The Baker Mayfield Cycle meme, explained

NFL

The Baker Mayfield Cycle meme, explained

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History repeats itself. That certainly seems true early in Baker Mayfield’s NFL career.

It’s become so predictable with Mayfield that social media has come up with “The Baker Mayfield Cycle.” It’s a meme that basically outlines how Mayfield will struggle, be criticized, embrace being an underdog, and then ball out before calling out his doubters. So far, you can pretty much look at the cycle and pick it up where the Browns’ quarterback left off last.

Here’s one graphic displaying the cycle:

We’re going to break down each of the individual sections, too, just keeping in mind that there’s no real starting point, just an order that the events follow each other.

What is the Baker Mayfield Cycle?Play like s—

This wasn’t supposed to be part of Mayfield’s process when he was taken first overall in 2018 out of Oklahoma, but there’ve definitely been some rough spots in his NFL career. Many of the issues arise for Mayfield when he tries to do too much.

There was the final game of his rookie season, a three-point loss when he threw three interceptions to cancel out three touchdowns. He opened the 2019 season with another three-interception game, then had two more such games as his second season went on. The negative outcomes of Mayfield’s gunslinging often lead to discussions about whether he can be Cleveland’s franchise quarterback.

Criticized by media

Athletes love to play the media criticism card, and sometimes it’s a little overblown. When an athlete plays poorly, reporters report on that. It can often just be facts.

But yes, the national talking heads also love to hop on potential busts, as Mayfield looked at times during his second season. Earlier in 2020, for example, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said he’s “given up on” Mayfield. And last year, Marcus Spears went on First Take to say that Mayfield isn’t built to lead the Browns.

Underdog mentality

Mayfield’s loved the underdog mentality his whole career. He’s a bit undersized for a prototypical quarterback at 6-1, and he went to Texas Tech as a walk-on before betting on himself by walking-on at Oklahoma, too.

Whenever there’s criticism of Mayfield’s performance, he becomes an underdog yet again in his own mind, despite his reputation as a Heisman Trophy winner and top overall pick. In the past, Mayfield has said that he doesn’t have a “chip” on his shoulder, but rather a “boulder.”

Beat inferior opponent / play amazing for a game

This is the only spot on the cycle that occasionally appears differently depending on the specific meme. But it’s basically the same idea. After Mayfield struggles, hears about it and imagines himself the underdog, he goes out and plays phenomenally. Yes, this has happened sometimes against poor opponents.

The most recent example, though, is Mayfield’s performance in the second half of 2020. He was being called a game manager as the Browns’ relied on their running game, but then Mayfield threw two touchdowns against Jacksonville in Week 12. That was an appetizer for his four first-half touchdown passes against the Titans in Week 13.

Call out doubters

Mayfield’s quest to silence the doubters never really stops. But he’s most vocal about it after he plays well.

After beating the Titans in Week 13, Mayfield had a lot to say, some of which definitely called out the doubters and some of which may have shown some maturity away from the need to do such a thing:

“You don’t want to play the mental game too much when you’re playing quarterback, but just realizing what I’m capable of,” he said. “I’ve always believed in myself and I’m not going to pay attention to BS, I’m going to put my head down and work.

“The job’s not finished yet, but playing confident, being who I am, not looking for any approval on the outside is how I’ve always been the best at what I’ve done. So that’s how I need to do it. I can’t let people change me, because somebody did it different in the past. I am who I am and I’ve always said that, so I am going to continue to do that and improve, and also trying to elevate the guys around me. That’s the one thing I’ve always prided myself on is being a leader and getting guys around me to play harder. The thing about being myself, it needs to be authentic, just to be able to do that, and that is why I am doing that.”

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.