It's been more than three years since the Browns made Baker Mayfield a No. 1 overall pick. This week it might have felt like they were making that choice again with the release of Odell Beckham. The decision to part ways with the former Pro Bowler could have caused another jolt to a Cleveland locker room that's experienced its fair share of them in recent years.
Mayfield, however, couldn't have been cooler Sunday.
With the 4-4 Browns seemingly at a crossroads, their embattled QB put together perhaps his finest performance of the season in a 41-16 win over the Bengals. He was equally impressive in how he addressed Beckham's departure, which followed a tumultuous week involving the star wideout.
"I wish him well. I really do," Mayfield said. "My feelings haven't changed. I wish him well. From a personal standpoint, he's a good friend of mine. We still haven't talked but that doesn't change things. I wish him well. I wish him the best in his career."
In Cincinnati, Mayfield again proved to be fascinatingly better without OBJ at his disposal. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, with season highs in passer rating (132.6) and yards per completion (15.5).
It was part of a dominant and collective effort from the Browns, who finally looked like the title contender many projected them to be before the season. They hadn't played such a complete game since the 2020 campaign.
"This was a team win," Mayfield said. "I'm very, very proud of this group."
It's one that no longer includes Beckham's enormous talent. Cleveland, interestingly, has won at a higher clip when OBJ hasn't played -- since 2019, they're 14-15 with him and 9-5 without him. After ridding itself of an off-the-field distraction, on-field success is ultimately what matters most for the team, and its QB.
"We'll take wins any way we can get them," Mayfield said. "I came here to win, I've said it over and over again. That's why I was brought here, to change the culture, help change the culture, and continue to contribute towards that winning attitude. Our guys are bought in. They focused and did their job and that needs to be a week-to-week thing."