Managing Baker Mayfield’s Ego

Back during the 2020 season, we had a lot of fun watching Baker Mayfield do his best Lamar Jackson imitation. We saw Baker run the ball, throw blocks, catch passes on trick plays, and execute innumerable hero-ball scramble drills where he narrowly avoided getting drilled by pass rushers. The most dramatic was the “Maserati” play where Baker ran (behind Kareem Hunt) for a first down to seal a victory over the Steelers.

As much as I loved watching Baker prove his critics wrong, that he was indeed an athletic guy, I cringed every time he made one of those plays. I knew it was only a matter of time before he got smashed.

This devil-may-care attitude obviously had the stamp-of-approval from Coach Stefanski because it continued into the 2021 season. Then, during Week 2, Baker threw an interception to a linebacker, figured he would fix his mistake, and made the tackle. As he was trying to wrap-up, his left arm got pushed backward and damn near came off.

Baker didn’t need to make that tackle. Kareem Hunt had a good angle on the guy, and Jack Conklin & Wyatt Teller were both closing in. But Baker didn’t hesitate to blow-up his season, and that of his team.

The problem, of course, was that Baker considered himself a well-rounded football player, capable of all the various skills involved in the game. Hell, he probably thought he could kick field-goals too. But in reality, and like most quarterbacks, Baker is a specialist. His left shoulder is not conditioned to making tackles. Its function is to assist the throwing motion of his right arm.

After the game, when asked about it, Stefanski said something like: “We gotta get that guy on the ground.” So, he approved of his franchise quarterback making tackles. Of course, the coach’s job is to win games, and if you have to sacrifice a few players to get it done, then so be it. But in the case of your QB, and getting smashed so early in the season, it hardly seems worth it. It’s not like starting-caliber QBs grow on trees. They are, in fact, rather rare, and spread thin among the 32 NFL franchises.

The NFL has known the value of quarterbacks since 1940 when they instituted the “roughing the passer” penalty. Fans liked higher-scoring games, so the NFL protected QBs & kickers. However, they did so with rules, rather than directives. So, no team is under orders to protect their QBs, and are free to unwisely use those players. If the Ravens wanted Justin Tucker to make tackles, there is nothing the NFL could do to stop them.

So, there is a dichotomy: the league wants to attract and protect talent at the QB position, but coaches feel the need to win right now and are able to sacrifice their QBs if they choose. There is also a second dichotomy: when every QB is a conservative pocket-passer, they come across as bland, boring the fans. Then, when a running-QB like Lamar Jackson comes along, he automatically looks super exciting, just by contrast, delighting the fans.

It comes down to a matter of taste: do you want to see your QB’s health preserved over a long, if boring, career? Or do you want to see him “used up” in a more-exciting, but shorter career?

During the second half of the 2020 season, Baker Mayfield played at an elite level; couldn’t get an extension. In 2019, Lamar Jackson was MVP; still waiting on that extension. So, are these two QBs being used up? Perhaps not by their coaches, but by the bean-counters in the front-office? Probably so.

Perhaps a good balance would be to have your starter as the “boring” QB, and your back-up the “running” QB. In any case, my preference is for Coach Stefanski to coach Baker to be more controlled. For example, I want to see Baker get the ball out quick instead of him dodging pass-rushers while waiting for a receiver to get open. We know that Baker doesn’t want to ever throw the ball away, but it is an important skill for a QB to have. But as long as he thinks of himself as the hero, he won’t practice that skill, simply because he doesn’t think he will be needing it.

Can Baker be coached out of playing hero-ball? If Stefanski tried, would Baker take the coaching? Or would he demand a trade? Hard to say. But the truth is that if Baker can start to think of himself as a specialist, he should have a longer & more productive career.

Note: watching Baker make that tackle reminds me of watching punter Jamie Gillan trying to run for the first down after he muffed the snap during Week 1 versus the Chiefs. He had no chance. Like Baker, Gillan is an athletic guy, but not “NFL athletic” which is a whole other level. These are specialists, and they are simply not viable outside of their niche roles.

Note: for the 2021 season, Baker Mayfield finished with a 63.6 PFF grade, which was 30th in the NFL. By insisting on being the hero, and playing out the season, Mayfield dragged his team down and missed the playoffs. Yet another example of hero-ball.

Stefanski’s Desperation Transforms Browns into Passing Team

During the 2020 season, the Browns wowed the football world with their famous Two-Headed Monster rushing attack. Teams across the nation were green with envy. During the summer, the Browns gave Nick Chubb a big contract-extension. A few months later, after Odell Beckham, Jr. forced his way out of Cleveland, the Browns extended guards Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio. It was as if the team was saying: “We don’t need no stinkn’ OBJ. We’re a running team. And then…

…nothing.

For some reason, the Browns dialed down their rushing attack, mid-season. Simultaneously, other teams fielded their own Two-Head Monsters, and began to run the ball more. For example, there is only one team that has run the ball more than 50% of the time this year: the Philadelphia Eagles. However, during the last three weeks, there were five teams that have done so, led by the Colts at 64.5%. As of this writing, Nick Chubb trails the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor by 483 yards.

After triggering a smash-mouth football revival, the Browns have switched back to being a passing team.

During the first half of the season (the first 8 games) the Browns ran the ball 51% of the time. However, during the second half of the season (the last 7 games) the Browns have slashed that share to 44.4%. Below is a chart showing the evolution of this metric:

Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts have done just the opposite: from running the ball 43.5% of the time during the first half of the season, they have gunned that up to 56% here in the second half. Here is their chart:

As you may have noticed, the Colts have been hot as a pistol since leaning into their running game, winning 6 out of their last 7 games, and clinching a playoff spot.

Not too shabby.

Why can’t the Browns do that?

Well, they can; it’s just that they don’t seem to want to. On Monday, their official podcast, Cleveland Browns Daily, emphatically “proved” that it was completely impossible for the Browns to run the ball more. They even had Joe Thomas on to explain why it couldn’t be done.

Pretty strange if you asked me.

The Browns were once the league’s premier rushing team, but now are content to be mediocre. Over the last three weeks, the Browns remain firmly perched at the #17 position of the “Rushing Play Percentage” metric. Yes, Kareem Hunt has been injured, but D’Ernest Johnson has picked up the baton and is averaging 5.7 YPC. He is also averaging 5.3 YPC against stacked fronts!

I have been harping on this for weeks now, and I have been right. Just look at what happened in the Green Bay game. The Packers were weak against the run, and the Browns ground-game slapped them silly. What would have happened if the Browns had run the ball 10 more times, and passed 10 fewer times? I don’t know, but that would have been 10 fewer chances of an interception, right?

On Monday, the Browns face the Steelers who are just as bad at ground defense as the Packers are. For the season, the Steelers are tied with the Packers in last place, allowing 4.8 YPC in the “Opponent Yards per Rush Attempt” metric. The Steelers have actually done worse recently, slipping to 5.0 YPC over the last three games.

During the Steelers loss to the Vikings on December 9th, Dalvin Cook ran for 205 yards on 27 carries for 7.6 YPC. Can the Browns smash the Steelers? Hell, yeah. So, here’s my game plan: 25 carries for Chubb, 15 for Kareem, and 10 for D’Ernest Johnson. That will yield 300 yards and, let’s say, 3 touchdowns. Don’t laugh; the Colts ran the ball 48 times versus the Texans on December 5th and won 31-0. This plan will also cut down on interceptions by simply slashing the number of passing plays down to a dozen or so, the bulk of which would ideally be screen passes to the running backs.

If the Bengals win on Sunday, this will all be moot. But if they lose, then the Browns need to do something that is guaranteed to beat the Steelers. And that is, hit ’em where they are soft: on the ground!

Note: The numbers cited above do not include plays where the QB was sacked.

Note: Has Baker Mayfield tarnished his brand by insisting on playing with a demolished left shoulder? Yes.

Note: The cheating and crooked refereeing at Lambeau Field was reminiscent of the Browns playoff game with the Chiefs last year. The Packers held Donovan-Peoples Jones all day, and not a single pass-interference call was made. Shameful, but continuing to throw the ball to DPJ and praying for a DPI call just was not the way to handle it.

