The New York Giants are coming to Cleveland to practice with the Browns, and play a preseason game on August 22, 2021. And guess who they signed back in March: none other than reigning-champion speedster, John Ross, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Ross holds the 40-yard dash record, clocking in at 4.22 seconds at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. The fun part is that Browns’ rookie speedster Anthony Schwartz said that he would have broken that record if the NFL had not cancelled his combine due to COVID-19 fears.
So, why not have a little foot race in Berea? If the players are healthy and warmed up, and the field is in good shape, I don’t see the harm. After all, players are doing 40-yard dashes left-and-right as they run routes during practice.
Such a race would garner a good number of eyeballs.
The major drama in this year’s Browns preseason is: can the team persuade Odell Beckham, Jr. to run technically-correct routes so that Baker Mayfield can find him? OBJ prefers to do how he pleases, and run what he considers “creative” routes despite the statistical evidence that shows that such BS simply does not work.
Well, last week, OBJ bent the knee to his position coach, Chad O’Shea, and said in an interview that it was now up to him to fit into the new Browns offense that gelled while he was rehabbing his knee during last season.
As far as I can tell, no reporter has published OBJ’s comments, so I don’t have a link for you to follow. However, apparently, OBJ made his “fit in” comment on July 25, 2021, when he hosted a football ProCamp at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio.
This is fantastic news. Last year, the dysfunctional Baker-Beckham duo forced the Browns to run a tight-end heavy ground game. Once OBJ was injured, Baker was able to spread his wings and soar to elite levels, and the Browns adjusted their scheme to accommodate more passing.
If OBJ does his job correctly and becomes an asset to Baker instead of an albatross, the Browns can come out in Week 1 with both guns blazing.
Of course, just because OBJ is running technical routes doesn’t mean that he will develop chemistry with Baker. However, it does enable the possibility of it happening, though I wouldn’t bet on it. As the coaches tell us, it’s “time on task” that allows chemistry to develop, and OBJ’s knee precludes him from doing the required extra hundreds of practice reps with Baker.
In any case, with OBJ buying into the new technical mandate, the Browns’ coaches have taken all the necessary steps to field a world-class offense in Kansas City on September 12th. As long as Paul DePodesta doesn’t issue an edict benching two of Baker’s favorite targets, Rashard Higgins and David Njoku, the Browns will be in fine shape.
As we speak, the once-mighty Odell Beckham, Jr. is being spoon-fed routes as if he were a fucking child. Coach O’Shea has given him a set of routes to practice. Coach Van Pelt said that OBJ was doing a good job drilling those routes during mini-camp. And even Baker Mayfield was pointing out flaws in OBJ’s route-running.
This is pretty amazing because OBJ was renowned for his technical route-running when he played for the Giants. But at some point, OBJ switched to being a “creative” route-runner. Maybe it was the $95 million contract that the Giants gave him in 2018 that went to his head. That would explain why Eli Manning was able to run up huge stats with OBJ, but Baker Mayfield can’t make head-or-tails of him.
But now the Browns are cracking down. They don’t want any more “creative” nonsense. They want professional-quality, technical route-running. They want OBJ to be where he is supposed to be so that Baker can fucking find him.
What took so long? I think that, before the 2020 season, the franchise looked at OBJ as a potential savior, who would, one day, when he was finally 100% healthy, score 5 touchdowns a game and lead the team to the Super Bowl. So, they were loath to question him.
But after the 2020 season when the Browns ran deep into the playoffs without OBJ, they finally snapped out of OBJ’s spell. They finally saw that the hype was just that: hype. They finally saw that they could do just fine with Rashard Higgins starting. And they realized that when Baker has receivers who can run precise routes, he suddenly transforms into an elite QB.
And having an elite QB is really, really nice. There are zero NFL teams with elite QBs that want to give them up. Not only that, but the new administration of Berry/Stefanski/Van Pelt can take credit for Baker’s renaissance – even though they were the recipients of pure, dumb luck. All it took for Baker to shine was for OBJ to leave the field.
So, keeping your prize pony prancing pretty is very simple: make OBJ run precise routes that Baker can work with, or kick OBJ to the curb. And that is exactly what Coach O’Shea has told OBJ.
And so, OBJ’s gigantic ego has been pounded with a Gallagher-esque Sledge-O-Matic, and I’m sure that it wasn’t an enjoyable experience for him. Make no mistake, OBJ has hit rock bottom.
Now the question is: will he take the coaching and rise from the ashes? Will he give up his egotistical, creative route-running and finally run professional-quality routes?
At this point in time, I think the answer to that question is: maybe. OBJ appears to be taking the coaching and trying to run QB-friendly routes. However, he will not be putting in the hundreds and thousands of practice reps with Baker to develop on-field chemistry. When asked about it last week, OBJ said:
“So, whenever that is, week 1, week 17, I don’t know. Whenever we’re ready we’ll be ready.”
In other words, he won’t practicing, again, this year because he will be rehabbing his knee until at least week 1. Now look at what Baker said last week:
“We have a lot of great players, and this isn’t taking anything away from them because I love these guys. But it doesn’t matter who we have, if we don’t have chemistry and we don’t do our jobs, none of it matters.”
Obviously, he had OBJ in mind when he said that. Who else could it have possibly been?
This type of talk from Baker is a little bit alarming, but what the Browns are asking OBJ to do is very reasonable. They just want him to run routes as specified in the playbook. Hardly an onerous request. The Browns want Technical OBJ, not Creative OBJ.
Will they get him? I certainly hope so, because conflict with OBJ is not just conflict with a single player, but with a gigantic cult of personality. Imagine if OBJ were benched and Higgins became the #2 WR; people’s heads would explode. A divorce from OBJ would likely be a traumatic event that could potentially distract the team. If it has to be done, then it has to be done, but it could get ugly indeed.
And the Cleveland “sports” media isn’t even discussing the possibility, no doubt because, with notable exceptions, they are all OBJ fanbois. As a consequence:
You heard it here first: war is brewing between the Browns and OBJ.
In other news; No, You Can’t Have Kareem Hunt.
People are talking about how the Los Angeles Rams might want to trade some draft picks for Kareem Hunt. Is there anything more terrifying for a Browns fan than seeing Kareem line-up on the other side of the ball? When Kareem was running roughshod over the Browns during their 2018 game against the Chiefs, I remember thinking: “This isn’t fair; how are we supposed to stop this guy?” I don’t ever want to experience that feeling of helplessness again. That’s for Steelers, Ravens, and Chiefs fans now.
Also, in other news: People are all worried about the Browns defense gelling, what with all the new players. But anybody who saw Coach Woods in action last year knows not to worry. He is a magician when it comes to incorporating new players into his defense. In reality, the gelling problem the Browns have is OBJ, who may simply refuse the gel.
And finally, people are saying that LB Mack Wilson might not be able to make the team this year. But I hope the Browns don’t forget that it was Wilson who delivered justice for the highly illegal murder attempt on Rashard Higgins during the Chiefs game. The refs didn’t flag Daniel Sorensen so Mack Wilson took matters into his own hands and knocked out Patrick Mahomes. The refs didn’t flag Wilson, probably because it was their way of saying sorry for the Higgins call. But think about what Wilson did there. He was thinking something like: I need to avenge Hig, and then a few minutes later he did exactly that. Sometimes the players have to balance the scales of justice, and Wilson is a guy with the raw ability to do that.
You OBJ cultists are cringing right about now because you know what’s coming: yet another statistical beat-down of Your Majesty, Odell Beckham, Jr.
Today, we are looking at the touchdowns-per-target metric. Racking up yardage is nice, but scoring touchdowns is what actually counts. Rashard Higgins and Baker Mayfield are legendary for their aerial prowess, so let’s quantify exactly how fabulous they are. Take a look at this spreadsheet:
So, when Baker throws the ball to Hig, it results in a TD 8.57% of the time. But when Baker throws the ball to OBJ, it only results in a TD 3.45% of the time. OBJ only had two passing TDs from Baker in 2020 (see below).
