Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Baker Mayfield putting it all together now wouldn't even be the craziest thing to happen to Baker Mayfield
Al Pacino, as Michael Corleone in the underrated Godfather Part III, dramatically spoke the line.
“Just when I thought I was out,” he says, “they pull me back in.”
The last of the trilogy, Michael’s doing everything he can to finally, entirely, go legit. Yet, because an almost three-hour movie had to be made, that journey proves difficult.
Still, if an aging mobster can be sympathetic, Pacino’s Michael is. You may recall from the franchise’s first entry he wanted no part of the family business in the first place.
So there is nothing but anguish behind his lament. It is painful, strained, tortured.
Funny, then, how a paraphrased version of that line arrives like a thunderbolt after what happened Thursday night inside SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.
Only when it concerns Baker Mayfield, there is no lament, no pain, strain or torture,
It’s the opposite.
Just when you think he’s done, he pulls you back in.
It’s just … fabulous.
The old Sooner Heisman Trophy winner’s last day in the sun may be just that, his last day in the sun. And still it’s exhilarating, triumphant, miraculous, great.
If you missed it — and just about everybody did, live at least, because who can remember to watch the NFL on Amazon Prime; or, for that matter, who wants to watch it on a platform that doesn’t allow for flipping to other sports during breaks — here’s what happened.
It began when Mayfield walked on at Texas Tech … yeah, you’re right, going back too far.
So, in 2018, Cleveland chose him as the first pick in the draft when … you’re right, fast forward some more, seriously try making a long story shorter.
Generally, there would be a paywall here but I wanted everybody to have a chance to read this. Still, if you enjoy this kind of writing, please consider supporting Oklahoma Columnist with a paid subscription for $6/month, less if you sign up for a year.
Cleveland, having traded for the apparently nefarious DeShaun Watson one season after Mayfield led the Browns to the second round of the playoffs, dumped him to Carolina for the grand sum of a conditional fifth-round draft pick. There, Mayfield went 1-5 as a starter and, the Panthers choosing to go with Sam Darnold instead, when Mayfield asked for his release on Monday, Carolina granted his wish.
Tuesday, claimed off waivers by the Rams, Mayfield touched down in Los Angeles 46 hours before kicking off with the Raiders.
About three hours after kicking off, Mayfield produced a game-winning drive unequaled in 45 seasons, because that’s how long it had been since anybody drove anybody 98 yards over the last 2 minutes to win an NFL game.
If you can believe it, he was even better than that, needing just 1:35 of clock time to hit Van Jefferson from 23 yards with 10 seconds remaining to win 17-16, traveling the length of the field without the aid of a single timeout.
Mayfield did it right after leading a 17-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took 9:01 off the clock, making the score 16-10 with 3:19 remaining.
All told, Mayfield completed 22 of 35 passes for 230 yards. Just in the fourth quarter, he completed 15 of 20 for 141 … two days after meeting his new teammates for the first time, getting his hands on the playbook for the first time, being explained LA’s two-minute offense for the first time.
It was unthinkable.
It was unfathomable.
It was impossible.
Yet he did it.
After being ditched in Cleveland.
After being dumped by Carolina.
After arriving on Tuesday and getting thrown into the game on Thursday.
Perhaps you’re looking for an historic parallel.
If so, stop looking because there is none.
He just did it.
Perhaps crazier than that, if anybody was going to do it, or if you had to guess somebody who might do it — lead a team back to win from 13 or more points down in the last four minutes — you know, other than Tom Brady, who’d done it just three nights earlier for Tampa Bay, you might have chosen Mayfield.
When Brady did it, it was the third time it had happened in the previous 550 NFL games in which those circumstances applied, regular season or playoffs. Mayfield made it four times in 551.
But he does things like that.
He kind of did it on Sept. 12, 2015, in Knoxville, leading the Sooners back from 17-0 down, throwing two fourth-quarter TDs to tie it, then running for one and throwing for another in overtime to win it.
He kind of did it the first night he played for Cleveland, on Sept. 20, 2018, entering in the second quarter down 14-0 only to deliver the Browns’ their first victory in 635 days, 21-17 over the Jets.
“I’ve just been waiting for my moment,” Mayfield said that night. “I’m just getting started.”
Maybe he’s still just getting started.
Most of five seasons have passed, so it’s kind of unthinkable, too. He’s on his third team and sixth head coach for crying out loud. The Browns unloaded him for a nothing draft pick and the Panthers unloaded him for free.
The world expected nothing.
He delivered a miracle instead.
Not for the first time. Or the second, third or fourth.
Because he was a walk-on at Tech. And a walk-on at Oklahoma, arriving before the coaches knew he was coming. He came from nowhere to play on Saturdays and now plays on Sundays (and occasionally Monday and Thursday).
Clearly, Baker Mayfield had something left. Just maybe, he’s got a lot more left. Crazier things have happened. Crazier things have happened to Baker Mayfield
Gosh, it’s fun to think about.