Note: My theory is still that HC Stefanski is desperately trying to put up points, so don’t be surprised if he has another passing game-plan on Monday night. Think about it: the Browns’ defensive coordinator is doing a great job, while the teams’ offensive coordinator can’t put points on the board. It’s the defense that’s keeping the team in games, and the offense that is blowing it. And what do teams do when they are behind? Pass, pass, pass. Right? So, the Browns have deprecated the running game because they are desperately trying to throw their way into some quick points – a strategy that is clearly not working.

Note: Overall, the Browns did a fantastic job versus the Raiders and Packers with half their team in Omicron jail.

Note: Even after averaging 14.5 YPC versus the Packers, D’Ernest Johnson doesn’t get anywhere near the kudos he deserves. When Nick Chubb was gassed-out near the end of the game, he didn’t hesitate to take himself out because he knew the team was in good hands with DEJ. The Browns Three-Headed Monster needs to be unleashed! Like Browns’ safety John Johnson III tweeted “RUN THE DAMN BALL.” Note to Stefanski: stop fucking up! Just stop! Relax. Let your horses run.

Note: Even on an incredibly terrible passing day, Rashard Higgins had a stellar game versus the Packers. This has become a Browns tradition. First, somebody, probably nerd-dork Paul DePodesta, orders Hig benched for some bullshit reason like he is too slow, or doesn’t play special teams. And then, a couple of games later, Hig is the Browns top receiver because of his proven chemistry with Baker Mayfield. When will this nonsense stop?

Note: Did you see Tommy Togiai’s “Superman” tackle? If not, see the 7:33 mark of this video where Togiai (#93) flies like Superman and crushes Packer’s running back Aaron Jones (#33). Now that’s what I call pursuit! Wow!

Have the Browns Stumbled Onto a Magic Elixir?

Everybody is, rightfully, criticizing that last third-down-and-three play-call versus the Raiders. However, let’s not neglect the wider context.

The Browns vaunted rushing attack has fizzled out in recent games. And now, perhaps, it has been revitalized by moving Joel Bitonio a few feet to the left, and filling in his spot with Michael Dunn.

So, why don’t we have some more of this? Browns center JC Tretter has been taken off to COVID-19 jail, so it won’t be exactly the same, but if the Browns can open up some more holes on the left side, then I say stand on it, pedal to the metal, red line.

Over their last three games, the Packers have allowed opposing rushers to wrack up 5 yards per carry. That stinks, and the team ranks at #27 in the league on that metric.

So, it looks like an ideal time to try out this new LEFT-SIDE rushing attack. And with Trettor out, the Browns need to give it some time to gel in the first half.

Browns Self-Destruct vs Raiders with Bizarre Play Call

After being shut out in the first half of their Week 15 game with the Raiders, the Browns finally got some traction in the third quarter in the form of Nick Chubb running over left tackle. For the day, the Browns had:

Left Side Carries: 10 for 63 yards & a TD.

Up the middle carries: 9 for 31 yards.

Right Side Carries: 4 for -3 yards.

Too see how well running left was working, watch Chubb rampage for 30 yards and a TD in two plays at the 8:05 mark of this video. If the TD play was run from the Browns’ 20-yard line, it would have been an 80-yard run, and the stats above would have been even more lopsided.

So, running left was fantastic. Running up the middle was okay. And running right was dogshit. But when it came time to salt away the game, what did play-caller Alex Van Pelt do? He called for more dogshit. He sent Chubb into the black hole of the right side, and he gained zero yards. The Browns then punted, and the game was lost.

While it is true that the Browns ran left on the first two downs of that final series, and gained 7 yards, they could have tried it a third time. Would that have been too predictable? Maybe. But one thing we know in the NFL is that if something is working, you just keep on doing it until the opposing team puts a stop to it. The Raiders were playing like baby seals on the left side, and the Browns should have clubbed them one more time.

Even so, if Van Pelt didn’t want to run left again, why would he run right? Why would he run a play that had netted negative yardage on the day? When literally any other play would have been a better choice?

Bizarre.

Perhaps it was because Van Pelt didn’t have running-backs Coach Stump Mitchell to advise him. Or Stump’s assistant, Coach Ryan Cordell, who was yet another COVID-19 hysteria casualty. So, Callie Brownson was the running-backs coach for the game. The Browns are collaborative when it comes to play calling, so we will likely never know who recommended the run-right call, but somebody really fucked up.

Note: I used to think that coaches were looking at plays on their tablets. Turns out, they are watching Seinfeld re-runs. A chimpanzee could have seen how running left was working like a charm.

Note: can the Browns beat the Packers on Christmas? If they were at full strength, they would have a chance. But half the Browns are still in COVID-19 jail, we don’t know who will call the plays, or run the plays, and the poachers have taken the entire Cheetah Package. Joe Woods’ defense, which has only given up 10,16,22,16 points over the last four games is poised to be mowed down by Aaron Rodgers. Let’s see if Woods can pull another rabbit out of his hat.

Can the Browns Avenge Their 2020 Loss to the Raiders?

Before we address that question, let’s take a moment to congratulate Joe Woods and his defense, which is now ranked at #4 in yards allowed. After being humiliated by the Patriots during Week 10, the Browns’ talented defensive players seem to have finally gelled in the three games since.

Make no mistake; this is something opposing teams should take note of. The Browns D is hot as a pistol, and that’s the only thing that counts this time of year. On Sunday, versus the Ravens, we were treated to a plethora of huge defensive plays:

  1. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah’s tackle of Lamar Jackson, which knocked him out of the game. Any other blitzing linebacker wouldn’t have been able to get a hand on Jackson.
  2. Myles Garrett’s epic strip-sack-scoop-scoot-&-score.
  3. Takk McKinley’s strip-sack with the Ravens threatening on the Browns 12-yard line.
  4. Grant Delpit’s interception of a two-point conversion throw.
  5. Jadeveon Clowney’s sack with 1:11 left in the game.
  6. Denzel Ward’s tackle on 4th down that sealed the victory.

Joe Woods achieved this victory without three of his starters: LB Anthony Walker, CB Greg Newsome, and S Ronnie Harrison. The Browns defensive depth is pretty solid. Ironically, when you have lots of injuries, it serves as a rotation that actually builds depth over the course of the season. So, by time you get to the playoff run, the gelling doesn’t stop with the starters, but extends to your bench.

A few days before the game, Myles Garrett expressed his displeasure with how some of his teammates were practicing. Apparently, they sharpened-up, just like Myles requested. I think this is the third time he has done this sort of thing, and it has worked every time. Superb leadership.

Now, imagine if they had covered Mark Andrews…

Have the Ravens Cloned Lamar Jackson?

Lamar Jackson was knocked out of the Browns-Ravens rematch by a blitzing Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. He was replaced by Tyler Huntley who completed 71% of his 38 passes, with 1 touchdown, and 45 rushing yards in three quarters. There wasn’t much of a drop-off according to DE Jadeveon Clowney:

“He is a little quicker. He made the whole defense miss. He juked us all. I said on the sideline that I think we need Lamar back out here (laughter). I thought he was quick and just as good.”

To see what Clowney was talking about, see the 8:29 mark of this video.

So, the Browns’ victory was legit, and the Ravens look like they have made quite a find with Huntley.

Raiders Re-Run

There are a lot of similarities between last year’s game with the Raiders, and the re-match coming up on Saturday.

  1. The Browns were flying high after winning a shootout with Cincinnati where Baker Mayfield threw 5 touchdowns.
  2. The Browns were missing key offensive players; namely RB Nick Chubb and his road-grader RG Wyatt Teller.
  3. The weather in Cleveland precluded passing.

Oddly, the rematch is in Cleveland again this year, and the weather is forecast to be cold, wet, and windy, which is conducive to another defensive struggle in the trenches. And the Browns lost the struggle last year. This year, they have Nick Chubb, but Wyatt Teller is on the COVID-19 list along with a bunch of linemen and tight-ends: T Jedrick Wills, TE David Njoku, TE Austin Hooper, TE Ross Travis, G Drew Forbes.

Kareem Hunt was also injured, again, in the Ravens game, so right now, it looks like D’Ernest Johnson will be spelling Nick Chubb. WR Jarvis Landry and WR JoJo Natson are also on the list. With so many pass-catchers gone, maybe Rashard Higgins will get a target or two. Anything is possible.

