Source – When Baker Mayfield, the Cleveland Browns’ brash second-year quarterback, refused to shake [Richard] Sherman’s hand at midfield just before the coin toss that preceded Monday night’s game at Levi’s Stadium, it triggered him — and many of his Niners teammates — in a profound way. …
“What’s amazing, and annoying, was him not shaking hands at the beginning,” Sherman said. “That’s some college s—. It’s ridiculous. We’re all trying to get psyched up, but shaking hands with your opponent — that’s NFL etiquette. And when you pull bush league stuff, that’s disrespectful to the game. And believe me, that’s gonna get us fired up.” …
“Respect the game,” Sherman said, referencing Mayfield’s pregame behavior. “You can have rivals, but pay your respect in that moment — especially when you’re young.
“He hasn’t earned anything in this league. How many games has he won? He’s acting like he was the MVP last year. If (Patrick) Mahomes did that, it would be one thing. But he would never do that, because he has too much respect for the game.
“And when you see a guy who doesn’t? You humble him every chance you get. Because eventually, he will have respect for the league — or he’ll be out of it.”
While not as expansive as Sherman, [DeForest] Buckner, a fourth-year defensive tackle playing at an All-Pro level, was similarly put off by Mayfield’s refusal to shake his hand.
“That can rub a lot of people the wrong way,” Buckner told NFL.com. “I guess it’s part of his game. Oh well.”
This confirms it. Last night was a total game-changer in the career of Baker Mayfield. If there’s one thing America loves to do with its athletes is to fit them into a simple, easy-to-understand archetype. We don’t have time to grasp their complexities or understand how they’re flawed beings with the same human frailties we all suffer. We like to slap a label on them and fit them into our worldview as soon as possible.
It’s all about keeping it simple. That’s how we get The Well Spoken Solid Character Guy With Elite Talent Who’s Perfect For a Huge Media Market (Saquon Barkley). The Dynamic Playmaker Who Can Do Impossible Things and Sell a Billion Jerseys and Be the Face of the League (Patrick Mahomes). And the obligatory Mercurial Unhinged Nutjob with Supreme Abilities Who Drives Everyone Around Him Insane (Odell Beckham Jr).
And so far, Baker Mayfield has more or less avoided being but into a box. Until now. Like so many who came before him, a game in prime time has defined him, probably forever. Until he sheds the label, he’ll be Cocky Brash Guy Who Thinks He’s Bigger Than the Game Before He’s Won Anything That Everyone Loves to See Get Humbled. Richard Sherman and DeForest Buckner confirmed it with words the way Nick Bosa did with actions.
So that’s about as official as it gets. Once you get called out for disrespecting the game by veterans, you are that Guy Everyone Loves to Hate until further notice. Or until you win a ring, in which case they all have to kiss your ass, no matter how much they hate you. Yes, it’s ironic this is coming from Sherman, who himself was once Cocky Brash Guy. But it works in a “takes one to know one” sort of way.
In the meantime, Mayfield can expect more of the same every time he plays because the NFL needs villains as much as the WWE does. And fair or unfair, right now he’s it.