Baker Mayfield and Colin Cowherd had the weirdest feud of 2018. And if recent occurrences are any indication, we are primed for an encore in 2019.
After months of criticisms from Cowherd, both on-field and off-field, and reciprocal defenses from Mayfield, things have gotten personal between the two. What may have once been in good fun is no longer that. It is a true, unbridled, unequivocal rivalry with backstory, colorful characters, and most of all, a villain.
Here we are with the most recent development between the two. Mayfield gave an interview with Complex, where he had some less-than-flattering things to say about Cowherd. And Cowherd responded with his usual aplomb.
The sordid history of Mayfield v. Cowherd can really only be attributed to the actions of one man: Cowherd. Sure, Mayfield has made his cracks, and his interview was undeniable in its hostility. But Cowherd pulled this mutual disdain out of thin air, and with little regard for journalistic decency. Simply put, he went after Mayfield very early on in this charade.
The role of the media is not to “support” athletes. Let’s get that out of the way first and foremost. Sports media is supposed to be a conduit from the athlete/coach to the every man, a purveyor of reality to the best of their ability. But in this day and age of punditry news, opinion has taken precedence over reality. That may not always take on a negative form, but too often, “picking a fight” with a player is almost encouraged, as a public “feud,” however one-sided, ultimately becomes a magnet for ratings.
Which is why it was so encouraging to see Rich Eisen, somewhat of a pundit himself–albeit a restrained and contemplative one–address the massive problem with talking head sports television.
The worst of the worst will use your refusal to appear as supposed proof that you can’t take the heat. At any rate, great run in the playoffs. Enjoyed watching it!— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) May 27, 2019
Eisen’s tweets were in response to C.J. McCollum and Skip Bayless having a back-and-forth (if you can call it that). The details are not important, but essentially, McCollum called out Bayless for criticism of Kawhi Leonard. Bayless decided to make it a topic of his next show. And like clockwork, as Eisen predicted in his tweet, Bayless invited McCollum onto his show to put up his dukes face to face.
Now, this piece is specifically about Cowherd and Mayfield, not Bayless. But Bayless and Cowherd are cut from the same cloth, the undisputed (pun intended) kings of outlandish statements and irrational criticism as primary tools to draw eyes and ears. It has happened an inconceivable number of times. The thing that really highlights Cowherd’s beef with Mayfield, however, is how vociferously Mayfield has fought back.
Had Mayfield kept to himself, let the barrage of unrequited claps roll off his back, maybe Cowherd would have given up. If the bear reacts not to the prod, why continue the prodding? But it is Cowherd we are talking about. He needs topics, thrives on conflict, requires personal victimhood to keep the checks clearing, so maybe he never would have relented. Regardless, Mayfield is not someone to suffer fools, and he has responded to Cowherd at every turn. And frankly, it has only made the troll madder and more flexible, as he has to reach deep into his satchel of outrage to maintain his self image.
So maybe Mayfield is responsible for keeping the feud alive when it could have died down. But he is far from the instigator, and has yet to reach a point of being out of line. Cowherd, on the other hand, seems to have started a fire from nothing, and for no discernible reason. At least, no defensible reason.
Sure, he has mentioned Mayfield’s actions, but rarely in a vacuum. Rather, the origins of Cowherd’s dislike for Mayfield appears to stem from, and frequently compares to, his own personal feelings of a certain other player.
Many have already made up their mind about the Sam Darnold-Baker Mayfield question. Many viewed Darnold as the top quarterback in the 2018 draft class, yet Mayfield ending up going first in a surprise move. And it is hard to say the Browns made the wrong decision. Through one season, there is little doubt at this moment who is trending towards the better career. Mayfield broke rookie records while completely revamping the Browns’ season.
Darnold, on the other hand, is still a matter of hope more than results. He flashed enough to bring optimism, and his physical gifts are through the roof. Maybe in a few years, we look back on this like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, where the rookie success proves unsustainable. But in terms of consistently top level play, Mayfield clearly has the edge at this point in time.
While most made up their mind about the quarterbacks after, you know, watching them play in the NFL for a full season, Cowherdmade up his as much as two calendar years ago. Darnold has been his guy for a long time. Prior to Darnold announcing his registering for the draft, Cowherd downplayed any reports that Darnold had made any decisions at all about his college future. His quote on the matter: “I’ll report that.”
