In an article published Sunday by the Akron Beacon-Journal, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre said he sees a lot of himself in Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield — and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016 after a 20-year NFL career in which he appeared in two Super Bowls — winning one of them — Favre now stands third behind Dree Brees and Peyton Manning in career passing yards. But more to the point, he is the NFL’s all-time poster child for quarterback improvisation.
“I was so naive I didn’t realize how difficult it is, nor did I really care,” Favre told the Beacon-Journal. “I just was like, ‘Hey, now’s the time to have fun. I’ve got nothing to lose.’ I get the sense that [Mayfield] has that mentality, and that’s exactly what you need in this situation.
“He’s the best [fit for the Browns] just like I was the best fit — and you don’t know this at the time — but I was the best fit for Green Bay at the time because I had this aw-shucks attitude.”
But Mayfield isn’t the only current NFL quarterback Favre believes has a playing style similar to his own. Mayfield is simply the one who plays closest to Akron.
“There’s no question that the sky is the limit for Baker,” Favre. “And, yeah, I think his style of play, and I’ve heard the same thing about [Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick] Mahomes, and I agree with both, that their styles of play — if you had to pick a former player — would certainly match up to my style.
“It’s a play-action fake that you’ve never seen before or a flip, underhand pass or diving over three defenders or ducking your head and getting the extra yard,” Favre said. “Those are the type of things that are the unexpected that will become, at some point, maybe expected with a guy like Baker or Mahomes.
“Playing [quarterback] the way I played and the way Baker and Mahomes play is they just kind of have that added little sixth sense.”
But there are substantive differences in the early-career arcs of the three players. A second-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 1991, Favre was thrown into the starting lineup of the Green Bay Packers after being traded there in 1992 — something Chiefs head coach Andy Reid watched first-hand as a first-year offensive assistant with the Packers.
In contrast, Mahomes spent a year backing up ultra-conservative Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith before being handed the keys to Reid’s offense. The Browns had a similar plan with Mayfield — intending to have him sit for a year behind veteran Tyrod Taylor — but after Taylor suffered a concussion in Week 3 last season, Mayfield took (and kept) the starting job.
The Browns went 6-7 under Mayfield in his rookie season. The Chiefs — already possessing a basketful of offensive weapons developed while Smith was under center — went 12-4 and advanced to the AFC Championship game. And Mahomes — who threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns in his first season as a starter — was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
So it should be no surprise that in the offseason, the Browns made one move after another to provide Mayfield with a supporting cast, acquiring — among others — Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants and Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins.
But what remains to be seen is whether the Browns — under new head coach Freddie Kitchens — will be able to leverage the passing and receiving talent they have acquired into an offense that can rival the one the Chiefs have built over a period of years. The Chiefs’ offensive continuity — and the way they have carefully developed his talent — are giving Mahomes the best shot to match (and exceed) Favre’s legacy.