They will forever be cosmic gridiron triplets, their legacies tethered through time, perilously teetering between who they are and who they could have become, if only …
For Baker Mayfield, Deshaun Watson and the Haslams, there will always be an “if only.” The interconnectivity of their careers, their actions, their decisions will likewise be inexorably tied to the fabric of Cleveland’s sports history, a city that itself has been held hostage for too long by too many “if onlys.”
If you stayed up until midnight watching “Thursday Night Football,” if you saw Mayfield lead the Rams on a breathtaking last-minute, game-winning, 98-yard touchdown drive that, according to Elias, is the longest go-ahead touchdown drive that began in the final two minutes in the last 45 NFL seasons, you could only smile, and shake your head.
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You could only imagine the Haslams silently turning off the TV and going to bed.
You could only imagine Deshaun Watson trying to imagine himself doing something like that.
In the words of the great philosopher George Louis Costanza, “What kind of topsy-turvy world do we live in” where something like that could happen?
While Cleveland slept, three time zones away, in Inglewood, California, former Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield — perhaps you’ve heard of him — who had only been a member of the Rams for something like a half-hour before the start of the game, did a reenactment of John Elway’s masterpiece “The Drive” to win the game for his new teammates, most of whom Mayfield couldn’t name.
It was a mic-drop moment for Odell Beckham Jr.’s least-favorite quarterback, and the final score was an ironic mic-drop score further emphasized by the No. 17 jersey number worn by the quarterback responsible for it:
Rams 17, Raiders 16.
As they say in Hollywood: “Cut! Print!”
That Mayfield’s heroics came just four days after the Browns’ current quarterback laid an egg the size of Fatty Arbuckle in his extensively delayed, shockingly bad Browns debut is a tasteless bowl of unfortunate gruel foisted upon the Dawg Pound cognoscenti.
But such painful irony, such head-shaking burlesque, is business as usual in Browns Town, especially since the team was purchased by Jimmy and Dee from Tennessee.
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Watson is the third member of this ill-fated, heretofore untriumphant trio, and in some ways he’s an innocent bystander. But in many more ways — I believe the current number is 24 — he is a complicit contributor to this cosmic gridiron car crash.
You can’t read about, watch or hear about one of the three without thinking about the other two. As a group of professionals, they are without peer in desperately trying to wallpaper their societal and football foibles.
All three have mountains to climb, most of them of their own making. The harder the Haslams try, the more wallpaper they need. The louder the emotional Mayfield shouts and points, and the more he rearranges the countless chips on his shoulders, the more Beckham’s father posts videos of him overthrowing his son.
Watson could have avoided being part of this anti-party, or at least could have stayed in Houston and dealt with his unfortunate personal situation in a warmer climate than Cleveland. But he was unable to say no to $230 million.
Watson, in fact, wouldn’t have even been a talking point for Browns officials had Mayfield’s career unfolded in Cleveland the way he and they had hoped. When it didn’t, it got ugly very quickly, and the Haslams got desperate even quicker than that.
It’s an interesting time in Browns history. Not particularly exciting, but interesting. You have an ownership that has been unable to figure out how to go about building a winning team. A spurned former quarterback now playing for his third team in less than a year, and a new quarterback who was not permitted to play for his new team for the first two-thirds of the season.
The three of them, counting Jimmy and Dee from Tennessee as one ownership, have basically taken turns being failures in one way or another. One of them has moved on (twice!), one of them has moved in and the other (ownership) has never left.
This is the kind of drama that never leads to professional success. It is, however, the kind of drama that can lead to staying up until midnight to see if one of the failures can randomly pull a rabbit out of a hat.
Baker Mayfield did that Thursday night. Whether the Browns ownership, or its new quarterback, hastily/desperately acquired by ownership, stayed up late to watch doesn’t matter.
Because all three parties are now irrevocably linked, at this moment in time, in the history of this franchise — but for three completely different reasons.
That the confluence of such a fiasco would be right here and right now is unfortunate, but in a perverse sort of way, awkwardly entertaining.
If only …