How do Baker/Hig’s numbers compare to the rest of the league? If you look at this page, you will see that Hig finished 2020 just an eyelash behind DK Metcalf, so he is in pretty good company. Adam Thielen led the league with 13% – almost quadruple OBJ’s performance.
Since we are examining Baker/Higgins as a duo, versus the Baker/Beckham duo, we can’t just use the standard targeting numbers. Not all targets are created equal; most come from Baker, but some targets in the Baker Era came from Tyrod Taylor, Case Keenum, Garret Gilbert, Jarvis Landry, and Odell himself. So, here are the adjustments that were made:
Item: Higgins had 53 targets in 2018, but 10 were from Tyrod Taylor, so his targets with Baker in 2018 are 43. Taylor did not throw any TDs to Hig.
Item: Higgins had 11 targets in 2019, but one was from Garret Gilbert, so Hig’s total for the year has been reduced to 10.
Item: Jarvis Landry has not thrown any passes to Hig, but he threw 1 TD to OBJ during the Dallas game in 2020. So, OBJ’s 2020 TD total, and target total, were decremented for that play.
Item: One of OBJ’s TDs during the Dallas game was an end-around where Baker handed him the ball. So, that was not a pass, and OBJ’s TD total was decremented again.
Item: Case Keenum thew one pass to OBJ in 2020, so OBJ’s targets were decremented for that play.
Note: the full name for this metric is “Career Touchdowns-per-Target for QB/Receiver Duo.”
If OBJ’s 174 targets were given to Hig, and his conversion rate of 8.57% held up, a total of 24 TDs would have been scored instead of the actual total of 15 for both receivers combined. Why don’t the Browns bench OBJ, start Hig, and just pick up the low-hanging fruit of 9 free TDs? I don’t know, but I suspect that HC Stefanski has marching orders from the Haslams to play OBJ no matter how dysfunctional he is with Baker. Either that, or the orders come from Paul DePodesta, the analytics nerd.
The season hasn’t started yet, so there is still time for the team to come to its senses, but don’t hold your breath. Higgins, who is like a 50-caliber machine-gun with only a couple of rounds in its ammo belt, will likely ride the bench again this year, just like he did at the beginning of the 2020 season. It’s mind-boggling to have a weapon like this and not use it, but that’s what happens when your franchise is not a football team, but rather a cult of personality dedicated to keeping the ego of Odell Beckham, Jr. puffed-up.
Odell Beckham, Jr. cultists are just giddy with excitement, putting their idiocy on full display for all to see. They think that when OBJ returns to the field in September, he will embark upon a season where every game is like the Browns 49-38 victory over Dallas where OBJ scored 3 touchdowns.
They believe that His Majesty, paired with the new, improved Baker Mayfield will light the field on fire. Of course, Baker has never played well with OBJ on the field, but try telling that to a cultist.
Because of OBJ’s terrible performance with the Browns, cultists are always on the defensive, which is hard work because they have no glowing stats to point to. And so, they are forced to point to OBJ’s only bright spot: the Dallas game.
It’s important to keep in mind that going into this game, Browns fans were frustrated by the continued poor play of the Baker-Beckham duo. Their anguished cries could be heard: “We must get the ball into the hands of the play-makers!” By which they meant OBJ. Since having Baker throw the ball to OBJ wasn’t working, other options had to be considered, which would be:
1) Have somebody else throw the ball.
2) Have Baker hand the ball to OBJ.
3) Have OBJ throw the ball.
4) Have OBJ return punts and kicks
5) Have OBJ take a direct snap.
Right? Everything but having the preternaturally talented QB simply throw him the ball because OBJ couldn’t run a crisp route to save his life.
So, that’s why in this game we saw Jarvis Landry throw a TD to OBJ, and Baker hand the ball to OBJ on two end-arounds. And while it looked like success on the surface, with OBJ having a monster game, consider the opposition:
During the 2020 season, Browns fans suffered with an injury-plagued defense held together with chewing gum and twine, but the Dallas defense was quite a bit worse. The Browns’ defense ranked at #17 in the 32-team league, while Dallas ranked at #23. The Dallas rushing defense ranked at an abysmal #31.
So, with the Browns elite (#3) running attack going up against the league’s second-worse ground defense, it was no surprise that the Browns crushed Dallas like a Native-American hunting party clubbing baby seals. Even if you take out OBJ’s 73 rushing yards, the Browns still had 234 yards on the ground – and that was with Nick Chubb being injured and missing three quarters. D’Ernest Johnson took the baton from Chubb and had a field-day with 95 yards on 13 carries for an average of 7.3.
So, OBJ’s most glorious moment in his career with the Browns came against a truly inept defense. Cultists like to say that OBJ single-handedly won the game for the Browns, but is that really the case? If Rashard Higgins were allowed to wear the uniform for that game, instead of OBJ, do you really think the outcome would have been much different?
Cultists also like to say that OBJ’s 50-yard end-around TD in the 4th quarter won the game for the Browns. But it was really Denzel Ward’s interception with 1:42 left on the clock that sealed the victory. Not to mention the Browns defense winning the turn-over battle 3-0.
During his big end-around TD, OBJ first ran backward 14 yards. It worked against the puny Cowboys, but not on a real defense when he tried it against the 49ers in October 2019:
Cultists like to say that OBJ won the Dallas game “single-handedly” but if they can say that, then we can say Higgins “single-handedly” defeated the Buffalo Bills in 2019:
Of course, the 2019 Buffalo Bills (10-6) were a much better team than the 2020 Dallas Cowboys (6-10). OBJ beat up on a hapless defense while Higgins out-smarted the Bills’ elite defense that ranked at #4 for the 2019 season.
OBJ cultists need to explain why, if OBJ is so fabulous, why didn’t he repeat this performance in the next two games versus the Colts and the Steelers? Why didn’t he stop the Steelers from smashing the Browns 38-7? The answer, obviously, is that the Colts and Steelers had elite defenses at the time. Instead of facing cute little baby seals, OBJ had savage polar bears to deal with. He scored zero touchdowns. In an end-around attempt versus the Colts, OBJ was thrown for a one yard loss. Meanwhile, Rashard Higgins caught a TD pass in each game.
After being smashed by the Steelers, the Browns went to Cincinnati where OBJ sustained his season-ending injury.
Here is an actual sample of the Dallas Litany from reporter Mary Kay Cabot who repeats this virtually every time she speaks:
“If you do keep Odell on the team, you really do have to make sure, like they did in the Dallas game…they have to make sure that you give him plenty to do, plenty to do early on. You’ve got to let him throw the ball, you got to let him run reverses, you got to let him catch the ball from Jarvis, you’ve got to let him find a way somehow to really showcase all of his talents and his abilities.”
No, no, no! The Browns do not exist to “showcase” anybody! The Browns exist to win football games! This is why the Cult of OBJ is so dangerous: it is not focused on winning games, but rather on aggrandizing OBJ’s massive ego. That is not how professional football if played.
Note: thankfully, not everybody is brainwashed. See how MMA fighters Brendan Schaub and Josh Thomson reacted during their live-stream when OBJ was briefly shown in the audience of UFC 264:
Schaub, in addition to being a former MMA heavyweight also made it to the Buffalo Bills practice squad, and is knowledgeable about football. I believe that he became a Browns fan when Baker Mayfield was drafted and/or the Browns were on the NFL’s “Hard Knocks” TV show in 2018. Schaub was a fullback/tight-end kind of player in college at the University of Colorado.
Note: the Dallas game is the one where Donovan Peoples-Jones failed to field a kickoff and almost caused a disaster. See the 12:15 mark of this video.
What the fuck is wrong with these OBJ fanbois? Are they ever going to quit? How can they still be spewing their specious rhetoric when the issue has long been settled with actual facts?
