BEREA, Ohio — Baker Mayfield has always looked up to future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, so he was honored to discover that the Saints quarterback, whom the Browns will face this weekend, has had high praise for him.
“I haven’t heard that, but that’s great to hear,” Mayfield told cleveland.com on Wednesday. “It means I need to keep going, keep working, keep pushing.”
Mayfield answered that before Brees paid him the ultimate compliment later in the afternoon on a conference call with the Browns media, saying, “I think he can be a lot better than me,” adding that he’s more athletic and has a stronger arm.
But Brees has been effusive in his praise of the No. 1 pick in recent months, and that’s meant a lot to Mayfield.
“He’s a guy I’ve always loved watching and respected,” said Mayfield. “For starters, where he’s from, he grew up right across town from where I’m from (near Austin, Texas), so he went to the rival high school but I’ve always respect his path. He didn’t go to the biggest school (Purdue), he didn’t have many people interested in him, but he believed in himself and he knows what he’s good at and he works on his craft.”
Being of similar size — Mayfield is 6 5/8 and Brees is 6 1/4 — has sparked a mutual admiration between the two, even if from afar.
“Watching his success over the years, just consistency I think is what separates him from the rest,” said Mayfield. “It’s what makes him truly great, and he’s going to be a Hall of Famer because of that. I’ve always loved watching him play.”
Mayfield has always emulated another Hall of Fame in Brett Favre, but more recently has begun to pattern his game after Brees as well.
“There’s different pieces from players past and present that I try and take away,” he said. “He’s great at dissecting a defense. He gets back there in the pocket, he’s comfortable, he knows exactly where to go with the ball. Those are the things I admire about his game and would love model mine after that.”
Mayfield doesn’t mind that folks compare him to Brees because their size.
“It comes with the territory,” he said. “And some of the stuff, his decisiveness, getting the ball out quick, and leading his team, those are things I try and do myself.”
He’s also been compared to Seahawks Russell Wilson, and doesn’t mind that other.
“I wouldn’t say I’m more like one than the other,” Mayfield said. “I have my own game, but there are different things I do that can be compared to both of them. Those are guys that I obviously have a profound respect for just based on their size and being relatable to that.”
Despite their Austin roots, Mayfield hasn’t gotten a chance to meet Brees yet and is looking forward to do doing so Sunday at the Superdome.
“Oh yeah, I’ll get a chance to talk to him,” he said. “Now, it’s my job as well. We both have the same goal to win on Sunday. We’ll obviously be very tuned in to our gameplan and what we’re doing, but any chance you get to learn from somebody like that is great.”
Browns free safety Damarious Randall, who picked off Brees in his lone appearance against him last year as a Packer, a 26-17 Saints’ victory, agrees with Brees that Mayfield has an edge over him in a few areas.
“I think he’s a little more athletic than Drew Brees, and I think his arm is a little stronger than Drew Brees, so that’s why I really don’t want to say Drew Brees is Baker’s limit,” Randall said, even before Brees said the same thing about their skill sets on the conference call hours later.
Randall, who played with Rodgers in Green Bay, believes the future is bright with Mayfield.
“I can see the progress each and every day from when he first got here,” Randall said. “He’s starting to learn the playbook and learning the defenses and just kind of learning the way around the league and you can tell that he’s one of those ‘coach me’ type of guys.”
Randall has marveled at Mayfield’s arm talent.
“I’ve seen him make some crazy throws since he’s been here,” he said. “Some throws that would make you rewatch the film and be like ‘whoa. I’m surprised he even attempted that, let alone completed it,’ but that just shows the talent level he has and obviously people know he’s the future here and I’m just kind of looking forward to it.”
He acknowledged that Brees is “one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game and a future Hall of Famer. But I believe Baker’s going to be a great, great quarterback in this league, too.”
Coach Hue Jackson acknowledged that the Browns have the bar set Brees-high for Mayfield.
“Obviously, being compared to Drew Brees, anybody would be excited about that, but this guy is one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League, and we hope that is what Baker is going to be in the future,” he said. “That’s the goal.”