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Armour: ‘Hard Knocks’ in Cleveland is Bad News for Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield was drafted by the Browns with the No. 1 overall pick. Photo: Phil Long/AP

By Nancy Armour |

There’s nothing worse than being expected to resurrect the woeful franchise that is the Cleveland Browns.

Unless, of course, you’re expected to do that while also being reality TV fodder.

Yes, it’s going from bad to worse for Baker Mayfield after HBO announced Thursday that Hard Knocks, its show that goes behind the scenes of an NFL team in training camp, will feature the Browns. That’s a PR minefield for a team whose new poster boy manages to court controversy just by breathing.

“I don’t think there’s anything good that comes out of Hard Knocks, but we’ll see,” new Browns general manager John Dorsey told ESPN Cleveland 850 earlier this month.

There’s no need for Dorsey to hedge. This is bad for the Browns, and it’s really bad for Mayfield.

The first overall pick has been described as cocky and polarizing, and he heard the comparisons to fellow quarterback and Texas native Johnny Manziel even before the Browns drafted him. He talks trash and makes no apologies for it, and he embraces his brashness.

Folks in his new home state are still salty about him planting the Oklahoma flag on the Ohio State logo after the Sooners toppled the Buckeyes at The Horseshoe. He was briefly benched as punishment for making a lewd gesture at the Kansas sideline.

But Mayfield swears that his play will quiet the noise. That the success that won him the Heisman Trophy will ultimately determine how he’s perceived.

“I care about winning. I care about doing things the right way,” Mayfield said after the draft. “I just want to be judged for who I am.”

And therein lies the problem with Hard Knocks. It will cement his reputation before he even takes his first regular-season snap.

Hard Knocks is not an Xs and Os show. It’s the sports version of a soap opera, with the least little conflict or tension highlighted and dramatized. Browns coach Hue Jackson has already said Tyrod Taylor is his starter and, while it might be the best thing for his development, Mayfield isn’t the type to be content with being anyone’s backup.

There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s the same attitude almost any other highly touted quarterback would have. You don’t get to be the No. 1 pick by thinking you make a pretty good No. 2. But Mayfield’s competitiveness and his desire to prove himself will surely lead to some drama.

No doubt he’ll rub a veteran the wrong way, whether it’s Taylor, his offensive line or linebacker Christian Kirksey. He’ll show someone up, get under somebody’s skin and, eventually, there will be payback.

Similar scenarios will occur at the other 31 training camps, but only Mayfield’s miscues will be laid bare in the hot glare of the Hard Knocks cameras. By the time the season opens, the public will have made up its mind about Mayfield, and he’ll spend the rest of his career trying to undo the damage.

A cocky, colorful quarterback and the NFL’s worst franchise is a dream pairing for HBO and Hard Knocks. For Mayfield, it’s the worst nightmare.

This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.


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