For example, during episode #10 of the “For Pete’s Sake” podcast (43:40), Nicole Chatham wagged her finger at OBJ critics, and questioned our ability to think logically. She suggested that we go back to high-school debate class:
“You know what I think it really comes down to? Everyone needs to take debate in high school. This is what it actually comes down to because the number of logical fallacies that get applied to this scenario is incredible. First of all, we have the correlation-causation thing with OBJ. Just because Baker played better in the second half of the season and OBJ wasn’t on the field in the second half of the season does not mean that one of those things caused the other thing.”
Can you imagine? Debate? I’ve got news for you fanbois: The OBJ debate is over, and has been over since ESPN dropped their statistical nuke on October 29, 2020.
And I quote:
“In fact, over the last two seasons, Mayfield and Beckham have the worst completion success rate (55.6%) of any duo in the NFL (with at least 100 attempts).”
That’s right; the Baker-Beckham duo is objectively dogshit. That is not an opinion up for debate! In fact, the Browns knew about this long before ESPN published their numbers. That’s why they brought Stefanski in in the first place. His job was to work around the dogshit stuck to the franchise’s shoe by installing a Kubiak-Shanahan system that would feature Nick Chubb & Wyatt Teller rather than Baker & OBJ. The franchise was matching the coach to the talent, such as it was.
After The Great Regression year of 2019, nobody was really sure if the problem was Baker, OBJ, or Freddie Kitchens. After all, Baker played superbly with Freddie as his coach in 2018. But Freddie was made the fall-guy, and everybody thought that 2020 would be different.
Despite having the Coach of the Year at the helm, Baker-Beckham still stunk in 2020. That removed the coach as a variable. Baker-Beckham stunk under both Kitchens and Stefanski.
Then OBJ got hurt, and we saw Baker go back to his real self and play as well as any QB in NFL for the rest of the year. Anybody who even entertains the idea that Baker was the fly in the ointment is just plain crazy. You literately could not ask for better evidence to solve a mystery like this. During the second half of 2020, we learned that Baker could hit a ham sandwich if it ran a crisp route. And that proved that OBJ is the poison in the Baker-Beckham duo because even the most enthralled fanboi admits that OBJ does not run crisp routes.
Sometimes correlation *is* causation.
But that’s all ancient history.
Here in 2021, the *fact* is that while the fanbois were continuing to defend OBJ, Coach O’Shea was retooling OBJ’s routes. That’s right; the magical unicorn is now being micro-managed to fix his glaring fault: the inability to run QB-friendly routes. Maybe OBJ’s random route-running can’t be covered, but it can’t be hit either because Baker just doesn’t know what the fuck OBJ is doing out there.
Here is a summary for fanboi knuckleheads who are living in the past:
Phase 1 – Baker is awesome in his rookie year of 2018.
Phase 2 – OBJ arrives and Baker stinks for all of 2019.
Phase 3 – Baker-Beckham continues to stink in early 2020.
Phase 4 – OBJ is injured & Baker is awesome for the rest of the season.
Phase 5 – ESPN proves OBJ is Baker’s Achilles Heal in October of 2020.
Phase 6 – Coach O’Shea re-tools OBJ’s routes as first order of business in 2021.
Phase 7 – OBJ appears to be taking the coaching, though there is no reporting.
If your head is not in Phase 7, then you are a terrible football analyst/reporter, no doubt mentally crippled by your need to worship His Majesty, Odell Beckham, Jr. My advice to you is to snap the fuck out of it, and report on Coach O’Shea’s effort to fix OBJ. Because if he succeeds, it could be a truly epic event in football history. Make no mistake, this is a huge story.
Here are some questions that I want answered by the Cleveland sports OBJ-worship media:
1) Is OBJ taking the coaching? How does he feel about it?
2) Is he practicing the new routes with Baker? If so, how many reps are they doing?
3) When did he start running his random routes? High school? College? With the Giants?
4) How did Eli Manning get so much production out of OBJ?
5) How long will the Browns be patient with OBJ in 2021 if he doesn’t produce?
The last question is the most-important, because if the answer is more than three, then we will be witnessing the Browns sliding down their Super Bowl window a few more inches.
Back in May, when asked about his “excitement level” for Odell Beckham, Jr.’s return from injury, Browns receivers coach, Chad O’Shea, struck a much different tone. He actually dropped a bombshell: the Browns were dictating to OBJ exactly how they wanted him to run his routes. It was quite the spectacle. See what I wrote back here.
A month later, during mini-camp in June, Coach Alex Van Pelt was asked the same thing by OBJ thrall, Mary Kay Cabot:
“The question is with Odell; there was just so much talk last year obviously about how Baker seems to play freer and looser without Odell, and his numbers were so much better without Odell. Can you just address the notion of what Odell will mean and bring to the offense and to Baker. And I’m guessing that you think that concept of Baker being better without Odell is not true.”
Holy Christ! Talk about leading the witness! But Van Pelt replied, in a pretty stern tone:
“I think Baker was better as the season went on, whether there had been Odell or not still out there.”
AVP, like Coach O’Shea, went on to compliment Odell on his talent. But it was “faint praise” and a pro-forma response that you would expect in the name of team harmony.
But make no mistake, the Browns’ coaching staff is not gushing over OBJ’s return, no matter how many times sycophant reporters prompt them to do so.
And that is fantastic news because it indicates that the offense will be conducted as a professional NFL operation rather than a cult of personality designed to aggrandize the ego of one Odell Beckham, Jr.
Also, during AVP’s press conference, he said that Odell “ran some really good individual routes during the side periods.” This is what Coach O’Shea said they were doing: dictating very specific routes to OBJ. That was back in May via Zoom, and now AVP has informed us that they have installed the new routes live, during mini-camp. And OBJ seems to have taken the coaching.
So, the effort to get professional-quality route-running out of OBJ is on track, and that is exactly what needs to be done. Now, we just need OBJ to practice those routes with Baker, hundreds of times, until they can connect on them with their eyes closed, and bring OBJ up to Higgins-grade chemistry with Baker.
And that is a tall order because Baker & Hig have reached a level of near-perfection. Not to mention Jarvis Landry. In fact, OBJ will have to work hard to catch up with Baker’s entire receiving corps. Right now, statistically, OBJ is the very worst when it comes to on-field chemistry with his quarterback. I believe he is now trying, but his success is not guaranteed. He has a lot of work ahead of him.
All in all, I like the way things are going with the Browns. As for the Cleveland sports media, not so much. They are completely missing the most important story of the year. Can OBJ finally develop chemistry with Baker Mayfield? What’s bigger than that? And yet, all these reporters want to do is rub shoulders with the big shot celebrity.
Maybe I have to spoon-feed ideas to them. Here’s one: call up Eli Manning and ask him how he handled OBJ during his years with the Giants. Not only is that a great subject, but it could actually help to improve Baker’s management skills. But, don’t hold your breath waiting for such valuable content from Browns reporters.
Note: the transcript of AVP’s comments is here. The video is here, and Cabot’s question comes at the 12:28 mark.
No, no it will not. When asked awhile back, Coach Stefanski said that chemistry between a receiver and his quarterback requires lots of “time on task” which means hundreds, maybe thousands of practice reps. And while OBJ is more than happy to take *all* the in-game reps from Baker, he doesn’t appear to be willing to put in the long hours of taking practice reps like Rashard Higgins did when Baker showed up in 2018.
Make no mistake: the chemistry between Baker & Hig was developed through hard work. While it looks like straight-up magic now, it is the result of the deliberate efforts of two humble, hardworking professional football players.
And there’s your trouble right there. OBJ is not humble. In fact, he is the very opposite of humble. The idea of doing hundreds of practice reps with Baker would simply never occur to him. Rather, he is more likely to think that Baker needs to up his game, and that is exactly what OBJ’s sycophants say.
But we know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Baker is not the problem. With OBJ on the field in 2020, Baker’s stats stunk. But with OBJ gone for the second half of the season, Baker was fucking stellar.
OBJ is out of excuses. There is no dastardly Freddie Kitchens to blame. Baker is bonafide elite. And according to his last hype video, OBJ has recovered from his surgery better than anybody ever, ever, ever. But will he show up at Baker’s passing camp in Austin?
