Baker Mayfield is too good to be apologizing so much

LAWRENCE, KS - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Baker Mayfield
LAWRENCE, KS - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Baker Mayfield /

Baker Mayfield has been the story all season for Oklahoma, largely because of the banner season he is having on the field, where he is putting up incredible, record-setting numbers.

But on Saturday afternoon, following a relatively easy 41-3 pasting of lowly Kansas, the Sooner All-American quarterback was the story for a much different and totally unflattering on-the-field performance.

Mayfield’s fiery, fiercely competitive nature got the best of him, causing him, on several occasions during the game at Kansas, to lose control of his emotions, making disgusting body gestures and using unsavory, disrespectful language directed at Kansas fans.

Instead of the game headline being the Sooners clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship and move a step closer to a potential spot as one of the four teams in this year’s College Football Playoff, Mayfield’s childlike, unbecoming behavior and subsequent apology dominated the stgame media coverage.

If part of the Kansas game plan, for whatever reason, was to employ psychological tactics and try to get under Mayfield’s skin, it certainly succeeded. At the pregame coin toss, the Kansas captains refused to shake the OU quarterback’s hand, instead keeping their hands clasped behind their back and staring down the Sooner captain and team leader.

Mayfield appeared at first to kind of laugh off the non-handshake, but I’m sure he had a few choice words in immediate response. That was just the beginning. Chippiness, trash talk and bad blood was prevalent on both sides throughout the game and resulted in several personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

After Oklahoma’s initial touchdown of the game, a 34-yard pass from Mayfield to Rodney Anderson on a 4th-and-eight play six minutes into the first quarter, the OU quarterback came back to the Sooner sidelines and began jawing at the Kansas crowd, barking, “You’ve only got one win. Go cheer for basketball.”

Late in the second quarter, Kansas defensive back Hasan Defense slammed Mayfield to the ground on what appeared to be a targeting penalty, but no flag was thrown and the Sooner quarterback got up favoring his throwing shoulder. This incident further incited the bad blood between the two teams.

The afternoon reached a definitive low point after a three-yard pass from Mayfield to Mark Andrews put Oklahoma up 28-3. Following the play, Mayfield turned to the Kansas crowd, grabbed his crotch – not once but twice, all the while punctuating the gesture with a string of expletives.

Mayfield clearly played this game in an agitated state. But instead of using the acrimony as fuel to elevate his game, which is something that has done consistently throughout his OU career, Mayfield was unable to control his emotions in this game and it led him to make some very bad choices that reflected poorly on him as a person, the Sooner football program and the university he represents.

As Mayfield took his seat behind the microphone in Oklahoma’s postgame press conference, the first words out of his mouth were an apology.

"“I got caught up in a competitive game, a chippy game, but what I did today, tonight was unacceptable…I apologize…The position I’m in, I have to be the one who leads by example, and didn’t do that.”"

This was the main storyline reported by multiple media outlets nationwide about yesterday’s game.. That was unfortunate and something that the player most college football cognoscenti consider a runaway choice for this season’s Heisman Trophy, I’m sure, regrets.

His extremely competitive nature brings out both the good and the bad with Mayfield. His good has been widely documented and is the big reason the Sooners are in the championship hunt both in the conference and nationally. But the fiery spirit and never-say-die attitude also, at times, brings out the worst in the Sooner quarterback. And that was noticeably on display at Kansas on Saturday.

This latest incident of poor judgement and classless behavior by Mayfield is at least the third time this calendar year that he has come forth with a public apology to acknowledge the wrongdoing and ask forgiveness for his actions (his arrest for drunk and disorderly conduct in Arkansas earlier this year; the flag-planting incident at Ohio State, for which many thought he didn’t have to apologize; and his ill-conceived actions this weekend.

Mayfield is having another tremendous season, his final one in college football, and he needs to understand that he is the team leader and face of Oklahoma football at the moment. Accordingly, the cameras are always going to be on him and his every action followed and scrutinized.

He has said that his emotions sometimes get the best of him. But that’s exactly the point: As great a player as Baker Mayfield is, he must do a better job of maintaining his cool in the heat of the moment and rise above the tendency to fire back with words and actions that he will later regret.

Whether Mayfield’s latest actions will impact his 2017 Heisman Trophy chances remains to be seen. Probably not, but you can be sure these kind of character issues weigh on the minds of National Football League team officials in evaluating draft prospects.

I have heard people in the know about college football compare Mayfield’s incredible skill and talent level to former Texas A&M quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner and NFL first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel. Like it or not, Manziel was a phenomenal college talent. Unfortunately – for “Johnny Football,” that is – his bad side ultimately got the best of his good side, and we saw what happened to him.

Mayfield knows better and deserves better. He keeps telling us these very public lapses in judgment and behavior aren’t really him and aren’t how he wants people to see and remember him.

It’s high time he started acting like it.