While the Raiders are a team in disarray, and were smashed by the Chiefs 48-9 on Sunday, they were able to beat the first-place Cowboys 36-33 on Thanksgiving. If the Browns are without Wyatt Teller, Jedrick Wills, Jack Conklin, and their tight-ends, what is the running game going to look like? And if it is too windy to throw the ball accurately, what’s left for the offense? Not much.

Will the Browns have to rely on Myles Garret scoring another touchdown? Maybe. The Browns defensive players should go into the game with that in mind. They just might need to score some points to win this game. Stopping the Raiders might not be good enough. So, here is your mantra for the week:

Stop & Score.
Stop & Score.
Stop & Score.
Repeat one million times.

Bill Belichick: King of Smash-Mouth

Over the past few blogs, I have been urging the Browns to adopt a nuclear-grade, smash-mouth offense for the simple reason that they are built for it, and their passing game is in shambles. But HC Kevin Stefanski did not take my advice. In fact, he did just the opposite. During his Week 12 loss to the Ravens, he only gave Nick Chubb 8 rushing attempts!

So, Stefanski didn’t listen. But Patriots HC Bill Belichick did. During his MNF victory over the Bills, Belichick caused a sensation by running the ball 46 times, and passing on only 3 downs. Something that hadn’t been seen for decades. According to The New York Times:

“An NFL team attempted three or fewer passes in a game only seven times in the 1940s, and just once each in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. But no team had done it since then.”

That glory could have been Stefanski’s – if only he had listened to me. But he did not. However, now that Belichick has blazed the trail, the conservative, and conformist, Stefanski can follow in the master’s footsteps without fear of criticism during Sunday’s rematch with the Ravens.

Here’s one of the things about smash-mouth football that I wrote a couple of blogs ago:

“Here’s the thing about crowding the line-of-scrimmage: if the offense is able to open just one little hole, the running back can burst through and run for a touchdown.”

And that is exactly what happened to the Bills. Here they are stacking the box with no less than 10 players (click image to enlarge):

What happened next? Damien Harris ran over left tackle for 64 yards and a touchdown. So, the Patriots ran for 2,4,2,4,-1,-1,6,64. And that is a normal sequence in smash-mouth football. In other words, it looks like you are losing until you blast through.

Furthermore, Damein Harris is averaging 4.6 yards-per-carry this year, and the Browns have *three* running backs averaging way more than that: Nick Chubb (5.8), Kareem Hunt (5.0), and D’Ernest Johnson (5.2). Can the Browns play smash-mouth football? Hell yeah. We should also note that while Blake Hance struggles in pass-pro, he does okay with run-blocking, so the ground game plays to the Browns’ strengths, such as they are.

So, if the Browns run the ball 46 times like Belichick did, will they beat the Ravens? Maybe, maybe not. But you don’t know unless you try. And there’s the problem. The Browns probably won’t even try. Unfortunately, a “we can’t run the ball” mentality has taken over the Browns recently. For an example, listen to Nicole Chatham’s comments at the 41:42 mark of this podcast where she says:

“I saw one comment consistently all game. [Dumb-guy imitation] This is what you get when you abandon the run. This is what you get when you abandon the run. Run the ball, run the ball, run the damn ball. [/Dumb-guy imitation] They tried; it didn’t work. And it didn’t work because the Ravens had eight in the box the whole game.”

Eighth in the box? Oh, my! How terrifying!

Last year, Nick Chubb was asked by a reporter about how he felt about stacked boxes. I forget his exact reply, but he was simply indifferent. Speaking of Chubb, he faced stacked boxes during the Browns playoff game with the Chiefs last season. Here’s how he & Kareem did in the 3rd quarter of that game where the Browns did the bulk of their rushing: 23,18,2,9,7,3,6,1. That’s 8.6 yards per carry. Not too shabby. That’s just a snapshot, but the point is that a stacked box is far from a death knell for your running game – especially one as potent as that of the Browns.

Until somebody matches him, Bill Belichick is the King of Smash-Mouth. To top him, you would have to do something even more extreme. How about my idea of dispensing with the QB in favor of another fullback, who would then block for the running back after he takes a direct snap? On Monday night, all Mac Jones did was hand off the ball. Why not get some more oomph out of that player?

David Njoku went on the COVID list today, so if the Browns don’t have their #1 receiver available on Sunday, that’s all the more reason for an extreme smash-mouth effort. The passing game failed last week in Baltimore, and may be even weaker on Sunday. Now it’s time to unleash the Three-Headed Monster.

The winning formula: elite defense + persistent smash-mouth ground game = victory over Ravens.

Note: Damien Harris’ 64-yard TD run was the longest by a Patriots back in 24 years. And it would have never happened without a hyper-stacked box. While a stacked box looks fearsome, it is in reality a risky defensive play.

Browns Abandon the Ground Game

During the 2020 season, before he had his own breakfast cereal, Nick Chubb ate “stacked boxes” for breakfast, averaging 6.1 yards-per-carry against the “terrifying” defensive formation. That’s an astounding number. How is it possible? Well, as the defense crowds the line-of-scrimmage, and is able to stop the running back most of the time, they leave themselves open to a catastrophic breakthrough.

Imagine there are 11 defensive players in the box, and then Wyatt Teller flattens one of them, and Chubb bursts through the hole. What are the chances of anybody catching him? Slim to none. Whether it is a goal-line stand, or the defense trying to smash-mouth the Browns on the first play of the game at the 25 yard-line, Chubb is gone.

So, why is HC Stefanski so afeared of stacked boxes when he has a literal arsenal of ground power? My theory is that he is staring down the barrel of a losing season, and feels the need to score points right now. So, instead of running his elite running back behind his elite guard, he has his one-armed quarterback (Baker) throw another incompletion to his one-legged receiver (Landry). As you may have noticed, that strategy didn’t work versus the Ravens.

The Browns’ stellar defensive play was pissed-away, and what would have been a glorious victory in Baltimore was lost.

After the game, “boxes” were the talk of the town. Looking at the data, it turns out that Chubb has only 3.2 YPC versus stacked boxes this year. Maybe his next chunk play will goose that number back up. But it’s not like the Browns are getting blown-out versus stacked fronts because Kareem Hunt has an amazing 6.4 YPC, and D’Ernest Johnson has a stellar 5.8.

Turns out, the Browns can run the ball. Who knew? Now, perhaps Stefanski has analytics proving that the Ravens are the more physical team and trying to beat them mano a mano is simply not feasible. Even if that were the case, I would still want to see the smash-mouth showdown.

Who’s with me?

In other words, just because the defense decides to “take away the run” doesn’t mean the Browns have to acquiesce. Suck it up buttercup! Here’s the first-quarter game plan: run, run, run, punt, run, run, run, punt, run, run, run, TD. Having a good punter helps with such siege-warfare. Lather, rinse, repeat for the remaining three quarters and put up 28 points, which should be child’s play for the defense to protect.

The way the Browns’ defense is playing means that the offense only has to do a modest amount of scoring to win. So, there is no need to rush. Just keep the pressure on, wear the Ravens defense down, and then start popping the chunk plays.

The Browns’ passing-game, especially with Rashard Higgins benched, yet again, is a shambles. Whatever slim chances the Browns have to make the playoffs, it’s pretty certain that the only way they can get there is by leaning on their only remaining strength: the ground game.

Before the Ravens game, OC Alex Van Pelt said this about Baker:

“The ball was flying off of his hands. He was very accurate. I do not know if we had an incompletion yesterday.”

How was Baker’s accuracy in the game? Dogshit. He was 18 of 37 for a 48.6% completion-rate. The only QBs with worse numbers were Jalen Hurts (45.2%) and Cam Newton (23.8%).

Playing a smashed-up Baker is tantamount to abandoning the passing game. And when you consider how Stefanski has abandoned the running game, that doesn’t leave much on offense, now does it?

Note to Browns defense: you are going to need some pick-sixes to win games going forward because you literally have no offense to help out with the scoring.

Note: To learn about defensive fronts, see this page: Meet the Metric – Base, Stacked, and Light Fronts.

Note: To look-up player stats, go to this site, type in the player’s name, and then scroll down the page to the “Formation-Specific” section. This section will not be present if the player doesn’t have enough carries.

