TEXAS FIGHT?

OU's bad-boy quarterback uses Heisman win to disrespect University of Texas

OU's Baker Mayfield — an Austin native by the way — throws shade in front of Wall Street's "Charging Bull." University of Oklahoma/Twitter

Originally appeared on CultureMap/Austin.

University of Texas football fans now have even more of a reason to curse University of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Visiting New York City over the weekend for the Heisman Trophy ceremony (he ran away with college football’s most prestigious honor), Mayfield just couldn’t resist flashing the derogatory “Horns Down” gesture — the upside-down version of the “Horns Up” gesture — next to the iconic bull statue on Wall Street. The Twitter account for OU football proudly blasted out a photo of Mayfield’s Longhorn diss.

Mayfield, an Austin native who graduated from Lake Travis High School, is no stranger to antagonizing UT football (or, for that matter, any other football rival). For instance, Mayfield trolled UT quarterback Sam Ehlinger in October, pointing out that Ehlinger’s Westlake High School Chaparrals failed to beat the Lake Travis Cavaliers during the UT QB’s tenure at Westlake.

As any burnt orange-blooded Longhorns fan knows, the “Horns Down” sign is an affront — especially when it’s flaunted by the QB at evil OU. “The ‘Horns Down’ is disrespectful,” Mack Brown, then UT’s head football coach, complained in 2012.

Let us not forget that Mayfield holds a Heisman-size grudge against Brown. The coach bypassed Mayfield when the QB sought to join the Longhorns as a walk-on.

Mayfield tossed a bit of a verbal “Horns Down” in his Heisman acceptance speech, too.

“Although I grew up in Austin, Texas, I was always Sooner born and Sooner bred. When I die, I’ll be Sooner dead,” Mayfield said. “I truly mean that. It’s been a dream for me. It’s an honor to get to represent my school.”

On the Baker Mayfield scale of trash talk, that was a pretty subtle dig from a guy who loves needling his enemies. As Sports Illustrated noted in November, Mayfield “delights in disrespect.”

“I think I was truly born to thrive in hostile environments,” the OU bad boy told the magazine. “I find it fun to have a little back-and-forth conversation with the opposing fan base.”

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Should Watson be in the MVP conversation? Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2020 NFL season has a lot going on. Even if we take the coronavirus out of it, there's still a lot to digest. There are so many great performances being put up, one can make an argument for several players to win league MVP. The quarterback position typically gets more credit than others. If I restrict the argument to quarterbacks only, we're looking at Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Aaron Rodgers. Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and Derrick Henry are the leading contenders at running back. On defense, there really isn't a standout defender. The defense gets no love, but there are several guys in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Deshaun Watson has been putting up numbers that have matched or rivaled some of the top MVP candidates over his last seven games. That stretch has coincided with the firing of head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien. Coincidence? I think not. Taking the reigns off a wild horse can often lead to said horse running free and flourishing! So question: Should Watson be getting league MVP considerations? I think so.

For starters, he's been one of the best players in the league over the course of the last seven games. 18 passing touchdowns and only two interceptions. The only quarterback with a better touchdown to interception ratio over that same span is Mahomes (19 and 2, as opposed to Watson's 18 & 2). Factoring in total season stats, of course Mahomes is doing much better. He's on a better team with a much better coach and general manager. The same could be said for Wilson and Rodgers. Put Watson on any of those teams and their records wouldn't be any worse than what they are now.

The Texans are 4-3 since firing O'Brien. While that isn't a great record, consider the fact they started the season 0-4 and looked like a total disaster. Watson looked like he was caged and couldn't wait to be freed. The team's record could be even better if the defense had a pulse. The proper supporting cast has a lot to do with a player's MVP candidate's chances. Now that one of his favorite weapons, Will Fuller, and the team's best corner, Bradley Roby, are both suspended for the rest of the season by the league for violating the substance abuse/PED policy, things will get much tougher for Watson.

If he continues to put up these cartoon like numbers, I don't see why he wouldn't be in the MVP conversation. He's currently fopurth in passing yards, sixth in completion percentage, tied for fifth in passing touchdowns, eighth in QBR, and third in quarterback rating. Watson is emerging as the star he was projected to be coming into the 2017 draft. I'm not saying Watson deserves to be the league MVP, but he deserves to be in the conversation. His MVP candidacy should be treated like the family gathering hierarchy: once you reach a certain age and/or status, you're no longer resigned to the kiddie table. Now you get to sit with all the adults, engage in their conversations, and gain access to things you couldn't previously. Watson won't win the MVP award, but I strongly believe he could finish top five. Especially if he keeps making lemonade with the lemons he's been given.

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