Baker Mayfield has had a turbulent career since the Browns made him the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Mayfield is playing for his fourth different team in his sixth season. While he has, at times, enjoyed success — which includes having led Cleveland to its first playoff win since 1994 — he has had his share of lowlights en route to posting a 34-41 record as a starter.
In a word, Mayfield’s career has been inconsistent. It has been difficult to know what you’re getting from him on a week-to-week basis, and that’s part of the reason that he has bounced around so much.
That said, there has been one situation in which Mayfield has universally found success. That has come when playing in the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” game.
Mayfield has a pristine 4-0 record in Thursday night games during his NFL career. He has completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 843 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception in those contests, good for a rock-solid passer rating of 97.3.
The most impressive part of Mayfield’s “Thursday Night Football” success? He has found it despite being in some unique circumstances that would be unfavorable for most quarterbacks. Here’s what to know about Mayfield’s career playing on “TNF.”
Baker Mayfield’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ record
Week 3, 2018: Mayfield leads Browns to comeback win in NFL debut
Mayfield’s first NFL action was anything but typical. It was his rookie season, and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft was sitting behind Tyrod Taylor when the veteran quarterback suffered a concussion in a “Thursday Night Football” matchup with the Jets. That thrust Mayfield into action just before halftime.
When Mayfield entered the game, the Browns were trailing 14-0. And considering that Mayfield hadn’t had many practice reps with the first-team offense, it was anticipated that he would have trouble guiding the Browns on a comeback path.
After all, Cleveland had gone a whopping 635 days without a victory while mired in a 19-game losing streak. That was the reason the Browns were positioned to draft Mayfield in the first place.
Even so, Mayfield managed to put together an efficient performance and gave Browns fans hope that he could be the team’s franchise quarterback. He led the Browns to points on four of his six drives that didn’t end with a kneel-down, helping Cleveland earn a 21-17 win.
Cleveland fans rejoiced after the win as fridges filled with Bud Light — offered by Anheuser-Busch as a free gift to be unlocked when the Browns ended their historic losing streak — opened up all across Northeast Ohio.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) May 21, 2019
Their team finally had some hope at quarterback, as Mayfield had overcome less-than-ideal circumstances to deliver a win. And Mayfield seemed confident after the game that he could do more as he developed on the field.
“I’ve just been waiting for my moment,” Mayfield told the Associated Press. “I’m just getting started.”
Week 11, 2019: Mayfield’s Browns win in game that ends with Myles Garrett smashing Mason Rudolph with helmet
Mayfield’s performance in his second “Thursday Night Football” game flew under the radar a bit. He had a solid game, completing 17 of 32 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns against a high-end Steelers defense in an outing that normally would have earned him plenty of praise.
However, all that anyone could talk about was what happened at the end of the game.
With 14 seconds left in regulation and the Steelers trailing by 14 points, Myles Garrett and Mason Rudolph got into a tussle, among others. As Garrett got off the passer, he ripped off the quarterback’s helmet.
Rudolph then came after Garrett, who swung the quarterback’s helmet at him and cracked Rudolph atop the head.
Here’s the full play. Myles Garrett hit Rudolph with his own helmet. Maurkice Pouncey (#53) threw punches and a kick. pic.twitter.com/kzJDd4Hj53
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) November 15, 2019
Somehow, Rudolph remained uninjured in the exchange, which prompted color commentator Troy Aikman to shout, “Oh God!” while ESPN’s Adam Schefter released his famous, one-word tweet that simply read, “Assault.”
Garrett later alleged that Rudolph had called him “a stupid N-word” and that is what prompted his reaction. The NFL found no evidence to support this claim, and thus, Rudolph avoided suspension.
Garrett wasn’t so lucky. He was suspended indefinitely and had to sit out the final six games of the season before being reinstated ahead of the 2020 NFL season.
That incident is one that fans who watched the game won’t forget any time soon. But few will remember how solidly Mayfield played in that contest to position the Browns to pull off the upset win.
Week 2, 2020: Mayfield outduels Joe Burrow in Bengals star’s breakout game
Mayfield’s appearance on this edition of “TNF” was just about the most normal of his career to date. Even that was a strange one, as it was played during the COVID-19 pandemic when fans were not allowed in the stands.
So, Mayfield balled out — completing 16 of 23 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and an interception — in front of an empty stadium.
Of course, this “Thursday Night Football” installment was notable for being Joe Burrow’s first NFL prime-time game. The No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft broke out during the contest, needing to throw often in Cleveland’s 35-30 win and completing 37 of 61 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns.
It’s rare to see any quarterback attempt more than 60 passes in a game, as it has happened just 61 times in the NFL’s extensive history. So, Burrow’s performance was memorable for that reason and because it also signaled to NFL fans that he could replicate the record-breaking success he enjoyed at LSU.
Still, it was Mayfield who had the last laugh during the contest. Not only did he earn the victory, but he had a higher passer rating than Burrow and posted a near-perfect QBR during the contest.
|Stat||Baker Mayfield||Joe Burrow|
So, despite Burrow’s high-flying performance, Mayfield was every bit as good in a smaller sample size.
Week 14, 2022: Mayfield leads Rams to victory just 48 hours after joining team
Mayfield has done some impressive things during his career and notably ended the Browns’ 26-year playoff-win drought. Even so, his victory in Week 14 with the Rams is perhaps his most outstanding performance to date.
Why? Because Mayfield was officially claimed off waivers by the Rams on Dec. 6, 2022 after his release from the Panthers; his first game with Los Angeles came just two days later.
Mayfield logged one practice session with the Rams before coach Sean McVay named him the starter against the Raiders for “Thursday Night Football.” Things weren’t necessarily easy for Mayfield, who acknowledged he made some “rookie mistakes” during the game, but the fact that he was able to suit up was miraculous.
And Mayfield posted great numbers considering the circumstances. He completed 22 of 35 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown despite having almost no chemistry with his new weapons.
That performance instantly won Mayfield the respect of his teammates.
“I’ve kind of never seen anything like what Baker did,” said Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein, per The Athletic. “He got here, what, Tuesday? Just unbelievable. The work and the effort and the mindset of the boys, the offense and defense and special teams actually putting together a complete performance there down the stretch.”
“For him to get here and do what he just did. it just shows how determined he is and what kind of guy he is,” Van Jefferson added. “I’m glad he’s here.”
The coaching staff was equally impressed with Mayfield. Sean McVay praised him for being “a quick study” and for guiding the team on a game-winning drive in the 17-16 victory.
“He just got here five minutes ago, and figured out a way to do some special things tonight,” McVay said of Mayfield.
Mayfield’s performance against the Raiders surely was special, and it improved his record to 4-0 on Thursday night.
He will now hope that he can improve his record to 5-0 and win a “TNF” game for a third different franchise as the Buccaneers face the Bills in Week 8 of the 2023 NFL season.