D’Ernest Johnson is Elite

For some reason, many Browns commentators like to piss on D’Ernest Johnson. They will spout bullshit like: “he’s no Nick Chubb.” Really? DJ is not Nick Chubb? No shit Sherlock. Guess what? Nobody is Nick Chubb, aside from Chubb himself, of course. But make no mistake, DJ is elite. Take a look at this yards-per-carry chart:

That’s right, the Two-Headed Monster has sprouted another head. D’Ernest Johnson is no joke, and the Browns need to extend him.

This data is through Week 11, and includes running backs with 50 or more carries. It does not include other positions such as quarterback. So, you won’t see Lamar Jackson listed here though he would have been slightly ahead of Chubb at 6.03.

D’Ernest doesn’t show up in most rankings. I think that the apostrophe in his name might be confusing some stats systems out there. This data came from FantasyFootballers.org, however since they don’t let you set the date-range, you won’t be able to reproduce this exact chart.

I needed to post this now because not only is DJ’s contract coming to an end, but the Browns have all but given up on their ground game, and DJ might not have enough carries at the end of the year to rank. Hell, at the rate the Browns are going, Kareem Hunt might not get enough carries. During their Week 12 loss to the Ravens, Chubb only had 8 carries! Kareem had 7, and DJ got 0.

With Derrick Henry injured, I was thinking that Nick Chubb could win the rushing crown this year. But not only is he still behind Henry, he is also behind Joe Mixon, and way behind Jonathan Taylor.

This reminds me of 2019 when Freddie Kitchens didn’t give Chubb enough carries to win the rushing crown. Derrick Henry stole it from Chubb during the last game of the season when his coach gave him 32 attempts while Chubb only got 13. With the Browns playoff hopes pretty much gone, getting Chubb the rushing crown, and keeping Kareem & DJ in the top ten, is a worthy goal that fans would take satisfaction in.

Have the Browns Fallen Under the Spell of David Goggins?

I’m not saying that would be a bad thing, per se, but it would explain why we see the Browns fielding injured players when they have perfectly good backups on the roster. After all, it takes a special kind of crazy to put Jedrick Wills on the field and expect him to do his very difficult job while hopping on one foot.

David Goggins is a retired Navy SEAL, ultra-marathoner, and sort of a motivational speaker type of guy. I haven’t read his book, and don’t pretend to be knowledgeable of his philosophy, but I have heard him on Joe Rogan’s podcast (embedded below), so I am familiar with his approach. And it strikes as masochistic. Here is a quote:

“Pain unlocks a secret doorway in the mind, one that leads to both peak performance, and beautiful silence.”

Right now, Baker Mayfield is wracked with pain from multiple injuries, but he soldiers on Goggins-style. So, has he achieved peak performance? Not hardly. Just the opposite, actually.

The reason why I think the Browns are now Gogginites is the way both use the word: “accountable.” The Browns have a slogan: “smart, tough, and accountable.” And it has always struck me as odd because nobody seemed to be held accountable for anything. Here is Goggins talking about his “accountability mirror” concept:

This is different from the normal usage of the word “accountable” where if you are responsible for something and you screw up, you are subsequently held accountable, and punished by an authority such as your boss, your priest, or a judge.

So, Goggins has a different usage of accountable. And so do the Browns. For example, over a year ago, it was statistically proven that Odell Beckham, Jr. was wrecking the chemistry of the Browns’ offense. And yet, the team continued to employ him as they plunged from a playoff team to last place in their division. Nobody in the franchise (that we know of) has been held accountable for that incredibly bad decision despite the Browns constantly trumpeting that they are smart, tough, and accountable. Because when the Browns say “accountable” they have in mind the Goggins technique of shouting at yourself in the mirror.

So, have the Browns elevated pain-seeking above winning football games? It sure looks that way. Since he was benched for the Denver game, Baker has completed 58.8% of his throws during the subsequent four games. That’s a terrible number. Meanwhile, the uninjured Case Keenum has completed 64.4% of his attempts (versus the Broncos & Patriots). While that is below the league average, it is substantially better than Baker.

We know that, when healthy, Baker can play at an elite level. But when smashed up, not so much. Logically, one would play Keenum, give Baker some rest, and then in two or three weeks, if he looks good in practice, put him in again. The problem is that the concepts of “rest” and “healing” are frowned upon in a Goggins milieu.

Is the Goggins approach suitable for NFL teams? Well, for one thing, NFL players don’t have to seek pain; they get plenty of it all season long. Secondly, Goggins is an ultra-marathoner, and such athletes run very slowly while NFL players run very fast. According this site, ultra-marathoners run at a tortoise-like speed of 13 minutes per mile. The two sports are very different.

If the Browns want to castigate their reflection in the mirror every morning, I say: have at it. But when an injured player’s performance suffers, I say: put the fucking back-up in and win the fucking game!

Note: Baker is tough, but you don’t get points for that in the NFL.

Note: this reminds me of when Howard Stern came under the spell of the “Getting Things Done” cult years ago.

Note: NFL players are constantly lauded for playing through pain, but nobody ever mentions the game-day Toradol injections.

Note: Last week, I urged the Browns to increase the number of rushing plays, and they did, to great effect. They should continue this policy versus the Ravens. Not only are the Browns built for running the ball, but they insist on fielding a smashed-up QB. Last week, the Colts ran the ball 69.7% of the time, and smashed the Bills 41-16. So, let’s see the Browns take their rushing percentage up over 70%. Unleash the three-headed monster!

Note: why not just hang a tire from a rope and have Baker and Keenum throw balls through it? The guy with the best accuracy gets the start.

Note: according to reports, Donovan Peoples-Jones has been riding a stationary bike since his groin injury is preventing him from practicing. Well, it just so happens that I have a groin injury of my own. Guess how I got it? Cycling. Without crashing, you can still easily injure your muscles and joints while cycling – especially while racing. DPJ could probably rehab faster just by watching TV all day.

Note: a perplexed softball player once told me that he could hit longer home-runs when he did not lift weights in-between games. I introduced him to the concept of over-training. I would bet that the vast majority of NFL players are chronically over-trained.

Note: and finally, D’Ernest Johnson had another good outing versus the Lions with 26 yards on 5 carries for a 5.2 average. DJ is now a nose ahead of Kareem Hunt on the leader board. Chubb is #1 with 6.99 YPC, DJ is #6 with 5.25, and Kareem is #7 at 5.23. (Hunt only has 8 more carries than DJ now.) That’s THREE Browns in the top 10! The very definition of a three-headed monster!

Browns Bitch-Slapped by Belichick

The NFL is like a demolition derby where drivers crash their cars into each other until only one is able to move. The Browns were flying high going into Boston on Sunday, but then Bill Belichick crashed his junker into the Browns and knocked them clean over. The Browns never saw it coming.

How did the Browns get blindsided like that? Well, it’s really pretty simple. After Odell Beckham, Jr. bailed out, and the Browns offense went on a tear verses the Bengals, there was a celebratory atmosphere in Berea. So much so that the Browns “made it rain” on Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio.

Not only was the team elated, but their Week 10 foe had a longer injury list than the Browns did. For once, it looked like the Browns would actually have a health advantage.

But of course, the NFL’s talent-parity means that talent is rarely the deciding factor. And psychology is actually far more important. You can’t play like a cornered animal if you don’t feel like you are cornered. Parading around, throwing money in the air is just not a good way to prepare for your next game. Teller & Bitonio are deserving, of course, but their extensions should have been held for the bye week.

We see surprise bitch-slappings like this all the time in the NFL, and we will continue to see them for as long as the league maintains talent-parity. It’s embarrassing, but inevitable. At the moment, the Patriots are riding high and are now more susceptible to being upset by the Falcons on Thursday night. Meanwhile, the Browns are definitely feeling like a cornered animal, and are far more likely to destroy the Lions than they otherwise would be.

Having said that, Baker did play badly, and it looks like his multiple injuries have caught up with him. I’d like to see him get some rest and go into the first Ravens game refreshed.

Pop Quiz

Patriots rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson ran roughshod over the Browns defense which gave up 452 yards, but who had more yardage, Stevenson or D’Ernest Johnson? Answer: Stevenson had 114 all-purpose yards while DJ had 157. Not only that, but DJ averaged 5.2 yards per carry versus Stevenson’s 5.0. Stevenson & DJ were tied on rushing yardage at 100 and 99, but DJ poured on the passing yardage with 58 compared to Stevenson’s 14.

