Recently, Baker Mayfield’s antics on the field have been more apparent than his play. With his arrest in the spring and inappropriate sideline actions, this Heisman favorite is drawing more and more comparisons to Johnny Manziel. Both QB’s are known for their playmaking abilities and fiercely competitive personalities, but I see major differences in the two.
The Evolution of the Running QB
Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, was one of the most dynamic and entertaining players in CFB history. Not only did he throw for 4114 yards his final year, he also ran for 759 yards and 9 touchdowns. His freshmen year rushing statistics were even more outrageous with 1410 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also threw for 3706 yards and 26 touchdowns that freshmen year. The only other two QB’s to put up rushing and passing numbers like that have been Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson.
Prior to 2010, Vince Young was the only quarterback ever to throw for 3000 yards and run for 1000. Michael Vick never rushed for more than 682 yards. Pat White (West Virginia) never threw for 2000 yards, but he ran like Newton and Manziel. Cam Newton was the start of quarterbacks running like running backs and still throwing like superstars.
Why Mayfield is Different?
Mayfield is not a runner. Mayfield is a quarterback who is athletic enough to get out of pressure and run read options.
Watch Johnny Manziel highlights: all the clips are his running plays. Watch Baker Mayfield highlights: most of the clips show his ability to make any pass possible.
Like Manziel though, Mayfield is able to use his feet to extend and open up plays. The difference is Mayfield is normally looking to throw first. Frequently, Mayfield runs a designed roll to the right where he throws on the run. On these throws, the accuracy is on point. The highlights below show two plays in a row where he throws on the run with perfect precision.
2016 vs. 2017
Last season, Mayfield was blessed to have a wide receiver in Dede Westbrook at his disposal. Westbrook caught 80 passes for 1524 yards with 17 touchdowns. Not to mention, he had Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine who combined for 2200+ rushing yards. Mayfield had weapons, and he tore defenses apart.
This year he has young and inexperienced weapons offensively. Senior Mark Andrews is his leading receiver as a tight end with 47 catches. But the next leading receivers are junior college transfer Marquise Brown and freshmen CeeDee Lamb with 44 and 36 catches respectively. The majority of the rest of the catches have been from running backs and fullbacks: Flowers (21), Anderson (16), and Sermon (14).
The spreading around of passes shows that Mayfield is running a complex offense and that he is a true leader. Other than Flowers and Andrews, the rest of the catches are going to players in their first season of regular playing time.
Mayfield’s accuracy is outstanding as well. In 2016, he led college football in completion percentage at 70.9%. This year, he is leading again with a rate of 70.8%. To be able to lead college football two years in a row with a younger and less experienced receiving core exhibits his extraordinary accuracy.
To put Mayfield’s completion percentage into perspective, other top QB prospects like Max Darnold (63.3%), Josh Rosen (62.1%), and Josh Allen (56.2%) are well behind his rate of 70.8%.
As seen in his highlights, Mayfield is able to stay in the pocket and go through his progression to find a variety of different types of receivers. Mayfield rarely forces passes like you will see in the Johnny Football highlights. This unique patience shows that his football IQ is clearly higher. His decision to stay in college for his senior year probably has a little bit to do with that.
The Makeup Question
There is no doubt that as of right now Mayfield looks more like Manziel with celebrations and antics on and off the field. Mayfield is competitive, and he displays his fired-up personality in similar ways to Manziel.
I think Mayfield has the respect of his players and coaches like Wilson though. Wilson is constantly encouraging and talking to all players on the sidelines. This is a trait I see in Mayfield, but the hooray currently outshines his leadership qualities.
Against Kansas, Mayfield was shunned at midfield during the coin flip by the Kansas captains. Mayfield supposedly was stirring up some trash talking pre-game, and Kansas was trying to make a statement. This backfired quickly as Mayfield lit up the Jayhawk defense, but Mayfield couldn’t just let his game talk. Mayfield went on to react to fans and the other team inappropriately and a lot of it was caught on camera.
Mayfield and the Sooners should’ve been fired up after the Kansas captains denied a handshake from Mayfield, but he took it a little too far.
The recent gestures against Kansas have shined a light on Mayfield’s bad side, but I see just as much of the good side after hearing head coach Lincoln Riley and Mayfield speak about it. Both were hit with emotions after the decision to bench and take away his captaincy for his last game in Norman.
“No matter how long I go coaching, whatever the rest of my career ends of being like, I don’t know if I will ever have a player be as special to me as he is,” Lincoln Riley said. After saying that, Riley was silent for more than 10 seconds showing that Mayfield is more than an incredible talent and immature quarterback. After the long pause, Riley ended with, “He’s a tremendous teammate. He’s the best player in America. He’s got a great heart that people don’t get to see like I do.”
You don’t see college quarterbacks tear up too often, and it proves that Mayfield was genuinely sorry about his gestures. He knows that his actions represent the school and his team, and he wanted to end his Sooner career on a high note.
Mayfield cares. He could’ve left college early last year, but he stayed. He cares about his teammates, coaches, and school. Sometimes Mayfield intentions aren’t displayed appropriately, but his heart is in the right place. Mayfield must take note of how Russell Wilson leads and adapt to how winning NFL quarterbacks act.
While NFL executives would like to see Mayfield tone it down a little bit, Mayfield is who he is. Baseball is slowing allowing more flare and emotion into its game. Basketball is the center of the trash talking world. Why can’t a young exciting quarterback show some emotion? The key is to keep it family friendly and not get to the point it got to this past weekend.
Manziel or Wilson?
Mayfield runs a similar college offensive style to Manziel at Texas A&M (shotgun offense), but his running and throwing ability compares more to Russell Wilson.
Wilson’s and Mayfield’s college stats are surprisingly similar. Mayfield is listed at two inches taller than Wilson, but we will see how true that is after the NFL Combine. It is hard to say that a college player will be just as good as a NFL superstar, but I am convinced that Mayfield is closer to a superstar than a run-first QB bust.
Baker Mayfield shows flashes of Johnny Football, but Mayfield’s running style and focus and passion for football resemble Russell Wilson more closely.