What about it OBJ fanbois? Why isn’t OBJ taking reps with Baker to develop that Higgins-like chemistry?
Note: the market for a 30-something WR1 has been set by the Julio Jones trade. If the Browns could get a similar deal, they would be crazy not to take it.
Update: a few hours after I posted this on Tuesday afternoon, there was reporting that OBJ and Jarvis Landry were down in Austin at Camp Baker. While that is good news, it doesn’t seem like there would be enough time for Baker and OBJ to do any significant chemistry work since OBJ & Landry need to get back to Cleveland in time for Landry’s charity softball game on Saturday. Is OBJ just doing a cameo? Or is he working hard with Baker? We will have to wait for further reporting.
Update: on Thursday a video surfaced showing Baker throwing a pass to OBJ. So, that’s one. I’m sure they did more than that, but nobody is uploading video from Camp Baker, so the official rep count stands at 1, pending further reporting.
Last week, Odell Beckham, Jr. posted a hype video on Instagram demonstrating his progress in rehabbing his knee. He looks good, but keep in mind that while running and cutting are progress, we need to know if OBJ is ready to take contact. Could his knee survive an assassination attempt by “Dirty as Fuck” Daniel Sorensen of the Kansas City Cheats, who the Browns will be facing right out of the chute in Week 1? You do remember the illegal hit on Rashard Higgins in the playoffs, right?
I trust that the Browns won’t put OBJ out there until he is completely ready, but that may take longer than the hype videos would have you believe.
OBJ began his video with a scene from Scarface where Tony Montana (Al Pacino) says: “You need people like me.” But if the 2020 season proved anything, it is that the Browns don’t need Odell. In fact, having OBJ out there might be a letdown because, down the stretch, and deep into the playoffs, fans got used to Baker throwing 40-yard laser beams to Rashard Higgins seemingly at will.
Why do you think Sorensen tried to kill Rashard?
Because that was the only way to stop him!
Now, you might think that since OBJ is more talented than Higgins that OBJ will be able to outproduce Higgins in the improved offense with the improved QB, but don’t be so sure. OBJ cannot match Higgins’ chemistry with Baker, and if the Browns decide to take that chemistry off the field, once again, don’t be surprised if the offense regresses a bit. Trading chemistry for celebrity? Not a good deal.
However, coach O’Shea is on the case, and I trust that the Browns will use OBJ better than ever this year. That is one of the keys to the Browns season: will OBJ take the coaching?
The other key is: will Baker Mayfield allow OBJ to pull him back down to non-professional play. Last week, we had some excellent commentary on this subject from Cleveland sports radio announcer, Garrett Bush:
“…Baker Mayfield; has he gotten to the point where his progression is: “I’m the man. I’ll throw you the ball when I see you open. I’m not forcing the ball to nobody else. I’m the dude in this offense, and you guys can fill in wherever you fill in. I don’t care what the name looks like, I’m going to throw it to who I want to throw to.” If he’s that guy, you would have no problems bringing him in (Julio Jones). Who cares? Baker would figure it out like Tom Brady does. But if you don’t think he’s that guy, just let Julio hang out there for a little bit…As your franchise quarterback, if you want $40 million, the top-of-the-food-chain guys, you never hear that about. You are never going to hear: Well, Patrick Mahomes was pressing because he thought he had to throw to Travis Kelce. NO! Aaron Rodgers is never pressed. He got Davonte Adams out there. Have you ever heard somebody say that Aaron Rodgers was scared because he didn’t get him [the ball] enough? NO! The top dudes is like listen…I’m Tom Brady, y’all gonna get in where you fit in. That is where you need Baker to be. When he figures that out, you don’t gotta worry about the receiver ever being the problem. The receiver is never going to be the problem because he’s already like listen: This is me. This is my show, and it’s understood how it goes.”
Exactly. However, in every other situation, Baker *is* The Man with full control of his receivers. It’s only when OBJ steps onto the field that Baker turns to mush and lets OBJ dictate the offense. Off the field, OBJ’s celebrity trumps Baker’s celebrity, but Baker can’t allow that on the field. He has to look at OBJ as just another ingredient that he is using to bake (ha, ha) a masterpiece. Heretofore, Baker has been using way too much of that OBJ salt.
OBJ hasn’t said anything like this about the Browns, but he probably still thinks this way. This is one of the things he said after being traded by the Giants to the Browns in 2019:
“I felt disrespected, because I felt like I was a main reason at keeping that brand alive. They were getting prime-time games, still, as a 5-and-11 team. Why? Because people want to see the show. You want to see me play. That’s just real rap.”
Odell thinks more like a circus performer than a football player. He thinks the fans want to see him catch balls one-handed, on every play. The Browns coaching staff, and Baker, need to disabuse him of that mindset because we have hard evidence that the OBJ Flying Circus Offense does…not…work.
One could imagine OBJ returning to his first huddle in 2021: “Okay Baker, I’m here. Time to start the show. Forget the play-call, just throw me the ball, and I will work my magic that everybody has come here to see.” If Baker says: “Okay, boss” in this hypothetical scenario, his career as a starting QB in the NFL will begin to rapidly disintegrate. And the coaches might want to see how Case Keenum handles OBJ.
I’m not saying this will be easy for Baker. After all, Baker loves OBJ, like all of the other players. OBJ is, by all accounts, a great teammate. Relegating OBJ to a very specific role, as O’Shea is doing might not take.
And finally, I don’t want to put all the blame on Baker because he was swept up in the OBJ hype-wave like everybody else. For example, back in 2019, after Baker threw a pass (of about 20 yards) to OBJ, Tony Romo, who was announcing the game said:
“This is what you got to do. If you’re Baker Mayfield, just give 13 a chance.”
That was during the Denver game in 2019. (See the 7:38 mark of this video.) The Browns were 2-5 at the time, and went to 2-6 after losing to the Broncos. I don’t know if Romo invented the “give him a chance” mantra, but Baker repeated it after the Week 1 loss to the Ravens in 2020. See my post here.
So, starting from the jump when OBJ joined the Browns, everybody thought that it was a good idea to just give 13 a chance. Even a former Dallas QB, Tony Romo, thought it was a good idea. But now we know for sure that such a one-dimensional offensive scheme just doesn’t work. Hopefully, the success that Baker had without OBJ in 2020 will finally allow him to see OBJ in a different light, and enable him to break free of OBJ’s mind control.
Make no mistake, this is the central drama for the Browns’ 2021 season, and for Baker’s career.
Footnote: Garrett Bush made the comments above at the 1:42:57 mark of Brad Ward’s “All Eyez on Cleveland” podcast in the episode titled “Projecting the Browns in 2021 with Garrett Bush of 92.3 The Fan.” YouTube link here. Ward’s podcast is just about the only place where you can hear objective OBJ commentary.
Thank the sweet baby Jesus! Forget the Jadeveon Clowney signing! Forget the 2021 draft class! Forget the return of Grant & Greedy! The Browns have done something far more momentous: they have reined-in Odell Beckham, Jr.!
OBJ, who is notorious for lacking chemistry with Baker Mayfield, has been taken to the woodshed by Browns receivers coach, Chad O’Shea, who was recently a guest on an official Browns podcast. When asked by a happy-talking corporate shill just how giddy he was to have OBJ back from injury, O’Shea said, in a stern tone:
“I think the one thing that’s been great for him to see is we’ve gone through a lot of the film this off-season already with Odell and showed him the things that he can be a part of offensively for us and be a productive player, and be a big part of our offense that we now have evidence of on film that we didn’t have last year…hey, this is where you’re going to be, this is how you’re going to run the route, and this is how you’re going to win the route. That’s been something that’s been very good for him, spending time the last several weeks, to be able to go through that process and to envision himself in how he can be a big part of this offense.”
Sounds to me like OBJ has been assigned a very specific role, don’t you agree? No more “creative” route-running, no more using his superstar-powered charisma to tilt the field in his favor. From here on out, OBJ will be required to play to a professional standard. And to accept being told “how you’re going to run the route.”