D’Ernest Johnson Gets No Respect

Clearly, DJ was the only bright spot in the debacle, and yet all people could talk about was how the Browns offense just doesn’t work without Nick Chubb. Not so. There was no drop-off at the position. On the Brown’s first drive, DJ had carries of 5,10,24,and 19 yards and brought the Browns to the 2 yard line of the Patriots. That’s 14.5 YPC! Could Nick Chubb have done it better? Could he have punched the ball into the end zone instead of being stopped on the 2 yard line? Perhaps, but even if there was a drop-off at the position, it was in infinitesimal one.

Back on October 21st, I tweeted that the Browns’ two-headed monster had sprouted a third head. And indeed DJ has only improved since then. As of Week 10, DJ’s stats now exceed those of Kareem Hunt. Not only that, but with Hunt injured, DJ’s carries have come up close to Kareem’s. DJ is now averaging 5.3 YPC on 56 attempts compared to Hunt’s 5.2 YPC on 69 attempts. DJ’s average pass-reception yardage also exceeds Hunt’s by 8.5 to 8.1 though DJ only has half the receptions that Hunt does.

Imagine this: the Browns promote Hunt to slot receiver so that he can be on the field more. Then they promote DJ to the “spelling Nick Chubb” role. Maybe you have to divert some Jarvis Landry targets to Hunt, but guess what? Hunt will get you way more YAC than Landry will.

Having a 3-headed monster is a fantastic development, yet DJ has received few accolades. For example, I just listened to a 48-minute long “Orange and Brown Talk” podcast and they literally didn’t even mention DJ. But not only that, the haters at Cleveland.com have actually poured derision on DJ. Can you imagine? You have to have a heart of stone (not to mention a low IQ) to hate on somebody like D’Ernest Johnson.

But make no mistake; the emergence of D’Ernest Johnson might be the single most significant event for the franchise this year.

How to Beat Stefanski

All that you have to do to defeat the Browns’ world-beating rushing attack is to crowd the line-of-scrimmage. Stefanski will give up on running the ball, which the entire team is built around, and pass for the rest of the game.

If you are behind by two touchdowns, does that mean you have to give up running the ball? Maybe for some teams, because as they plod down the field with 4.3 yards-per-carry, they burn too much clock. But exactly how long does it take Nick Chubb to run a 70-yard touchdown? 10 seconds? Is that too much? Apparently.

Here’s the thing about crowding the line-of-scrimmage: if the offense is able to open just one little hole, the running back can burst through and run for a touchdown. You see this a lot in the red zone: all the big-bodies are in there, and then the running back pops through a hole for the TD. But if this play is transported to the other end of the field, the running back goes for 98 yards because there is no secondary!

We see plays like this sometimes early in a game when the defense is bound and determined to stop Nick Chubb. And they do – for a while. Then Chubb pops one for a huge gain. So, he has runs of 3, 1, -2, 0, 4, 3, -1, 75. What’s so wrong with that? Think of the defense as a door, and the o-line as a battering ram. Sometimes it takes a while to break down the door. But once it is broken, the Browns have four guys who can blow through it: Chubb, Hunt, Johnson, and Felton. To save wear-and-tear on the running backs, you could even have the initial battering be done by your fullbacks.

Taking the “playing to your strengths” theme to its extreme, you deploy 8 linemen, the QB, a fullback, and a running back. You run the ball on every play. If you go three-and-out, you do it again next series. And you keep on doing it, with no passing at all, for however long it takes for the running back to pop through on a chunk play. In such a scheme, the QB doesn’t do much, so why not replace him with a second fullback? So, you have Janovich and Stanton line up behind the guards, and then the ball is snapped directly to Chubb. Imagine you are a linebacker and you see Teller & Bitonio coming at you. Then, behind them, Janovich & Stanton, and behind them, Nick Chub. Terrifying!

If you can move the ball, then you wear out the defense, break their will, and trample them for the rest of the game. If you can’t move the ball, then they are the better team. It’s like a one-round boxing match: things get settled quickly. More often than not, the Browns should win because they are built for it.

In other words, Stefanski should stop giving up so easily and be more creative with the strength he has built into his team. Right now, the Browns are built for running, but wind up throwing, which doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it. Over the last three games, the Browns rank at #17 for team rushing plays (40.74%). So, there are *16* teams in the NFL that run the ball more than the Browns! There’s your trouble right there.

Curiously, the Ravens have done the same thing as the Browns. Formerly a smash-mouth offense, they are the #18 rushing team right behind the Browns over the last three weeks. And they have done badly during that period. They got smashed by the Bengals, squeaked by the Vikings in overtime, and beat by the Dolphins.

Note: see this site for stats on the last 3 weeks.

Odell is Full of Shit

ESPN’s Lisa Salters reports:

“I spoke to Odell Beckham Jr. on the phone last night, he told me he didn’t really want to talk about what happened in Cleveland and what led to his release there,” Salters said. “But he did say that every detail was crazy to him, he said, ‘I don’t have words for it. It stinks. It was never intended.’ And he said he never could have envisioned any of it. Beckham said he doesn’t blame anyone, he enjoyed his time in Cleveland…

Just some more passive/aggressive gibberish. Meanwhile, everybody knows exactly what happened. OBJ’s father launched a social-media attack on Baker Mayfield and OBJ failed to tell him to stand down thereby tacitly condoning the attack. “Never intended?” Bullshit. Note to Matthew Stafford: you’re next.

Meanwhile, in OBJ’s grand debut with the Rams on Monday Night Football, he caught two balls and had exactly one yard of YAC.

Oddly, during his ESPN2 Monday Night Football show, Eli Manning was asked why things went wrong for Odell Beckham, Jr. in Cleveland. Being OBJ’s first victim, you would think Eli would have an informative take on the situation. But he did not. In fact, he doesn’t appear to have followed OBJ’s career at all.

Notes

Note: last week, before the New England game, I highlighted this article. What happened next? The Browns got manhandled in the trenches by the Patriots.

Note: the beat-down at the hands of the Patriots reminded me of those Freddie Kitchens games in 2019 where he would brilliantly script the first 15 plays, and then…nothing. The other team would make a few adjustments, and the Browns would get beat. For example, Week 1 versus the Titans: the Browns scored a TD on their first drive, and then got crushed 43-13.

Note: in baseball, they say that hitting is contagious. I think the same thing happens in football; and the opposite. So, when a team is behind, everybody tenses up, and receivers start dropping balls. So, I’m not too worried about the drops and fumbles the Browns had on Sunday.

Note: after Baker threw his interception, Anthony Schwartz came in for the tackle like a lightening bolt, but when he arrived he was brushed off like so much dandruff. See the 3:08 mark in this video. I don’t think Schwartz is going to be breaking many tackles in the future.

God Acts Again on Behalf of the Cleveland Browns

On October 25, 2020, God, in his infinite wisdom, threw a lightening bolt down at Odell Beckham’s left knee, knocking him out for the season. That Act of God cleared the way for the Browns to make a deep run into the playoffs.

Make no mistake, nobody in the franchise gets credit for that stroke of luck. God could have just as easily acted in favor of a different team. The Browns were very lucky in 2020 because there is no way in hell the franchise would have acted to eject the football poison known as OBJ.

Indeed, the Browns brought OBJ back for the 2021 season, and gave him more snaps and targets than any other receiver on the team. They did this in the face of iron-clad stats that proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that OBJ’s presence somehow discombobulated their franchise quarterback, Baker Mayfield.

Everybody in the football world knew about this, what we might call “negative chemistry” or “anti-chemistry.” A chimpanzee could have figured it out, but not the Browns.

In fact, right up to OBJ’s sneak attack on Baker Mayfield last week, Head Coach Stefanski was vowing to try harder at getting OBJ some stats. He had no clue, and neither did Andrew Berry, Paul DePodesta, The Haslams, or Baker for that matter. When OBJ stuck the shiv into Baker’s belly, he achieved perfect tactical surprise. Nobody saw it coming.

In fact, if memory serves, Freddy Kitchens was the only guy in the organization that ever criticized OBJ. Freddy publicly castigated OBJ when he didn’t show up for practice. He was the only one that got it right.