There are no indications that Cowherd is close with Sam Darnold or his family. In fact, he does not seem to have any personal relationship with him at all. It seems more a matter of Cowherd liking him from afar, and thus he believed himself more in tune with Darnold’s choices than actual journalists in the field.
So what does Darnold have to do with Cowherd’s apparent hate for Mayfield? Well, Cowherd going after Mayfield was fairly tame prior to draft day, and was even defensible in some cases. When Cowherd criticized Mayfield’s brash attitude or brasher actions, he could probably find a swath of old school fans who shared his opinion. Evem when he questioned tangible things like Mayfield’s size, he had company. But when Mayfield’s play transcended the miserable Browns regime, Cowherd’s tune never changed.
And it is not as if the constant juxtaposition of Darnold and Mayfield is an unspoken trend with Cowherd. He stated rather explicitly that he will always bring up one with the other in this video.
“They will always be compared on my show,” he said.
Sure, this was from months and months ago, when Darnold was playing reasonably well and Mayfield was inconsistent. But given the reasons why Cowherd says he will always compare them, it seems their play on the field in the NFL is, and will remain, irrelevant. He loves Darnold because he loved Darnold in college, full stop. He hates Mayfield because he hates Mayfield’s “antics:” the crotch-grabbing, the flag-planting, the police video. But not only does he hate the “antics,” he hates them relative to Darnold’s “good citizenship.” Mayfield could be the absolute model citizen in the NFL and put up record numbers (both of which he did in his rookie year), but Cowherd would not budge. Because Mayfield has attitude, and Darnold does not.
And this largely incomparable comparison has only been exacerbated by Mayfield going first overall when the modest consensus said Darnold would. Then it went further when Mayfield subsequently became arguably a top-10 quarterback as a rookie, while the Jets are still in wait-and-see mode with their young gunslinger. As long as Sam Darnold sorts his recyclables and goes to bed sober at a reasonable hour, he will have Cowherd’s heart. And as long as Mayfield remains undeniable, Cowherd will do his best to bring him down to earth.
“The Herd” Appearance
Which brings us to their first on-air one-on-one interaction. It was the moment every hot take pundit dreams of, the player he has been openly and irrevocably critical of sits down in his studio, with a microphone, unaware of what questions he will be asked. Meanwhile, the pundit has fully prepared with a litany of film clips and news articles and interviews to point to and say “You look bad here. Defend yourself. I dare you.”
And it went like this.
Colin Cowherd tried calling out Baker Mayfield today on The Herd. Baker wasn’t having it. pic.twitter.com/xzGTW2SNJz— Football Lifestyle 🏈 (@FootballGrinds) June 21, 2018
To his credit, Cowherd handled Mayfield’s firm defenses with his own version of integrity, not backing down but accepting Mayfield’s responses. Since that day, however, unprompted remarks on Baker’s character have kicked up a bit, often within the context of Darnold. And sometimes he does it apropos of nothing.
For the record, I thought @bakermayfield had the best three pick, 23 of 42, losing effort, all season.— Colin Cowherd (@ColinCowherd) December 31, 2018
In kind, Mayfield sometimes goes at Cowherd, again apropos of nothing.
Merry Christmas to everybody!!! Enjoy your time with loved ones during this special time of the year!! ….. even to you @ColinCowherd ya Grinch— Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield) December 25, 2018
Against all odds, both guys have simultaneously gotten under each other’s skin. But Mayfield was the first recipient of unprompted criticism, is a young athlete who thrives on trash talk and I cannot stress this enough, is not a 55-year-old supposedly unbiased media member.
Let’s return back to the most recent story. For the record, Mayfield asserted that quote Cowherd fixated on was old, and Cowherd reached for another topic to keep his show fresh. Mayfield was also justifiably frustrated that Cowherd continues his open and relatively unrequited criticism, so he let people know with a series of tweets. And Cowherd reveled in it. He expressed pride in his “right” assumption that Mayfield’s attitude will take him down. That is, of course, despite the fact that Cowherd, who is a 55-year-old man, has continuously picked a fight with a player for no reason, other than to have a television story. And cue the further accusations and baseless speculation and character assassination:
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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