Saturday, February 4 2023

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

Is Baker Mayfield, after the casual dropping of a stored-up, pent-up and fired-up F-bomb, now even more motivated to wreak revenge on his former team in Week 1? 

After hearing the muscular prediction mentioned above, are the Cleveland Browns now so mad that they want to beat Mayfield and the Carolina Panthers even more than they did before?

Answers to both of those questions shortly.

There are a couple of things to discuss after Mayfield told a reporter in casual conversation that when he battles the Browns he’s going to “f— them up” — and news of that exchange reached the ears of, well, everybody.

The Mayfield-Cleveland reunion is part of a Week 1 revenge double-header in the NFL, also headlined by freshly installed Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson dueling his old Seattle Seahawks pals.

In terms of a storyline, there is not much better than the topic of retribution, as it allows us to get all Shakespearean and empathize with those feelings of jealousy and anger that we’ve all experienced — without having the privilege of expending that angst on a football field.

Mayfield always has a way of making things more interesting, doesn’t he? From planting flags and grabbing crotches at Oklahoma, to various media snipes after becoming the No. 1 overall pick, to … yep, all those commercials … he’s never far away from the conversation and he likes it that way. 

When the NFL released its list of top 100 players recently, Mayfield was nowhere to be seen, and probably nowhere near the bubble, but he is one of the most discussed players in the entire league and it’s been that way since he arrived. He’s not boring — not ever — and fans tend to appreciate that sort of thing.

Baker Mayfield will lead the Panthers to a playoff berth and shock the world

Skip Bayless explains why Baker Mayfield will return to true form.

Now, back to the original queries, and this is where it gets a little bit more complicated than it should.

Let’s begin with the Browns. To suggest Cleveland is now extra motivated to topple their former quarterback because of the comments he uttered to sideline reporter Cynthia Frelund, who then passed them on during an episode of the “Around The NFL” podcast, feels a bit silly.

Were the Browns not fully motivated before? Did the desire to win their first football game in eight months have room to grow? Knowing the entire Browns franchise will be subjected to ridicule if Mayfield trumps them on Sept. 11, were the fires not already raging?

And yet, the bulletin board works in mysterious ways. Countless times before, a spicy comment from a prospective foe had the appearance of heating up a clash that already contained plenty of fire.

“I’m not mad at him using that fire and that chip on his shoulder to help him play to the level he has,” Browns defensive end Myles Garrett told reporters. “He’s been successful in what he’s done.

“It does the same for us as well. We’ll take it and we’ll use it, and I’m hoping for a great matchup.”

In truth, what Mayfield said didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. He isn’t happy with how he was treated by the Browns. He feels jilted. He’s fuming that they got rid of him after a season in which he played through a torn labrum and that they went after Deshaun Watson with massive money, even with the associated negative publicity.

He’s fired up. Fired up enough, frankly, to want to “f—” them up. And forthright enough to tell the latest person who asked.

All of which is part of the reason why the Panthers wanted to go get him, to provide some verve and snarl to maybe lift them out of a long malaise where nothing interesting has happened since Cam Newton took the team to a Super Bowl seven years ago.

Mayfield makes things happen. He can energize a room. Some of his teammates in Cleveland loved him, others he drove to distraction. That may already be the case in Carolina. But he brings energy.

“Baker is a fire-starter and an inspiration to his football team,” FS1’s Skip Bayless said on “Undisputed.”

Mayfield doesn’t hold anything back and he’s made a career out of being exactly that way. The bigger surprise might be that his first Cleveland-bound volley was sent via an offhanded comment, rather than a defiant roar straight into the camera.

There are still 11 days to go. Maybe he’s saving that for next week.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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