Stefanski, Berry, and DePodesta are lauded for their Ivy League pedigrees, but I wonder: were these guys legacy admissions? Because what they did was just plain dumb.

Remember when the meme: “The Browns are better without Beckham” arrived on the scene? And reporters asked about it during press conferences? And everybody in the franchise said that those critics didn’t know football? That they didn’t understand all the magical things that OBJ did on the field? Well, they were wrong. The critics were right. And when random critics such as myself know better than the highly-paid staff of the Browns, you’ve got a serious problem.

So, should the entire front office be broomed? No, because you have to ask: “compared to what?” How would other franchises have fared if infected with the sinister presence of OBJ? Probably not much better. However, DePodesta is the famous analytics guy, and if he didn’t discover the problem before ESPN Stats & Information did, and didn’t take the findings to the Haslams, and recommend OBJ’s termination, then he should definitely be allowed to return to baseball. On the subject of OBJ, the front-office was profoundly anti-analytic, just totally ignoring the most glaring stats imaginable. I wonder if PFF grades analytics guys. If I were them, I would give DePodesta a zero-point-zero.

Remember, it wasn’t just OBJ causing the Browns to lose games. It was OBJ stunting the growth of the team’s franchise quarterback. And that is a very grave sin. At least one head needs to roll. After all, the team’s very motto is “smart, tough, and accountable.” Where, may I ask, is the accountability in this nuclear-grade debacle?

And now, God has acted again on behalf of your Cleveland Browns. Remember, nobody in the franchise ejected OBJ from the team. It was OBJ himself, under divine guidance, who restored the Browns to greatness by ejecting his own ass. Those Browns you saw pummeling the Bengals on Sunday? Those were the real Browns who would have remained shrouded from view indefinitely without God acting on their behalf.

Also, it’s not a coincidence that the defense played their best game of the year. OBJ’s voodoo affected the entire team, not just Baker and the offense. Going into the game, Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase were the premiere passing duo in the league, and the Browns just wrecked them. Expect more of that. The vision of DC Joe Woods is now manifest.

So, with the Browns having embarked upon a third Golden Age, why am I so critical of the franchise? Answer: because they are still fucking up on a grand scale. On the surface, it seems like a super-talented roster, and an all-star coaching staff would be enough to win the Super Bowl, but it is not. There are also the issues of discipline, and strength & conditioning, both of which the Browns are the worst at.

On the issue of discipline, take a look at this (you need to click through to see the Browns way at the bottom):

On the issue of injuries, strength, and conditioning, see this article: Cleveland Browns strength and conditioning program is failing.

What the hell do the Browns have on their training table? Coffee and donuts in the morning? Mac & Cheese, and veggie burgers for lunch? Like the article linked above says, it’s just not normal to have as many injuries as the Browns do. Something is seriously wrong there.

Note: OBJ wants a Super Bowl ring, and as soon as the Browns dropped into last place in the division, he pulled the rip cord and bailed out. Ironically, his exit rejuvenated the Browns and instantly transformed them into a Super Bowl contender! Take that OBJ!

Note: Baker is sad to lose his friend, but OBJ is not done with Baker or Stefanski. He needs to blame them for his lackluster performance when he is negotiating his next contract (assuming that there is a franchise stupid enough to employ him). So, Baker needs to wrap himself in magazines to absorb the rapid stabbings like you see in prison movies.

Note: OBJ Liberation Day! Mark November 5, 2022 on your calendar as the first anniversary of OBJ Liberation Day! The Browns will have won many football games by then, and celebration will definitely be in order. Without the discombobulating presence of one Odell Beckham, Jr. the considerable talent, skill, and coaching prowess possessed by your Cleveland Browns will break free to fulfill its lofty potential.

Note: Is it a coincidence that the Browns extended Wyatt Teller’s contract on the very day that OBJ hit waivers? No, it is not. That was the Browns sending a message to OBJ that they are now wisely using OBJ’s money to invest in a much more valuable player.

Note: In this idiotic article, OBJ thrall, Jared Mueller of USA Today says: “Beckham gives the Browns the best chance for more explosive plays…” Really? It seems to me it was just the opposite: in the very next game after OBJ’s exit, the Browns made nothing but explosive plays, and not just on offense! Advice for OBJ thralls: seek professional help; tell the therapist that you need to be deprogrammed out of a personality cult. I am not joking.

Note: Like I said in my previous blog: “Browns fans rejoice!” That motherfucker is Gone, Daddy, Gone!

The Browns are on the Eve of a Third Golden Age!

Browns fans rejoice! A third Golden Age is upon us! While it is still possible that the Browns will cuck-out and give Odell Beckham, Jr. another chance to punch them in the balls, it looks like the team will finally shake off this evil albatross.

And we know what happens next. We know from history that when OBJ leaves the field, Baker Mayfield spreads his wings and soars to elite status. Not even the hardest of hard core OBJ cultists will deny it anymore. We have the receipts.

Remember the Baker Mayfield of the second half of 2020? Yeah, that guy. He’s coming back! Holy shit! It’s really happening! It’s too bad this third Golden Age will kick off on the road, but Cincinnati is a great place for the blessed event since that’s where Golden Age II began last year.

Golden Age I – 2018 – Baker’s rookie year. OBJ still on Giants.
Dark Age I – 2019 – Browns Regress After OBJ joins the team.
Golden Age II – 2020 – Week 7 – OBJ is injured; Baker spreads his wings.
Dark Age II – 2021 – Week 3 – OBJ returns and Browns promptly drop into last place.
Golden Age III – 2021 – Week 9 – OBJ gifts the Browns with freedom from himself.

The Browns have a tough schedule ahead, but like Lieutenant Commander Worf used to say on the eve of a suicide mission:

It. Will. Be. Glorious!

Note: Rashard Higgins liked, then unliked OBJ’s attack-video on Baker. Perhaps he didn’t realize what it was at first. Maybe he thought that the theme of “OBJ is always open” was just giving accolades to his teammate. Then when he saw the savage attack on his QB in the comments, he got the hell outta there.

Note: Pete Smith of Sports Illustrated shares my view in: “Browns Offense is ‘Free’: What that Means and where they can go.” However, he writes: “The offense is not going to magically improve as a result of Beckham being out of the way…” I won’t dispute that, but it’s going to feel like magic.

Note: The wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst OBJ thralls is fucking hilarious. For a sample of such hysteria, listen to this podcast.

Note: To idiot teams thinking about signing Odell: keep in mind that OBJ was the most targeted receiver on the squad when he accused his QB of deliberately not throwing him the ball. Even if you threw him the ball on every passing down, he wouldn’t be satisfied. He would go on to demand the ball on rushing downs too! OBJ is football poison! Imbibe at your peril. “If I were you I’d take precautions:

Odell Beckham Sneak Attack on Baker Mayfield Fails to Yield Trade

Remember when David Njoku asked to be traded last year? And remember when he later changed his mind and said that he was happy on the Browns? That’s how a normal person behaves; he just states his position. But Odell Beckham, Jr. is not a normal person. He is a passive/aggressive prima donna who will never state his position directly. And so the hit-piece on his quarterback, Baker Mayfield, was released by one of his minions instead of himself. And it was not a coincidence that it was released just before the NFL’s trade deadline.

Make no mistake; OBJ is demanding a trade, and has thrown his quarterback under the bus in the process of doing so.

Is OBJ justified? David Njoku certainly was. Look at how that turned out: Njoku got more playing time and has become the Browns premiere pass-catcher. Njoku knew better than the coaches/management/ownership that benched him.

But OBJ’s situation is different. Despite missing two games this season, he is the Browns’ most targeted receiver with 34 targets compared to second-place Austin Hooper with 28. OBJ is also almost always on the field, averaging 48 snaps per game.

The Browns ignored Njoku’s trade request, but OBJ’s demand is a different animal. Njoku doesn’t have a massive cult following like OBJ does, and Njoku didn’t disrupt the team. Meanwhile, OBJ already has LaBron James taking shots at the Browns, and demanding OBJ be set free. The only problem with that is that nobody seems to want him. With a decent offer, the Browns would have been crazy not to move OBJ, but none were forthcoming, apparently.

