He’s brash and outspoken, which attracts fans and detractors.
That was the case again Sunday and Monday as Mayfield drew national attention. His “fake” comment came on Instagram as he responded to ESPN’s Damien Woody saying he needs to “grow up.”
“People get maturity confused with me being 100 percent comfortable in my own skin,” Mayfield said. “It’s not immature. It’s me being exactly who I am every day.”
He won’t apologize for his personality, and vowed to never become the type who talks like an old-school politician, trying not to offend anyone. A popular criticism is that quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Peyton Manning don’t create controversy.
“It doesn’t bother me. I’m not trying to be exactly like them,” Mayfield said. “Yeah, there are things that I absolutely admire about both of those guys, but I’m never trying to be anybody else. I’m going to be the best version of myself and that’s what has gotten me here.”
Running back Duke Johnson said he appreciates Mayfield being genuine.
“I’m a fan of people being who they are. I don’t really care what that is, but be yourself,” Johnson said. “A lot of people have pet peeves and things that bother them more than others, and I guess that situation really bothered him and he took it to heart.”
Mayfield doesn’t want the controversy to be a distraction and doesn’t believe it will be as the Browns try to get back in the playoff hunt. But he emphasized he can multitask.
“So I have an opinion and I’m entitled to that, but the most important thing is me doing my job and I can manage both, and that’s what people don’t understand,” he said. “Yeah, a quarterback that’s a little different from some of the guys to have a voice but that’s just how I’ve always been and I’m not going to change for anybody.”
Left guard Joel Bitonio protected his quarterback.
“If you look at Baker’s body of work since he’s been here, I think it’s shown that he’s a confident, sometimes cocky player, but you need to be that to be a quarterback in this league,” he said. “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.”
The Browns (4-6-1) have won two straight and Mayfield was magnificent in both games. He wants the team to follow his lead.
“I do everything with a purpose. 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,” he said, referring to Woody calling him hypocritical because he transferred from Texas Tech to Oklahoma. “So 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. I think everybody in this locker room knows that.
“So the people on the outside can say what they want. Inside this locker room, we have each other.”
Mayfield said he wasn’t consulted before Jackson was fired Oct. 29, along with offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Mayfield took Haley’s side during the “internal discord” leading up to the firings but said Haley didn’t sway his opinion toward Jackson.
“No, not that at all,” he said. “I don’t let anybody else decide how I’m going to make my mind up or make my decisions.”
Interim coach Gregg Williams said the Browns are “on to the Texans,” and Bitonio and Johnson didn’t think Mayfield’s focus would be diverted as he prepares to face the Texans, who’ve won eight straight.
“He’s doing his job,” Johnson said. “If he can find a way to do both, then that’s what he’s doing.”
The Texans defense deserves plenty of attention. It ranks fifth in scoring (20.2 points a game), eighth overall (330.6 yards) and 11th against the pass (236.8). Led by J.J. Watt (11.5) and Jadeveon Clowney (seven), the Texans are tied for sixth in the league with 34 sacks.
Mayfield enters on a tear. In the three games since Jackson and Haley were fired, and with Freddie Kitchens as coordinator and play caller, Mayfield has completed 73.9 percent for 771 yards, nine touchdowns, an interception and a 129.5 passer rating.
“Obviously the easiest answer would be to look on that and say, ‘Yeah, I’ve played a lot better since then.’ But that’s not it,” he said. “It’s just been about me doing my job and doing it at a high level. I wouldn’t blame that at all.”
Mayfield said Williams hadn’t addressed the situation with him.
“So we’ll see if that happens down the road,” he said. “But right now, they expect me to handle things the right way and say the right things and lead this team the right way.”