If Baker Mayfield had a publicly-traded stock, I’d be buying it right now. It was too expensive after his rookie year, but based on my perception of his critics online, I think the stock is oversold now. I base this largely on a hypothetical question that dominated Ken Carman and Anthony Lima’s morning radio show this week. Would you rather have Baker Mayfield or Joe Burrow right now?
Kudos to Ken and Anthony for finding a compelling question to fill time in sports talk radio when there’s scant sports to talk about. The answer to the question is probably Joe Burrow because nobody’s wasted two years of his rookie deal at this point. All else being equal, and assuming you like the prospects for both guys, you’d err on the side of the newer asset for business reasons. More importantly, this led me to different questions and different answers.
Will Joe Burrow or Baker Mayfield end up having a better career? In a vacuum, it’s a more interesting question. If the Bengals fire Zac Taylor in the middle of Burrow’s rookie year, stick him with an interim coach and then hire a wholly unqualified disaster as his replacement for his second year, maybe Baker Mayfield ends up having the better career. That presumes that Baker Mayfield finds a way to thrive in Kevin Stefanski’s offense and the cockpit that Andrew Berry set up this offseason.
The competition to see whether Baker Mayfield or Joe Burrow has a better career is a competition between the Bengals and Browns for which organization is more capable. It would be strange to bet on either one, but if we’re honest, as much as we like the early sense of Berry and Stefanski, the Bengals have more recent success and far more historical stability. Those are the facts. It’s hard to put them down, but that doesn’t make them any less accurate.
That said, the Bengals also have a history of never getting over the top and frustrating top players. Say what you want about Carson Palmer, but his frustration level got so high he was retiring rather than suit up for the Bengals. Say what you want about Andy Dalton, but he was able to win nine or more games in each of his first five seasons with the Bengals. Since then, the Bengals failed to keep it going and Dalton was left to collect the blame as the QB before ultimately getting replaced. QBs get too much blame and credit, and trying to weight Burrow vs. Baker when the two QBs play for the Bengals and Browns, respectively, is likely a fool’s errand. There’s probably no good answer.
I’ll take Baker Mayfield, with a new offensive line, a new head coach, two returning receivers that are tops in the league, and a head coach that has a system that plays into Mayfield’s hands. I’ll bet on the Browns because I want them to prove me and everyone else wrong. But if I had to put a significant amount of money on it, I’d sit it out. I’ll save you the history lesson of Tim Couch versus Akili Smith. This audience doesn’t need it. Let’s just say that we all know that both Burrow and Baker could end up being the ultimate victims of circumstance.