At least that’s the plan. But will O’Shea be able to enforce it when the season begins? Imagine OBJ defiantly running his own route, catching a ball from Baker, and running it in for a touchdown. Will O’Shea reprimand him? Will he bench him? Or will OBJ just go back to doing how he pleases?
We will see. But if O’Shea can pull this off, the Browns will win the Super Bowl, and O’Shea should win the Assistant Coach of the Year Award.
Keep in mind that the metric is not how well OBJ does. It’s how well Baker does. The whole reason why you want OBJ restricted to a well-defined role is so that he doesn’t distract Baker. Of course, Baker needs to do his part too. He needs to read the defense, and go through his progressions regardless of how insistent OBJ is that he get the ball.
Ideally, this problem would be solved by trading OBJ. But if your knucklehead owner insists on inflicting OBJ on the Browns, then this is the best you can hope for.
Note: Maybe this is why OBJ shut down his Instagram. There’s no way in hell he wouldn’t bristle at being micromanaged like this. Maybe the shutdown is just his way of showing displeasure for not being treated like God’s gift to football. A little passive/aggressive ploy to deprive fans, and maybe even the team, of his rehab videos. Fine with me. As far as I’m concerned, Rashard Higgins was the better receiver in 2020 anyway.
Baker Mayfield has zero on-field chemistry with Odell Beckham, Jr. Never had it; never will. Chemistry can’t be built with a “no practice” guy like OBJ. Despite that, and according to everybody on the Browns, including Baker, OBJ will be starting for the Browns again this fall, kicking Rashard Higgins right back to the curb, no doubt.
In other words, a formula that got the Browns deep into the playoffs will be scrapped in favor of one that is statistically dogshit. Baker and OBJ were the worst QB/WR combo in 2019. They were terrible in the beginning of 2020 too. In the second half of 2020, Higgins replaced OBJ, and he and Baker played at an elite level for the rest of the season.
Obviously, we can’t have that…
…because the Browns are not a football team; but rather an OBJ cult of personality.
It is statistically irrefutable that the Browns are better without OBJ. And yet everybody is parading around acting like OBJ’s return is going to be a big boost for the Browns. That’s just plain crazy. But don’t take my word for it; it was ESPN who dropped the statistical nuke on OBJ.
Have you noticed that OBJ’s defenders never cite stats when they defend OBJ? That’s because OBJ’s stats with the Browns stink. What they do say is that ESPN’s work is a mere narrative; just a yarn spun from whole cloth by OBJ haters. Even Baker does that. Here’s what he said in a recent interview:
“The narrative can be what it is, but we’re looking forward to getting back to work together.”
Note to Baker: it’s not a narrative; it’s cold, hard stats. You and OBJ are a terrible duo. In fact, I would go so far as to speculate that if OBJ had stayed healthy in 2020, and Hig stayed on the bench, instead of picking up your fifth-year option, the team would have given up on you and traded you away. You, my friend, were saved by fate. This year, you have a chance to take matters into your own hands by demanding that Higgins be on the field instead of being a healthy scratch. Landry, Higgins, Njoku, that’s where your bread is buttered.
Sadly, Baker himself is a member of the OBJ cult and is doomed to regress this year. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Speaking of narratives, Baker spouts the official team narrative that it was the Bye Week “self scout” that took the offense to a higher level. But this narrative is child’s play to debunk. The Bye Week was Week 9, and Baker had his franchise-record 22-pass-completion streak in Week 7, only twelve minutes after OBJ left the game. Not a lot of time for a sideline self-scout in there, right? Baker went from being a mediocrity to being elite mere minutes after OBJ was out of his hair. For more details, see what I wrote here.
Can the Browns still win the Super Bowl with OBJ on the field? Probably not. The defense is poised to be greatly improved. And Coach Stefanski can go back to a more strict Kubiak-Shanahan implementation on offense, release the Two-Headed Monster, and minimize the poor play of Baker & OBJ. But winning the Super Bowl without an elite QB is just not a thing.
Note: I am a huge Baker fan, and it was fantastic watching him play so well last season, post-OBJ. And it will be heartbreaking to watch him go back to forcing ball-after-ball to OBJ again with half the balls going uncaught. But on the bright side, that will force the Browns to lean more on Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt who are just as much fun to watch. It will be a replay of Weeks 1-6 of the 2020 season, but with a much better defense. If you don’t get your hopes up about a Super Bowl, you should enjoy the season.
Odell Beckham, Jr. may not be a coach, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t call the shots. He’s like a pretty girl who just seems to always get her way, despite not having any official power. When OBJ is on the field, there is always a danger that he will grab the steering wheel and run the Browns right into a fucking tree.
And if you look at his stats from the 22 games he has played with the Browns, he has done exactly that. When OBJ is on the field, Baker’s passer rating drops through the floor boards. When OBJ is not on the field, Baker plays at an elite level.
The reason for this is that the Browns are an excellent football team – when OBJ is injured. But when OBJ is on the field, the Browns turn into a cult of personality solely dedicated to aggrandizing OBJ’s ego. In other words, they stop playing professional quality football, and devolve into something I call the OBJ Flying Circus Offense (OBJ-FCO).
Make no mistake, the cult knows exactly what goes wrong when OBJ is in the lineup, but that doesn’t stop them from eating it up with a spoon. Perhaps the most rabid OBJ thrall is Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Here she is fingering the exact problem (see footnote #1):
“Odell likes to get open however he can. Baker likes a precise route run.”
Elsewhere, Cabot praises this as OBJ’s creativity. But consider what happens when Baker has no idea what the fuck OBJ is going to do: he has to stop reading the defense and read OBJ. He literally has to stop looking at his other receivers, and lock onto OBJ, otherwise he will miss the moment when OBJ gets open. This throws off the entire offense: the lineman don’t know how quick Baker will be getting the ball out, the other receivers don’t know where OBJ is going to be so that they can block for him, etc. And when OBJ gets open, and Baker doesn’t see him, it looks like Baker is the one who stinks.
So, the central principle of the OBJ-FCO is that the QB reads OBJ, not the defense.
And, as you might imagine, that is not how professional football is played. Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins do just the opposite: they run precise routes and are always at their designated location when the laser beam from Baker materializes. For their efforts, they are derided by the cult as mere technicians.
The OBJ-FCO was so bad in 2019 that Kevin Stefanski was brought in to muzzle both OBJ and Baker with a run-oriented offensive scheme. At the time, it was not known who the real problem was. So, Stefanski just turned the ball over to Nick Chub, Kareem Hunt, Wyatt Teller, etc. and the Browns did just fine.
Fast forward to the present day, and the cult is in a frenzy over OBJ returning from rehab. They actually believe that OBJ will make the Browns better, despite there being zero statistical evidence of him ever doing any such thing. Here is Mary Kay Cabot yearning for the OBJ-FCO (footnote #2):
“If you do keep Odell on the team, you really do have to make sure, like they did in the Dallas game…they have to make sure that you give him plenty to do, plenty to do early on. You’ve got to let him throw the ball, you got to let him run reverses, you got to let him catch the ball from Jarvis, you’ve got to let him find a way somehow to really showcase all of his talents and his abilities.”
In other words, give the ball to OBJ on every play. Ironically, this comment was made right after a discussion of how OBJ’s celebrity gets inside of Baker’s head and screws him up! They know that OBJ is football poison! And they still drink the Kool-Aid!
But Cabot goes even further: she wants the team to negotiate with OBJ in what his role will be (footnote #3):
“One of the things I would look seriously into is: what does he want? What does he want? You have to sit down with him, and with his representatives, and you have to see if he is willing to continue to pour his heart and sole into being here, and if he wants to make a go of it here, and if he feels like he and Baker are going to be a great match together…If he really sees that he can be an integral part of this offense, and that he can shine and help this team win, and be used in so many different ways; throw the ball, run the ball, and some of the other things we’ve seen him do, then I think that goes on the plus side of the ledger. Let me stay here and show you guys what I think I can do in this offense.”
