Chuck Landon: Who could mentor Baker Mayfield? Chad, of course
Guess which first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft has reached out for mentoring?
Quarterback Baker Mayfield, that’s who.
And who did the No. 1 pick in the draft by the Cleveland Browns seek out as a mentor?
Former Marshall star quarterback Chad Pennington, that’s who.
If that sounds like an “old couple,” it’s because it is. But that’s the whole idea. Who better to mentor a kid who at times has been a wild child than a guy who was one of the classiest quarterbacks in the NFL during his 11-year career?
It makes perfect sense.
As long as Mayfield listens.
Perhaps, that’s why Pennington has kept his advice rather basic. His main talking point? For Mayfield to continue to work like the underdog he has been for most of his football career and focus on football rather than building a brand.
This forum began last January at the Senior Bowl. Pennington was fulfilling his role in the NFL Legends Community mentorship program, so he attended the week of practice and began counseling Mayfield.
Then, Pennington worked with Mayfield again at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Since then, the two have remained in contact.
And Pennington has delivered some straight-from-the-shoulder advice, but in the disarming fashion that Marshall fans remember so well.
“My first piece of advice,” Pennington told Akron Beacon-Journal sportswriter Nate Ulrich, “came from a place of transparency and honesty in saying that, ‘Baker, you have to remember who you are and that is a guy who was a twice walk-on in college and without your work ethic and your talent, you would probably be a (graduate assistant) somewhere coaching.’”
Pointed, but true.
“The conflict is now people are treating him differently than who he knows he really is,” Pennington was quoted. “And so he has to be able to distinguish the difference between (the two and tell himself), ‘This is who people think I am and want to treat me this way because I am the first pick, I am a Heisman Trophy winner, but I, as Baker Mayfield, have to remember that I’m a twice walk-on and I have to keep that edge about me or this game and the entertainment value around this game will eat a player up and spit him out.’”
Particularly since Mayfield seems rather enamored with building his brand.
“Once you believe you’re an entertainer, not a football player,” said Pennington, “your time is going to be limited in this league.”
Pennington also is completely on-board with the Browns’ plan not to play Mayfield during his rookie year.
“That’s the best plan,” said Pennington, who actually attended school in Knoxville, Tennessee, with Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam’s children.
“I sat for two years and three games and, for me, it was fantastic.”
Yet, Mayfield still needs to maintain his competitive edge.
“I love the fact that (Mayfield), in his mind, is competing for the job,” Pennington told the Ohio newspaper. “That’s how you want his mindset to be. You just want him to be able to handle it if he doesn’t win the job to make sure that he does everything in the quarterback room to help that room be successful. That’s most important.
“When that room is stable, then the team is stable. When that room is not stable, the team is not stable.”
So, will Mayfield listen to Chad’s sage advice?
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at email@example.com.