One only needs to look at Baker Mayfield’s stat line from last Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals to understand how the Cleveland Browns rookie has revitalized the NFL’s most hapless franchise:
-284 passing yards.
-121.9 quarterback rating.
-$10,026 fine for pretending to pull out a comically oversized penis from his pants.
That last bit was announced on Saturday, once the NFL reviewed footage of Mayfield’s celebration after he threw a touchdown to tight end Darren Fells in the second quarter of the Browns’ 26-18 win. Cameras followed the quarterback as he sprinted down the sidelines to Cleveland offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens and made a gesture the league has determined to be “unsportsmanlike conduct.” The $10,026 display of confidence occurs at about the 19-second mark in the video below.
Pretty harmless in the grand scheme of things, especially considering the “grand scheme of things” happens to be NFL football. But this isn’t the first time the league has punished a star player for illegal use of hands. In 2015, the NFL fined then-Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch twice for grabbing his crotch in celebration. (The first grab cost him $11,050, and he had to cough up $20,000 after doing it again a few months later).
During the week, Mayfield told reporters he didn’t fully remember the incident with Kitchens against the Bengals. “I honestly couldn’t tell you,” he said. “I don’t know. We have a lot of stuff within the locker room, what we have going on in the offense. Lot of inside jokes. Who knows what it was?” The NFL’s expert evaluators of crotchial pantomime begged to differ, and Mayfield has to pay as a result.
Mayfield and the Browns agreed to a $21.8 million signing bonus in the offseason, so the quarterback would be able to perform this classic inside joke hundreds of times without putting himself in financial peril. This didn’t stop a Browns fan from setting up a GoFundMe page to pay the quarterback’s fine, however. (The campaign has been updated to fund “a charity of Baker’s choice.”)
Given the Browns’ recent history, the sheer fact that their quarterback was in a position to celebrate at all is worth far more than $10,026. It’s an outsized achievement for Cleveland.