Can you imagine? The Browns ran deep into the playoffs without OBJ and now we are going to have OBJ dictate the offensive scheme? Are you fucking insane?
Regardless of talent, you just can’t give the ball to any player on every down because that makes the offense too predictable. The incredible parity produced by the NFL neutralizes talent. The only way to win is to fool the other team. The NFL game is a game of deception, and this is the second fatal flaw of the OBJ-FCO; it is predictable. What did Baker do as soon as OBJ was injured during the Bengals game? He started spreading the ball around, and it worked like magic.
Also, in case you didn’t notice, Coach Stefanski got more conservative with his play-calling as the season went on, and it was looking more-and-more like the Browns had a real shot at making the playoffs. His tolerance for OBJ might have even decreased since he installed the Kubiak-Shanahan system at the beginning of the 2020 season. And, if you recall, that move was widely understood as a demotion of OBJ’s role.
Nevertheless, former Rams running back Doc Holliday has the correct solution for handling OBJ (footnote #4):
“Y’all have some chemistry going on. I would think the best thing y’all can do; y’all holding onto OBJ…don’t let him come back into the offense forcing things, forcing him the ball. Let him come back and play a role because offensively y’all got some chemistry going on…You have a superstar like OBJ with a superstar mentality. Just don’t let him come back trying to force things, and force them to give him the ball. Make him come in and play within the parameters of the offense.”
I sure hope the Browns are able to do that. But what I want to know is, given the analytics that we now posses, why is OBJ even on the team? The fact that he hasn’t been shipped off is a blatant case of football malpractice, and the people of Cleveland should file a class action lawsuit against the Haslams. Why not just trade OBJ for some draft capital, bring in another top-flight edge rusher, and win the Super Bowl? It really would be that easy.
Note: To see the statistical evidence against OBJ, scroll down to the “The Statistical Evidence of the OBJ Albatross” section on my “Trade Away OBJ” page.
Footnote #4: Doc Holliday is a former Rams running back, and co-host of the “Bleav in Rams” podcast. Holliday said the words above near the 27:50 mark of Brad Ward’s “All Eyez on Cleveland” podcast during the March 17, 2021 episode titled “Browns FA Profile: Star Safety John Johnson III featuring Doc Holliday.” YouTube link here.
After Rashard Higgins was resigned with the Browns two weeks ago, the team’s hype train took on a new mantra: “running it back on offense” and “keeping the band together.” And it is remarkable that the 2021 Browns offense will consist of virtually all the same players and coaches.
However, in the real world, the Brown’s offense is poised for collapse. That offense that took the Browns deep into the playoffs did not include Odell Beckham, Jr. While OBJ was rehabbing his knee, Baker was throwing balls to Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and David Njoku. That is, players with which Baker has developed chemistry since he joined the team in 2018.
OBJ, on the other hand, is infamous for not having chemistry with Baker. And the team appears to be doing nothing whatsoever to remedy that situation. Can one player blow up an entire offense? Yes, of course. You can’t make the playoffs without a top-notch QB, and OBJ has been proven analytically to discombobulate Baker to the point of making him the very worst QB in the league. Because of this, Baker and the Browns offense are likely to regress just like they did in 2019 because the cause of that regression will be waltzing right back onto the team!
The Kansas City Scumbags had to resort to playing dirty to stop the Baker-to-Higgins juggernaut. Hang your head in shame Kansas Shitty! But fans looking for a replay of that QB-WR magic are likely to be disappointed. Looking back on the season, it seems like Rashard Higgins filled OBJ’s shoes after OBJ’s injury. But that’s not really what happened.
Hig only got to play because three receivers went down with injuries, not just one. Don’t forget that the “Coach of the Year” had Hig so far down the depth chart that he wasn’t even allowed to wear the uniform for three games.
Hig only got to play because JoJo Natson tore his ACL in Game 3, and KhaDarel Hodge injured his hamstring warming up for the Dallas game. So, when OBJ went down, Hig was practically the only guy left. If you think that the “Coach of the Year” brilliantly replaced OBJ with Hig, you are sadly mistaken. The “Coach of the Year” didn’t have a fucking clue.
The only reason why Hig is even on the team is because he is a fan favorite. The team has never put any value on his legendary chemistry with Baker, nor any other chemistry. In fact, they stomp on chemistry. Instead of letting Higgins play, they brought in OBJ and paid him big bucks to put up lame numbers. Instead of letting Njoku play, they brought in Austin Hooper and paid him big bucks for lackluster numbers. This is why I call the Browns a bullshit franchise: they are totally pissing away their Super Bowl window by denying the importance of chemistry between their franchise quarterback and his pass-catchers.
The Browns obviously believe that players are cookie-cutter cogs in the machine, that can easily be replaced with other cogs. And that chemistry has no value. Why anybody would hold this idiotic view is beyond me. But if OBJ is brought back, so will Bad Baker, and if you think you can make the playoffs with Bad Baker, you have failed the IQ test.
Note: at least Austin Hooper tries to improve his chemistry with Baker. So, there is hope that he will elevate in 2021, while there is no hope for OBJ at this point. Remedying OBJ’s lack of chemistry with Baker is not even a topic of conversation, let alone the subject of an actual project.
Note: if the Browns make Landry, Higgins, and DPJ their top receivers, and trade OBJ for a top-notch edge rusher, then the Browns win the Super Bowl and put Tom Brady out to pasture.
But he wasn’t specific. I suppose that he meant that he was motivated to finish rehabbing and get back on the field. However, if he is in need of something specific, I have a couple of suggestions.
First, maybe OBJ could do some practice reps with Baker to finally build that chemistry that has eluded the duo. I’m thinking they should do hundreds of reps during this off-season.
What about it, OBJ? I’m sure that Baker would be game. What about you? Or are you Too Perfect to Practice (to coin a phrase)? Maybe you could get some tips from Rashard Higgins.
Speaking of which, maybe you could set some goals to exceed the numbers that Hig put up last year. For example, “Yards per Catch” – Hig was 8th best in the NFL with 16.2, while you only racked up 13.9. And there are several more; see my list here.
Hint: you can’t beat Hig without the chemistry.
Note to Browns fans: if OBJ did develop chemistry with Baker, the Browns would win the Super Bowl, easily. But don’t hold your breath. In fact, you should do just the opposite and gird your loins for another 2019-style regression as the same old OBJ does the same old shit, and drags Baker back down to the bottom of the QB rankings.
Odell Beckham, Jr. has failed to thrive on the Cleveland Browns. Some blame his lackluster 2019 season on a bad head coach, and a nagging injury. But what about the first 6 games of 2020 when he was healthy, and the Browns had the Coach of the Year? OBJ still managed to disappoint, catching only 53.5% of his targets.
This didn’t happen at his previous team, the New York Giants. So, what was the difference between those two situations?
OBJ was drafted onto a team with a veteran quarterback, Eli Manning, and a veteran head coach, Tom Coughlin. That duo had two Super Bowl victories under their belts, and I suspect that they did not allow OBJ to seize control of their offense.
Contrast that to Cleveland. Freddie Kitchens was a rookie head coach when he was given custody of OBJ. In 2020, Kitchens was replaced by another rookie head coach, Kevin Stefanski. Not only that, but the Browns also brought in a rookie general manager, Andrew Berry.
Baker Mayfield was only in his second year as the Browns’ QB when he was teamed-up with OBJ. Baker, of course, is a celebrity himself, but not of OBJ’s magnitude.
And so, OBJ arrived into an easily-manipulable situation whereupon he bent the offense to his will, and got exactly what he wanted: pass after pass from Baker, even when it wasn’t part of the play-call, or called for by Baker’s read of the defense.
All of those low-odds throws to OBJ sank Baker. He went from being a rookie sensation to being the worst QB in the NFL. And OBJ didn’t do so hot either. After all, he is not an offensive coordinator, and “Just Throw Me the Ball” is not a real scheme.
