Here at Foolproof Football we were always fans of Jon Gruden’s QB Camp. So much so that when he took the job at Oakland one of our first questions was “Who will take over?”. Surprisingly in stepped Russel Wilson.
The new format is different. A lot different. Before Gruden as expected took a coach-like approach. Hours of tape reviewed, sat the players down in a tactical room and grilled them. Russell went another direction on it, his direction. Where before the concern was always footballing knowledge Russell delves into a more personal level. Questioning the players psychological game, how they react, what goes on in their head and something Gruden always skated by, any off field concern or media perception. It’s leads to a great watch. Notably Josh Allen, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen all declined invitations to sit down on camera with the Super Bowl winning QB, thankfully one of the drafts most interesting and talked about QBs Baker Mayfield jumped on the opportunity.
The episode starts off light-hearted and casual. First thing Russell demands Baker to stand back-to-back with him, inspecting his height. Wilson tries his tippy toes and jokingly refuses to believe Baker is taller than him, some people had been skeptical of Baker’s height. The two then delve into how people doubt them due to their height or lack of. Wilson and Baker both talk about finding the passing lanes to make passes happen, and adjusting the angle of their throwing arms, where both players credit their baseball history helping with this. Interestingly Russell mentions how Drew Brees and himself have discussed this. The idea that how can a player be successful in the league without being tall, something they point out has added to their football awareness and comes naturally to them.
“We’ve grown up this height. It’s not like all of a sudden I’ve gone from 6″4 to 5″11.”
Next Wilson moves onto Baker’s career in college, again drawing comparisons with his own. Both players have experience of transferring during college. Baker’s history of being a walk-on not once but twice is always something which draws to his determination. He opens up about the decision to move to Oklahoma. A Sooners fan since he was young, something Russell poked fun at due to him being from Austin, Baker always wanted to play for them. He decided he was going to enroll with the University and play his way onto the team.
“When I realised I could play at that level, I was like, I had always dreamed of playing at OU, why not take a chance and go and do it.”
I loved this. It just adds on Baker’s self believe and work attitude. It’s easy to have dreams but to believe in yourself enough to take a chance on it and then have the determination to work hard enough to get it, despite it being an uphill battle is incredible impressive, and this attitude is something that won the Browns over.
Now Wilson takes a turn, something I mentioned in the opening paragraph, and does what Gruden never really did. Started to discuss Baker’s bad decisions and off-field issues. Showing footage of his attempt to flee from police from public intoxication and subsequently him in the station, waiting nervously. Baker opens up about whether he’s inflicting things to himself or been dealt a bad hand that he always says the next play is the most important. He draws on how he handles football matches to how he handles his life, saying it’s what you do next and how you react that is key. Russel then presses him more about what he learned from his mistakes, and hints about the people you surround yourself with. Mayfield responds that surrounding yourself with the right people is important, and something that hit him was what would the young child version of himself, who dreamt of playing for OU say if he could see what has happened. Whether you believe him or not, Baker suggests that the fear of losing what he has worked for is his motivation to better himself. Wilson heaps more praise on Mayfield, about how he was able to remain focus and play at a high level despite the media and problems surrounding him, before advising Baker on doing everything to be successful.
Continuing with the media around Baker, Wilson then jumps into the critics. The List. For those who don’t know, it has come out that Baker keeps a list of critics who have doubted him, as inspiration to prove them wrong. Something I didn’t know is that Russell laughs, opening up that when he was younger he used to put sticky notes on his wall with quotes of people doubting him. Mentioning how he feels you need to be reminded to keep your focus. Wilson briefly talks about the Kansas game, where Baker infamously grabbed his crotch and cursed at the bench, seemingly the fuse was lit by the refusal to shake his hand pre-game. Russell highlights that it was a heat of the moment thing, but that coming into the league with that reputation puts a marker on him and players will be trying to get under his skin. He goes on to tell a funny story of his first game in the NFL, getting hit late in the 4th quarter by Darnell Dockett who just pushed him to the ground and welcomed him to the league.
“Welcome to the NFL, playboy”
-Darnell Dockett to Russell Wilson during his first game
Russell highlights Baker’s competitiveness as a reason people will be out to get under his skin. He likens it to Philip Rivers, a very good comparison, but says Rivers can remain clear in the moment, something to learn from. Next Russell and Baker both watch some highlights of each other, highlighting their play-making ability and escapability.
Another interesting twist to the show comes when Russell decides to give Baker a peek into his world, bringing in his mental conditioning coach Trevor Moawad. Trevor not only works with Wilson but has helped football teams and notable players like Eli Manning and Tony Romo. He chats to Baker briefly about his goals and what steadies him, I have no doubt he would be interested in working with a complex person like Baker, and Baker I imagine would love it. They move onto their winning mentalities next. Baker interestingly saying that he hates losing more than he loves winning. They delve into the heartbreak of the National Championship defeat, and again Russell draws comparison to the infamous goal line interception during Super Bowl XLIX. Russell goes on to explain you need to embrace the defeat and let the moments go. Baker then shines a light on what he wants to achieve, obviously he wants to be the best and known for his competitiveness but also wants to inspire other walk-ons in college to chase their dreams too.
The final advice Russell Wilson gives Baker is to surround himself around good people again, and also success. He says Baker has the talent and now it’s about getting it done. It was a welcomed, fresh approach taken for the show. Something that surprised me was how personal it was and how the mentality was key in the conversation. Baker at times seemed in awe when getting praise from Russell, which is to be expected as he is someone he looks up to. What was notable was how Russell appeared genuinely delighted to spend time with Baker. I think he relates to him on many levels, they’ve had to deal with the same sort of critics, that small QB bond, but also seem to be on the same wave of thinking for a lot of things.
Russell is clearly rooting for Baker, as am I, hopefully Baker takes the advice on board and can go on to continue to inspire people.