Photo: AP Photo/David Richard

CLEVELAND, OH – As many Browns fans prepare to wrap up their gifts that they will be handing out on Christmas Day, one gift that they are already enjoying is that of franchise quarterback, Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield, who has often been the subject of much criticism and controversy, has put together one of the hottest streaks over the last eight games with near NFL MVP-level production that is slowly silencing the one large legion of haters, critics and trolls.

Over his last eight games, the former 2017 Heisman Trophy winner out of Oklahoma has a TD:INT ratio of 15:2, thrown for almost 2,000 yards (1,987), averaged 248.3 yards a game, completed 65.8 percent of his passes and compiled a passer rating of 105.1.

Thanks to his hot play, Mayfield has the Browns on the cusp of their first playoff appearance since 2002, and pending an Indianapolis Colts win at Pittsburgh vs. the Steelers, a chance to win their first division title since 1989.

Who would have thought that following the loss of Odell Beckham Jr. down in Cincinnati. 2020 is a unique and different kind of beast.

One thing that has clicked for Mayfield is his throwing mechanics and footwork, which were reportedly tweaked during the bye under new offensive coordinator Alex van Pelt and play calling that plays more to his strengths such as more bootlegs, rollouts and more shotgun formation snaps.

And it has paid off in big dividends for Cleveland.

No city loves their players and teams more than Cleveland, and Northeast Ohio as a whole.

Because of this deep-rooted love and passion, names such as Jim Brown, Otto Graham, Dante Lavelli, Paul Warfield, Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar, are passed down thru generations of Browns fans. Unfortunately, over the last 20 years, both the franchise and players haven’t given fans much to be proud of.

From being one of the league’s proudest and most storied clubs, to a proverbial laughingstock due to a seemingly-never ending door of coaches, owners, front office personnel and quarterbacks, Browns fans are the poster boy of NFL Stockholm Syndrome.

Thanks to first-round busts such as Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel, Browns fans are naturally conditioned to be guarded, cautiously optimistic at best, and ready for the other shoe to drop. I mean, why not? Only in Cleveland, right?

So, what makes Mayfield different?

Often compared to fellow Texas native and Heisman Trophy winner in Manziel due to his brashness and electric charismatic personality, the Lake Travis native couldn’t be any different from the former CFL washout.

Any comparisons between Manziel and Mayfield ended the second Mayfield came on in relief for starter Tyrod Taylor to help engineer the Browns first win in almost two years back in ‘18. Any further comparisons between the two are a sign of willful ignorance and low hanging fruit.

In his three years as a starter, Mayfield has won 23 games, compared to Manziel’s two. His record is better than Manziel (2-6), Quinn (3-9), Weeden (5-15), Doug Pederson (1-7), Josh McCown (1-9), Cody Kessler (0-7), Austin Davis (0-2), Robert Griffin III (0-1), Charlie Frye (6-13) and Trent Dilfer(4-7) COMBINED.

Lastly, very few quarterbacks want to play in Cleveland. And fewer QB’s actually want to ingratiate themselves into the community as much as Baker and his wife, Emily, as evidenced by their recent partnership with Meijer and BodyArmor in donating toys to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio or their $50,000 donation to the Greater Cleveland Food bank to help COVID-19 efforts.

Stuff like that is what will endear Mayfield to Browns fans for years to come. Aside from the wins on the football field, he is the quarterback that fans have wanted in Cleveland, both on and off since the days of Kosar.

He’s brash, outspoken, does too many Progressive commercials, etc.

But, Mayfield also has that edge that draws many Clevelanders to him. He has that chip on his shoulder that a blue-collar, once-proud steel-making city could appreciate. How and why a 25-year-old walkon at Texas Tech and Oklahoma could so easily immerse into the heart of a tough-minded Midwestern city as Cleveland is nothing short of remarkable.

As the Browns continue their march to the playoffs, and the wins continue, Mayfield may not be “the guy” that many wanted and hoped for, but he is our quarterback, now, going forward and hopefully for the unforeseeable future, as he is the gift that’ll keep on giving to a franchise and fanbase starved for and deserving of one.

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