So, in order to thrive, OBJ needs to be saved from himself. He needs sufficiently strong leadership to keep him in line. Unfortunately, the Browns just don’t have that now.
Could a seasoned veteran like Tom Brady get better production out of OBJ? Probably. So, that’s the solution for OBJ: get himself traded to a team with proper adult supervision.
But what if OBJ likes the leadership vacuum at Cleveland? What if he likes being able always get his way? What if he won’t go away? If that’s the case, then Coach Stefanski and Baker will have to sack-the-fuck-up already and get OBJ under control. Otherwise, it will be 2019 all over again with Baker regressing sharply.
Note: Baker’s back-up, Case Keenum, is 33 years-old, and has more playing experience than Baker. It would be interesting to see if he could perform better with OBJ on the field than Baker can.
Note: If it were me, I would just start Rashard Higgins and be done with it. With Higgins, you are guaranteed nothing but the highest quality professional play.
During the Browns playoff game versus the Chiefs, Tony Romo said:
“Rashard Higgins is gifted in this offense.”
That’s right: gifted. Have a listen:
Higgins is Gifted
Let’s look at some stats. Keep in mind that during 2020 Odell Beckham, Jr. missed ten games due to injury. However, since Hig was benched much of the time, the two players had a similar number of targets: 43 for OBJ, and 52 for Hig. You might be thinking that Hig just had a good year. But Hig actually beats out OBJ on a number of career stats too.
So, OBJ is paid 24.7 times more per-catch than Hig. Of course, Hig will win any “cost per” comparison with OBJ because the Browns lavish money on OBJ and Hig is paid like a Chinese slave child at the iPhone factory. For 2020, Hig was paid $910,000 while OBJ was paid $14,000,000. Of course, OBJ was injured for much of the season, so let’s adjust for that.
OBJ is paid $14 million to play 16 games, which is $875,000 per game. He was injured very early during Game 7, so let’s say he played 6 games. So, 6 * 875,000 = $5,250,000. Dividing that by 23 catches comes to $228,261 per catch. That’s better, but not exactly a bargain.
However, Hig didn’t play every game either. He wasn’t injured, he was just kicked to the curb by “The Coach of the Year.” So, let’s adjust his number too. Hig is paid $910,000 to play 16 games, which is $56,875 per game. Hig only played in 12 regular season games, so for those games, he was paid $682,500. Dividing by 37 catches comes to $18,446 per catch.
If we divide these adjusted numbers, we get OBJ being paid 12.37 times more per-catch than Hig. Another way to think of it is that you could have 12 Higgins for the price of one OBJ. Obviously, the Browns should clone Hig and staff their entire receiving corp with them.
It’s not a huge difference, but considering the hype around OBJ, it’s rather surprising, no? The fact is that OBJ is very easy to tackle, and is one of the very worst YAC guys in the NFL. See the chart here.
Even more, OBJ’s percentage has dropped since he joined the Browns. With the Giants, OBJ caught 62.7% of targets. With the Browns, he has only caught 55.1%. And it’s not Baker’s fault either because he has slightly better career stats than OBJ’s QB on the Giants, Eli Manning.
11) Career Yards per Catch
Higgins = 14.3
Beckham = 14.0
12) Career Drop Percentage
Higgins = 4.7%
Beckham = 9.2%
Note to OBJ: maybe try two hands?
Over his career, Higgins has less than one-quarter the volume that OBJ has. Would Hig be able to keep his lead over Beckham on these career metrics if HIg got more volume? Maybe. As shown above, in 2020, Hig averaged 16.2 yards on 37 catches. That’s an average that OBJ has never even approached. The best OBJ did was in 2015 when he averaged 15.1.
If OBJ’s sycophants in the sports media read this, they might reply: “Yes, but OBJ single-handedly won the Dallas game.” But here is Higgins “single-handedly” defeating the Buffalo Bills in 2019:
Of course, the 2019 Buffalo Bills (10-6) were a much better team than the 2020 Dallas Cowboys (6-10). OBJ beat up on a hapless Dallas defense that ranked #23 in the league. Meanwhile, Higgins out-smarted the Bills’ elite defense that ranked at #4 for the 2019 season.
I might also add that by discombobulating Baker in 2019, OBJ may have cost the Browns a Super Bowl, as he will likely do again during the 2021 season.
Hig was with the Browns for two years before Baker arrived. Hig’s stats jumped when Baker joined the team. Baker’s stats jump on those rare occasions when Hig is allowed to play. The two together are magic. If it were me, I’d start Higgins over OBJ without even thinking about it. But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. Nobody on the Browns has the balls to fly in the face of OBJ’s celebrity, and absorb the blow-back from such a decision.
Note: I don’t have a PFF account or a Football Outsiders account, so any of their numbers cited here are from authors who do have access.
Note: As I was writing this, John Middlekauff weighed-in on OBJ during his “3 and Out” podcast (March 9, 2021 – 54:10). One of his listeners asked him how much the Browns could get in a trade for OBJ, and Middlekauff responded:
“I think, for OBJ, with his contract, probably get a third-rounder. Coming off an ACL, he hasn’t been that productive, even though he did show signs of greatness last year…Personally, I used to love Odell Beckham, Jr., coming off an ACL, I’d probably be willing to trade a fourth-round pick. A little like Randy Moss at the Raiders. Maybe I get a bounce-back year or two from him, but I’d be pretty leery right now.”
Note: thanks to ad-injection, it is now impossible to cite podcast times. So, while my podcast has this quote at the 54:10 mark, yours may have it earlier or later.
After Baker Mayfield’s amazing transformation became apparent in 2020, people started talking about the coaching miracle that occurred during the bye week. I don’t know who started this myth, but the hard truth is that Baker’s transformation actually began during the Bengals game in Week 7, mere minutes after Odell Beckham, Jr. was injured.
To review, we had:
Week 7 – vs. Bengals
Week 8 – vs. Raiders
Week 9 – bye
Note: Baker threw 4 incomplete passes between the OBJ injury and the Landry catch.
So, 12 minutes and 24 seconds after OBJ left the game, Baker began his franchise-record pass-completion streak, and his amazing, and lasting, transformation into an elite QB.
Now, if you believe what happened during those mere minutes was a miraculous display of coaching prowess, please tell me what Coach Stefanski told Baker there on the sideline. Something like this, perhaps:
Stefanski: Baker, you gotta complete more passes.
Baker: Sure thing coach!
No. That did not happen. Rather, what we saw was a sleeping giant awakening. Freed from his mental cage, Baker spread his wings like one of those dragons on Game of Thrones. The mental cage was the reality-distortion field generated by OBJ’s celebrity. Once that cage came down, and the pressure to feed OBJ was off, the Browns’ offense transitioned from an ego-driven, throw-it-to-OBJ scheme to a professional Kubiak-Shanahan scheme operated by an elite QB.
And it showed. Big time.
Some people claim that it was just a coincidence. Those people are not bright. According to NFL NextGen Stats, the odds against Mayfield completing 22 straight passes were 19,062 to 1.
What we saw may have been the most amazing transformation in NFL history. So, when you adhere to the Bye-Week Myth, you are desecrating that event. And covering up the truth of what actually happened. A truth that can deliver a Super Bowl to long-suffering Browns fans if it is honored.
As of now, Coaches Stefanski, O’Shea, and Van Pelt are all basking in the glory of their elite QB, and not making a peep about OBJ. But what if they bring OBJ back, and then Baker regresses again, just like in 2019? Who will get the blame?
Certainly not OBJ. Baker will get a lot of criticism. But it is more likely that people will do the logical thing: ask the coaches to administer another self-scouting exercise to Baker. After all, they fixed Baker in 2020, why don’t they just fix him again in 2021?
Do you see the problem now? If the coaches fail to fix Baker again, their heads may be on the chopping block.
Coach Stefanski is not one to hog all the credit for his players’ success. He is wisely humble. However, if he lets the Bye-Week Myth stand, then he is tacitly endorsing it.