If I were Baker, I’d be pretty pissed-off. If forced to continue playing with OBJ, I would throw him nothing but “danger balls” over the middle where there was a safety lurking to smash OBJ after the catch.

In other words, this is a serious debacle, and the blame can only be laid at the feet of the boneheads in the front office who insist on employing OBJ. I have been campaigning against OBJ for a long time now, writing dozens and dozens of anti-OBJ blogs. And now I am fully justified in saying that I TOLD YOU SO to the millionth degree. I was right; the front office was wrong, so listen to me and do what I say! Get rid of this fucking poison before it spreads throughout the locker room! And in case you can’t figure it out, by “poison” I mean OBJ. Speaking of stupid…

D’Ernest Johnson Scored 100% of the Browns Touchdowns vs the Steelers

On the morning after the Browns’ victory over the Broncos, the whole world was raving about D’Ernest Johnson. Back on October 17th, before the Cardinals game, I tweeted that I was looking forward to seeing DJ get some snaps:

He didn’t though. The Browns failed to utilize him. DJ had one carry and one catch, and the Browns got smashed by Kyler & Company.

After Kareem was knocked out, DJ finally got to play against the Broncos and stunned the world. Even I was amazed. After that masterful performance, just about everybody was expecting to see DJ fill in on the “spelling Nick Chubb” role formerly manned by Kareem Hunt. But the Browns had other ideas: D’Ernest Johnson, the man with the hot hand, was benched.

Versus the Steelers, DJ only got 4 carries. Would it have made a difference if he had gotten more? Yes, because Nick Chubb was still a little rusty coming back from his injury. He had an uncharacteristic 3.8 yards per carry, whereas DJ continued his torrid pace with 5.5. A few more carries, and I have no doubt that DJ would have turned the tables.

So, did bad coaching lose the game? Maybe; maybe not. We don’t know who really made the call to practically bench DJ. Back here, I wrote:

“Like Rashard Higgins and David Njoku, I think that Johnson has been unfairly persecuted, probably because analytics. I imagine Browns Chief of Slide Rules, Paul DePodesta including Johnson in the “don’t play” memo because he is “too slow.”

Did I call that, or what? Last year, fans had to complain long and hard about Rashard Higgins and David Njoku being benched. But it paid off; both players were allowed to play, and were heroes of the Browns playoff run. So, now we need to do it again. Fire up those keyboards and tell the Browns to pull their head out of their ass and FREE DJ!

The Browns have a big game with the Bengals coming up, and we don’t know how the team will perform with the Baker-Beckham conflict going nuclear. So, we can’t afford any kind of stupidity. The Browns need to put DJ in there, in the Kareem Hunt role, and give him the same dozen-or-so carries, and a few passing targets. Again, to reiterate for the learning-impaired: put the man with the hot hand in the fucking game!

Note to Stefanski: Cover Your Ass!

If OBJ is only here because of orders from above, you should write a CYA memo to whoever is making that call recommending that OBJ be released immediately or possibly put on injured-reserve for his shoulder. The memo should state that OBJ has turned on his quarterback, just like he did with Eli Manning, and you want to head off any dissension in the locker-room, just like the Giants did when they dumped him on the hapless Browns. Your season was already hanging by a thread before OBJ swung his scythe at it. Now it’s time to circle the wagons, eject the poison, and survive.

PS: those of you criticizing the Browns defense after the 15-10 loss to the Steelers, keep in mind that giving up 15 points per game would make you the #1 defense in the league. As of now, Buffalo is the best with 15.6. So, the Browns got some badly needed progress on defense during that game.

Case Keenum Can’t Make Head-or-Tails of OBJ Either

Odell Beckham, Jr. fans must be disappointed to learn that their favorite player doesn’t play any better with Case Keenum than he does with Baker Mayfield. During the Browns’ victory over Denver on Thursday night, Keenum targeted OBJ six times, and OBJ was only able to reel in two balls for a terrible 33.3% catch rate.

Overall, Keenum completed 21 of 33 throws for a 63.6% completion rate, which isn’t great, but is decent considering how breezy it was in the wind-tunnel where the Browns insist on playing their games.

Odell was also playing injured, so conditions were not ideal, but OBJ came across as lackluster once again, dropping balls, falling down, drawing an illegal-formation penalty, and racking up a grand total of zero yards-after-catch (YAC) on his two catches. This is the second week in a row where the network announcers called him a “non factor.”

Prior to Thursday night, Baker had not missed a game. And OBJ’s previous QB, Eli Manning was equally as tough. So, we only had data for OBJ playing with two QBs in the NFL. But now, we have a full game of OBJ playing with a third QB, and the results swing the spotlight of blame back over to OBJ as to who is the culprit in the incredibly poor play of the Baker-Beckham duo.

If your receiving corps consisted of OBJ and five of his clones, and the Bengals called and said: we will trade you Ja’Marr Chase, but we want all six of your OBJ’s, how fast would you scream DEAL! into the phone?

People often debate who has the best QB in the division. Right now, if you went by QB rating it would be:

1) Joe Burrow
2) Baker Mayfield
3) Lamar Jackson
4) Ben Roethlisberger

But who has the best WR1 in the division? With OBJ averaging 14.1 yards-per-catch, our WR1 ranks at #37 in the 32-team league. Clearly, WR1 is a position of concern.

OBJ fanbois claim that we need to keep OBJ in there because he just might break one off at any moment. But, as I wrote a year ago, OBJ is simply not a big YAC guy. As I reported, Kareem Hunt was the Browns top YAC threat with an average of 5.94 YAC. Well, here is an update on that:

Browns’ Players YAC through Week 7 of the 2021 season:

As you can see in this spreadsheet, OBJ is not the go-to guy for YAC. In fact, Demetric Felton will give you 5x the yardage that OBJ would. Also, notice that the running-backs are all extremely good with YAC, and David Njoku is a menace with the ball in his hands. Do keep in mind that there is no YAC for your wide-outs when they make a toe-tapper on the sideline, or catch a ball in the end-zone. And Baker likes to make a lot of tight-window throws where the receiver is already in the process of being tackled! And finally, Anthony Schwartz can be knocked over with a feather.

Go to the 5:58 mark of this video to see why Demetric Felton’s YAC number is so high.

Refs Hit Browns with New Touching-the-Passer Penalty

After the Chargers game, Baker Mayfield and Myles Garrett were critical of the officiating, and justifiably so. However, it’s not like the refs are going to look in the mirror and say: “Golly, gee whiz, I really have to try harder because the players are complaining.” No. They are more likely to say: “Just wait until I get my hands on those fucking Browns again! I will officiate those assholes right into the ground! I don’t care how big and powerful Myles Garrett is! I will crush him like a bug! No sacks for you!”

Right? Nothing good can come from butting heads with the officials. Remember when Odell Beckham, Jr. clashed with the NFL over uniform issues? What happened next? It seemed like Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey was given carte blanche to interfere with OBJ. And it wasn’t just Humphrey. Remember when Bengals CB William Jackson blatantly held OBJ’s jersey; right in front of an official; who didn’t throw a flag? Watch:

Did you see the ref at the end of the video looking right at OBJ?

Truth be told, OBJ’s battle with the league resulted in a substantial hit to his stats, and to Baker’s stats also. But after I excoriated OBJ back here, he stopped tangling with the league, and was eventually treated more fairly by the refs.

But last week, while playing the Cardinals, the refs unveiled a brand-new penalty just for the Browns: touching the passer:

Yes, the officiating is atrocious and needs to be fixed. But bringing the wrath of incompetent refs down on your head is not the way to do it. Players should think of bad officiating as akin to bad weather. It’s just something you have to endure because there is nothing you can do about it.

Stefanski Surrenders to Cardinals

I was expecting D’Ernest Johnson to get more action on Sunday, what with Nick Chubb out and Kareem Hunt banged up, but Johnson only got two touches. The league’s #1 rushing team inexplicably decided to abandon the running game. On average, the Browns had been running the ball 32 times per game. But against the Cardinals, they only ran 16 times.

Okay, you would expect the running game to be diminished with Chubb out and both tackle positions compromised. But couldn’t Hunt & Johnson run behind Bitonio, Tretter, and Teller? I hear those guys are pretty good at run-blocking. Who was it that said that the best play you can call is running it straight up the middle?

