INDIANAPOLIS — There could not be a more glaring contrast in personality and temperament than Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen.
Mayfield: outspoken, confident bordering on cocky, and an unmistakable swagger.
Rosen: circumspect, confident with a dose of modesty, and a willingness to be patient.
Thus, my initial reaction after hearing both quarterbacks Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine: We’ll see Rosen in a Giants uniform next season.
With the Giants holding the second overall pick and with Rosen and Mayfield almost certain to be available at that spot, it was painfully obvious that Rosen checks the right boxes for the Giants in terms of talent and character. As long as the Giants see enough talent in the UCLA quarterback — and there’s no reason to believe they won’t — it seems like a no-brainer that he’ll be selected as Eli Manning’s eventual successor.
Simply listening to both quarterbacks’ reactions when asked about whether they’d be comfortable sitting behind Manning to start their careers offered a revealing window into how they might interact in the Giants’ locker room from the start.
“First things first, whichever team I go to, I’m not going to settle for a backup job,” said Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner who’s coming off a terrific season at Oklahoma.
Rosen said: “Whatever my coach asks me to do. If I’m asked to be a backup, I’m going to try to be the country’s best backup.”
No need to go any further.
When you’ve been around the Giants, an organization that prides itself on stability (last year’s wacky season notwithstanding), you know that they prefer their quarterbacks to respond just as Rosen did. He’s not saying he doesn’t believe he’s good enough to be the starter, he’s saying that he’s willing to do what is asked of him, even if that means there will be a waiting process behind the best quarterback in franchise history.
Mayfield comes across as uber-confident, and no one’s saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. As Mayfield himself says, it’s his competitiveness that helps make him great. But Mayfield has also gone over the line with his bravado — including the time he planted the Oklahoma flag in the middle of the field after a win over Ohio State last season and the time he grabbed his crotch during a win over Kansas to express his disdain for the other team.
So when the Giants look to this draft to see if there is a competent successor to Manning, the signs point much more to Rosen than Mayfield. Rosen sounded very much like Manning when discussing how he approaches football — team first, always — and he even looks like the Giants’ quarterback.
Mayfield is diametrically opposed to his more reflective counterpart.
Someone asked how he’d do if he went No. 1 overall to the Browns, who haven’t had a capable quarterback since the 1980s, Mayfield replied: “If anyone is going to turn around the Cleveland Browns, it’s going to be me.”
Yes, you want your quarterbacks confident. But unless you turn out to be Brett Favre — who happened to be Mayfield’s idol growing up — you don’t want them to be too cocky, either. You also don’t want them to be vulnerable to emotional peaks and valleys, something Mayfield’s personality can make him prone to experiencing.
Mayfield may become an option for the Jets if they don’t sign free agent Kirk Cousins and Sam Darnold of USC, Rosen and Wyoming’s Josh Allen aren’t available to them. And if Mayfield does wind up in Florham Park, he’ll certainly bring an electrifying presence to a team that hasn’t found its next Joe Namath in the last half century.
He’ll also bring a personality that will lend itself to back page headlines that might be good for selling newspapers, but not for keeping the Jets away from story lines they’d rather avoid.