Of course, the coaching staff may have their hands tied by an OBJ supporter higher-up the organization. If Andrew Berry, Paul DePodesta, or the Haslams insist on keeping OBJ, then there is nothing the coaching staff can do other than pray that somehow Baker and OBJ finally develop chemistry this summer. But with OBJ rehabbing, that is very unlikely.
And so, Coach Stefanski should be preparing to go back to his original strategy of featuring Nick Chubb and Wyatt Teller over Baker & OBJ. It may be his only way to survive at this bullshit franchise.
After suffering through 22 games of hideous QB/WR performance from Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham, Jr. during 2019 and 2020, we finally know exactly what the problem was: Baker felt pressure to get the ball to Odell regardless of what the play-call was or what the defense was doing or whether or not OBJ was even open. He was pressured to abandon the playbook, the scheme, and professional quality quarterbacking in general. For 22 games, the Browns practically operated with a scheme called “throw it to OBJ.”
Mary Kay Cabot who writes for Cleveland.com referred to this phenomena as the “ghost of Odell,” which is an apt description. However, she thinks the ghost has been exorcised. From this podcast (11:40):
“I don’t think he’s going to have the ghost of Odell reigning over him saying, my god, I’ve got to get the football to Odell Beckham, Jr.”
Cabot thinks that the success Baker had during 2020, while OBJ was sidelined, has built up his confidence to a level where he could resist the pressure to get the ball to OBJ. And that Baker can just sail right into the 2021 season ghost-free.
But we have no evidence that the ghost has been exorcised, and it is dangerous to think that it has. This is a powerful ghost that brought the development of the Browns’ franchise quarterback to a grinding halt for 22 games. I don’t know about you, but I sure as fuck did not enjoy that period of Browns history, and definitely don’t want to see it repeated.
But the ghost doesn’t just draw power from OBJ. The ghost is also energized by the players, coaches, management, ownership, sports media, fans, and probably Baker himself. Just assuming that it will not come back is an act of pure folly.
The fact is that feeding a ball-hog, regardless of how talented he is, is not something that can work in the NFL. The Browns have rather solid proof of that. And building a team around a WR instead of the QB is simply not done in the NFL. But that’s what you contribute to when you join the OBJ cult.
It’s important to remember that OBJ does not want Baker to read the defense! He does not want Baker to go through his progressions. And Baker will have pressure to comply; to “get the ball into the hands of the play-makers” which is code for “shut up and throw the damn ball to OBJ already.”
A player like OBJ is the very last type of player you would acquire for the run-oriented, spread-the-ball-around Kubiak-Shanahan offense that Coach Stefanski runs. Stefanski’s system calls for selfless players who know that no single player can be the main focus. So, why is OBJ still on the team? Because the ghost has not been exorcised.
Note to podcasters: gushing over OBJ is not helping the Browns win games. That is your goal, is it not? Because you can’t have both. The New York Giants were not a winning team with OBJ on the squad (31-49). And neither were the Browns during OBJ’s 22 games in Cleveland (10-12). Turns out, ego-aggrandizement is not an effective offensive scheme for an NFL team.
As we speak, legions of mind-controlled thralls are fighting a desperate rearguard action to protect his majesty, Odell Beckham, Jr. from the widespread knowledge of his horrific stats that he has registered during his 22 games with the Browns. This zombie army has deployed a bioweapon that has infected nearly all Browns reporters with the most inane meme of all: speed.
Of course, speed is a valuable attribute for a receiver to have, but the fact is that defensive backs are plenty speedy themselves. For example, Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (4.32) is faster than every receiver on the Browns except for Marvin Hall (4.28). But I would bet that Ward will have no trouble covering Hall during practice this summer.
Remember Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi (4.38)? He couldn’t make the team despite being faster than OBJ (4.43). As it happens, being a receiver in the NFL requires quite a lot more skills than just running fast in a straight line – skills that take years of hard work to develop.
And now look what Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com just wrote:
“Trading Beckham could leave Landry and Higgins as your top two, but where does the speed come from?”
Answer: Who cares? We see Landry and Higgins burn faster DBs all the time. And they have been doing that all their lives. Did you know that Jarvis is slower than all four Browns tight-ends? (See my speed page here.) Did you know that Jarvis ran the slowest 40-yard dash time (4.77) among receivers at the 2014 NFL Combine? What happened next?
Five Pro Bowl invitations.
By contrast, his majesty, OBJ, has only made three trips to the Pro Bowl. (Note: both Landry and OBJ entered the NFL in 2014.)
Here’s another interesting stat: OBJ is known as a very dangerous threat after catching the ball, but that alleged slow-poke, Rashard Higgins actually has a better YAC (yards after catch). For the 2020 season, Hig ran for 77 yards after catching 37 balls, which is an average of 2.08 yards. OBJ ran for 47 yards after 23 catches, which averages out to 2.04 yards. It’s not a huge difference, but considering the hype around OBJ, it’s rather surprising, no?
Labbe also wrote:
“Beckham, Landry and Peoples-Jones makes sense as a top three, but it likely means there aren’t many targets for a player like Higgins…”
Can you imagine? Labbe is benching Hig after he was instrumental in helping the Browns win their first playoff game in 26 years! Ridiculous! But that isn’t all that the Browns did with Landry & Hig as their #1 & #2 WRs. The Browns also defeated the Steelers at Heinz Field for the first time since 2003. They beat the Steelers again a week later in the first round of the playoffs. They made the Steelers cry. And now it looks like the Browns cracked the very foundation of the franchise as Ben Roethlisberger and GM Kevin Colbert butt heads in public.
And so, if your brain has been mostly eaten by a mind virus, get a Crayon and scribble this on your walls: “If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it.” That will help you prevent embarrassing yourself. And no, the Browns playoff-caliber offense did not require OBJ’s services. Any non-brainwashed, objective individual can see that OBJ should be traded, and the returning resources should be put at the disposal of DC Joe Woods. In fact, that might be the only path to the Super Bowl for the Browns. The NFL is rather competitive, and wasting resources in order to showcase a celebrity prima-donna is not going to get it done.
It looks like the fanbois have figured out that OBJ is in danger of being traded, and they have begun to say crazy things. The Browns didn’t need OBJ in the back half of the 2020 season, and it is now obvious that OBJ’s huge salary can be better deployed to acquiring much-needed defensive players.
“The biggest position-in-need offensively, this off-season…to me, it’s not a position, it’s an asset. And it’s the asset of speed. I think the only thing we don’t have offensively is, holy heck that dude runs 4.28!”
This is hilarious because the Browns actually have a speedster who runs EXACTLY 4.28. His name is Marvin Hall. The Browns signed him on December 7, 2020. He played in the game against the Jets, had two targets, and caught one 12-yard pass from Baker. You can watch Hall’s highlights reel here.
So, there’s your speedster. Happy now? Of course, all this nonsense about “speed” is just disguised OBJ fanboi-ism. “Speed” is now a code-word that means “bring back OBJ.” Now, watch how fast it goes out the window. Bishop went on to say (at 58:14):
“I think that David Njoku has a real future in this offense. And speed can be defined in a lot of different ways. What you basically want is someone to stretch the field and I think David can be that.”
Can you imagine? A tight-end with 4.64 speed “stretching the field?” So, it’s not actually about speed, now is it? What this looks like is a way to save OBJ by throwing the vastly over-paid Austin Hooper under the bus instead of OBJ.
And so we see the fanbois in a panic, lashing out at other players in a desperate attempt to keep the big-shot celebrity on the Browns. And that’s a good sign for real Browns fans who know that Baker only thrives when he is unburdened of OBJ.
Note: yes, Njoku should be made the #1 tight-end, but not because of his speed. And yes, Austin Hooper’s giant contract was an equally giant mistake by Andrew Berry. Imagine if the Browns liberated funds from both OBJ and Hooper, and used them to sign a few defensive players. Then you bring in Ricky Seals-Jones to fill the tight-end spot. Seals-Jones has proven chemistry with Baker, and would probably out-produce Hooper.