Baker Mayfield emerged from the flames relatively unscathed.
The former Oklahoma quarterback held up well making rounds on two hyper-critical television programs Thursday on FS1, appearing in-studio on “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed” and “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.”
Through the tough questions, the back-and-forths with Cowherd and clips from some of his off-field college lowlights, Mayfield kept his responses measured and rarely relinquished his signature smirk.
The juicy material came during a segment with Cowherd, who has been one of Mayfield’s biggest critics, calling him “undraftable” because of a 2017 arrest in which he ran from Fayetteville, Arkansas, police.
Mayfield ultimately was selected No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Browns in the NFL draft. Thursday, he appeared on the show wearing a hooded sweatshirt with his initials and the word “undraftable” splattered across the front, which Cowherd enjoyed and admitted “won” Mayfield the interview.
At times it was the verbal boxing match many expected, but truly contentious moments were few. Mayfield at one point asked Cowherd if he’d ever “played football past high school” and said the host’s views against him are mostly meant to grab headlines and not based in real research.
OK, OK, OK.
Cowherd’s producer rolled highlights of Mayfield’s crotch grab at Kansas last season, as well as footage from the arrest. There were also highlights of Mayfield running to the stands after throwing a touchdown pass to running back Trey Sermon in OU’s victory last September at Ohio State.
“I don’t like this,” Cowherd said. “I’d like you to be with your teammates.”
Mayfield popped back: “Our band is over there, our student section is over there, and [then I ran] straight back to the sideline. You pulled the one clip of me running right there to our fans and people who traveled well to that game, and you didn’t show the rest of the clip. … What is this, a five-second clip?”
It wasn’t all fire and brimstone. Mayfield expressed deep regret about his arrest and called it a rude awakening and “a lesson harshly learned,” to which Cowherd responded: “That’s what I want to hear. That’s the best 30 seconds of your interview.”
“Now we’re moving somewhere,” Mayfield said.
The most enlightening segment was Mayfield’s sit-down with “Undisputed.” The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner was asked about OU’s 54-48 double-overtime loss to Georgia in the Rose Bowl.
After building a big first-half lead, Mayfield said OU “played not to lose,” which can be taken a few ways. Either the blame rests on players’ shoulders or those of first-year head coach and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.
The Sooners scored 31 points and rolled up 360 yards in the first half, but Riley became more conservative against a stiffening Georgia defense. OU allowed Mayfield to take one shot at the end zone in two overtimes, and Riley elected to kick a field goal in the first OT instead of going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 14-yard line. But we digress.
Mayfield told “Undisputed” about how he’s not as brash these days due to his new surroundings, and spoke kindly of his Cleveland Browns roommate — former Georgia running back Nick Chubb, whom he compared to strong-and-silent former OU teammate Samaje Perine.
Cleveland.com’s Dan Labbe recently wrote that Mayfield doesn’t appear ready to compete for the starting job with Tyrod Taylor. Mayfield said things have clicked for him over the last four or five practices, but admitted he had been frustrated before that.
Mayfield will return to the spotlight at fall camp as Taylor’s presumed backup. About that time, Cowherd revealed, Fox will air a four-part documentary — called “All the Way Up: Baker Mayfield” — providing a deeper look at Mayfield’s rise from walk-on to becoming a top draft pick. It will air Sunday, July 29.
Mayfield, of course, helped produce his own docu-series that aired on online leading up to the draft. This one will take on a larger following just 11 days before the Browns’ preseason opener at the New York Giants.
Until then, Mayfield can rest easy knowing he passed an interview test with some of the loudest mouths in sports media.