LeBron James anoints Baker Mayfield as new face of Cleveland

For years, Cleveland was LeBron James’ town.

Now that he’s gone, James is ready to appoint a new king of The Land — Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield won the hearts of the city when he replaced an injured Tyrod Taylor against the New York Jets in Week 3 for his NFL debut and subsequently led the Browns to their first win since 2016.

Since then, the Browns have gone on a four-game losing streak. But they’ve also won three games, including two straight in the aftermath of firing former head coach Hue Jackson. It all adds up to four times as many wins as the team tallied in the previous two seasons.

LeBron James: Mayfield has the ‘it’ factor

James, an avid Browns fan, likes what he sees.

“I think the quarterback of the Browns should always be the face of the city,” James told The Athletic. “The quarterback position is the most prestigious position in sports, period. And the fact that he has the ‘it’ factor, you can tell that teammates like playing with him.”

Mayfield certainly does seem to have the “it” factor. And that’s a factor that indeed gives him the type of clout that could lead him to taking over James’ former mantle as the face of Cleveland.

See Mayfield with the Browns: 

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Baker Mayfield with the Cleveland Browns
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 30: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) walks off of the field at the conclusion of the game during preseason game action between the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions on August 30, 2018 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 30: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) calls out signals during preseason game action between the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions on August 30, 2018 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 30: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) looks for a receiver during preseason game action between the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions on August 30, 2018 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 09: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns follows the action against the New York Giants during their preseason game on August 9,2018 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 09: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns in action against the New York Giants during their preseason game on August 9,2018 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 09: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns in action against the New York Giants during their preseason game on August 9,2018 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 09: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns in action against the New York Giants during their preseason game on August 9,2018 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
BEREA, OH - AUGUST 12: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) participates in drills during during the Cleveland Browns Training Camp on August 12, 2018, at the at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BEREA, OH - JUNE 13: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) participates in drills during the Cleveland Browns Minicamp on June 13, 2018, at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BEREA, OH - JUNE 13: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) participates in drills during the Cleveland Browns Minicamp on June 13, 2018, at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BEREA, OH - JUNE 13, 2018: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns throws a pass during a mandatory mini camp on June 13, 2018 at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by: 2018 Diamond Images/Getty Images)
BEREA, OH - JUNE 13: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) participates in drills during the Cleveland Browns Minicamp on June 13, 2018, at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BEREA, OH - JUNE 13: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) participates in drills during the Cleveland Browns Minicamp on June 13, 2018, at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BEREA, OH - MAY 30, 2018: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns throws a pass during an OTA practice on May 30, 2018 at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by: 2018 Diamond Images/Getty Images)
BEREA, OH - MAY 23, 2018: Quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese of the Cleveland Browns watches quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 take part in a drill during an OTA practice at the Cleveland Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by: 2018 Diamond Images/Getty Images)
BEREA, OH - MAY 23: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) participates in drills during the Cleveland Browns OTA at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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James referenced the quarterback of the Browns always being the face of he city, which is a convenient thing to say now that he’s gone. The list of Cleveland quarterbacks during LeBron’s two stops with the Cavaliers includes Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye and Kelly Holcomb.

Nobody was mistaking any of those guys as the face of Cleveland with or without James in town.

Mayfield’s attitude helping him win support

But Mayfield’s getting results on the field and winning support with his brash approach that endears him to fans, coaches and teammates alike.

He’s shown zero remorse since giving Jackson a chilly reception when the Browns faced him with the Cincinnati Bengals last week, expressing displeasure in Jackson joining a division rival. It’s the same Mayfield who was chided for grabbing his crotch against Kansas and planting the Oklahoma flag on the Buckeyes logo after beating Ohio State in college.

It’s the kind of behavior considered boorish for an average or bad player, but is captivating when tied to success. The Browns are finally tasting a semblance of success with Mayfield. And his coaches have his back.

Browns OC: Mayfield won’t ‘blow smoke up anybody’s ass’

“I promise you this, Baker’s not going to blow smoke up anybody’s ass,” offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens told reporters Thursday. “So, if he said it, that’s what he feels, and I’m standing behind Baker Mayfield.

“I don’t care about anybody that doesn’t work in this building and what they think about what he said, all right? That’s what I stand behind is him and these players in this locker room.”

An uncommon Browns winner

Be sure. Success on the field is integral to gaining that support. Mayfield was recently named NFL offensive rookie of the month for November and has the inside track to be named rookie of the year.

He’s thrown 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions while averaging 249.5 passing yards and tallying a 93.2 quarterback rating in nine game this season, easily justifying his No. 1 overall selection over the rest of the NFL’s first-round quarterback selections this year.

A lesser quarterback couldn’t get away with his audacity. But he’s backing up his attitude while winning games and fans.

“They look like a different franchise when he’s at quarterback,” James told The Athletic. “Bernie Kosar did it for so many years, and we’ve tried to give it to so many other quarterbacks in that time and it just didn’t work out for them. It looks like it’s finally going in the right direction.”
 

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