After the game, Baker said that the Cardinals were putting a lot of big bodies up front, and the Browns tried to shake them out of that by going with an empty backfield and more receivers. But is that all it takes for the Browns to abandon their scheme? The Cardinals rushing defense was ranked at #29 in the league coming into the game, and somehow they were able to easily shut down the Browns? How does that happen? In any case, believe it or not, the Browns are still the #1 rushing team averaging 168.5 yards per game.

Now that the two-headed monster has been beheaded, the Browns have no choice but to let Johnson take a few hand offs. Like Rashard Higgins and David Njoku, I think that Johnson has been unfairly persecuted, probably because analytics. I imagine Browns Chief of Slide Rules, Paul DePodesta including Johnson in the “don’t play” memo because he is “too slow.”

Johnson doesn’t have a combine time, but he ran a 4.81s forty at his pro day. That makes him tied for last place (among non-linemen) with Andy Janovich and Baker Mayfield. See my speed page. And yet, somehow, Johnson is pretty good at running the ball. For example, returning kick-offs for the Browns last year, he ranked at #8 in the league with 24.8 yards per return. And that is substantially better than what speedsters Anthony Schwartz (23.6) and Donovan Peoples-Jones (21.1) have done.

Could it be that straight-ahead speed is only a minor factor when it comes to running the ball?

And Johnson is a smart player. In fact, Baker’s famous Hail-Mary pass against the Cardinals wouldn’t have happened without him. Keep reading:

Baker’s Hail Mary

Normally, we see the Hail Mary pass at the end of the game during “garbage time” where it is just a matter of luck. But Baker Mayfield’s Hail Mary versus the Cardinals was executed with quite a lot of skill.

First, Baker was aware of how far he could throw the ball, and like getting into field-goal range, he knew how close he needed to get. So, after the Cardinals kicked-off, Baker threw a series of short passes to get to the 43-yard line. Johnson caught one of those passes.

Second, when Baker dropped back to throw the bomb, Johnson stayed in to provide pass-pro, and prevented Baker from being sacked.

Third, Baker threw a perfectly accurate pass.

Fourth, Donovan Peoples-Jones made a superb catch. DPJ seemed to be the target with Higgins and Njoku positioned behind him to snag a potentially tipped ball.

So, well done all around, and Baker’s stats for the day don’t need an asterisk. Which is important because…

Baker Did Better than it Feels

Pop quiz! Who threw for the most yards, and highest completion-rate? Baker or Kyler? It sure feels like Kyler, right? But Baker won on both counts. He threw for 234 yards to Kyler’s 229, and completed 67.9% to Kyler’s 66.6%.

Last week, I predicted that Baker would play better going forward because he had been cured of his OBJ-itis. And despite trying to pilot a smashed-up offense without Nick Chubb, Jedrick Wills, Jack Conklin, Jarvis Landry, and his own shoulder injury, Baker did pretty well. He also seems to have worked a bit more smoothly with OBJ. The fourth-down pass in the fourth quarter that OBJ couldn’t grab could be classified as a case of Baker forcing the ball to OBJ because the DB was close enough to get a hand in. But overall, and with all the injury adversity, and facing an undefeated foe, I think Baker did pretty well. So, I’m still liking my prediction.

Baker did blow the game with three turnovers and five self-inflicted, hero-ball sacks, but his throwing was pretty good.

Notes

Note: According to Next Gen Stats, Baker’s Hail Mary traveled 66.4 yards in the air, which is the longest since Next Gen started counting in 2016. It beat the old record by 2 yards.

Note to Stefanski: that 4th down play where Baker runs backwards and gets sacked? Yeah, stop calling that. It’s a bad play.

Note: The defense improved from two blown-coverage TDs last week to one this week. Progress.

Note to Joe Woods: you have seven new starters in your defense this year. Could your scheme be too complicated for so many new players? Maybe simplify things a bit until they have time to gel?

Note: according to PFF: “Mayfield took five sacks in the game, but none were credited against the offensive line.” Classic hero-ball. This is a big area where Baker can make advances: not losing your mind when you fall behind.

BAKER MAYFIELD CURED OF OBJ-itis!

Forget the loss to the Chargers because Baker’s back, baby!

Pop quiz: who had more snaps on Sunday? Odell Beckham or David Njoku? Odell has been called a “non-factor” in the game, and Njoku was all over the place making big plays, so you can be forgiven if you guessed that Njoku had more snaps; but he didn’t. OBJ had 58 snaps while Njoku only had 46.

Why is that significant? Because OBJ was double-covered the whole game, and Baker refused to throw the low-odds passes to the world-famous WR. So, in the second quarter, when OBJ lured away two Chargers DBs, and Rashard Higgins was left wide open, Baker just tossed the easy TD to Higgy.

Now, that might seem like common sense, but it has been something Baker has struggled with. And the whole world was talking about it. The Chargers game was the third game in a row where the network broadcast announcers discussed the mysterious lack of chemistry between the two Browns superstars.

Last week, the criticism of Baker hit a crescendo. So much so that Emily Mayfield took to Instagram to defend Baker. My theory is that this elevated level of pressure forced Baker to make the big breakthrough.

The Browns offense was a thing of beauty on Sunday, and the team now ranks at #6 for points scored per game at 28.4. I expect that number to go up – a lot – in the coming weeks.

So, what was Baker’s big breakthrough? Not being a mind reader, I don’t know. But my guess is that Baker finally realized that OBJ’s fame cannot confer preferential treatment on the football field. That if OBJ is double-covered, and only gets open three times a game, he should only get the ball exactly three times per game.

Which seems obvious, but what if Baker has been thinking: “I’ll throw to whoever I want; double coverage be damned. And I will force this Baker-Bekham duo to excel.” It sounds like something he might do, no? After all, Baker can, in fact, throw laser beams into the smallest openings.

Whatever the blockage, I don’t blame Baker. It was a difficult thing to master. While Eli Manning had no trouble throwing balls to OBJ, he got OBJ as a young pup, fresh out of college. By contrast, Baker got OBJ as a mega-star, while Baker himself was the pup in his sophomore year with the Browns.

And Baker had no help from his coaches. After all, dealing with a megastar like OBJ is a rare experience simply because OBJ is a rare individual. Sure, the stereotypical prima-donna WR is nothing new, but OBJ’s massive social-media following certainly is. I think that all those eyeballs weighed on Baker, and his coaches just didn’t know what to do about it. And it is likely that nobody could have helped Baker. Current and former QBs, receivers, college coaches, NFL coaches, sports psychologists, etc. have simply never encountered such a thing.

But Baker is a grizzled veteran now, and with this final high-hurdle leapt, he is poised to ascend to his ceiling, however high that may be. Actually, he is already ascending, as we witnessed on Sunday.

I’m sure that OBJ doesn’t like being double-teamed, but remember when Myles Garrett was complaining about being chipped before the Bears game? What happened next? 4.5 sacks, right? Myles now leads the league in sacks, and the same effect can apply to OBJ.

If double-covering OBJ allows David Njoku to run free, exactly how long are teams going to be able to stay focused on OBJ? Think of Njoku as OBJ’s Clowney. The Cardinals defensive coordinator is probably having nightmares about this right now.

So, OBJ was not a non-factor on Sunday. He helped his teammates by drawing coverage away from them, created some nice targets for Baker, and threw blocks downfield to help his teammates extend those plays. So, don’t be fooled. Don’t miss the gearshift into overdrive that happened on Sunday. (Actually, the overdrive gear lowers the RPMs of your engine in order to save fuel, but you get the idea.)

Last week, in light of Baker’s poor play, I recommended:

“What could politically be done is for the team to return to Stefanski’s original solution to this problem that he deployed when he took over in 2020: a strict Shanahan-Kubiak offense where Baker is the game manager handing the ball off to Chubb & Hunt, and throwing short passes to his tight-ends, as OBJ runs down the field as a decoy.”

And that is exactly what they did. In fact, Baker didn’t throw a long ball until the 3rd quarter; the one that Schwartz miss-played down the sideline.

I also wrote last week:

“One thing we KNOW about Baker is that he plays extremely well when Higgins, Landry, and Njoku are his primary targets. That is the only solution that we know of…”

And again, that’s what the Browns did. Landry didn’t play, but is was just like the glory days of 2018 with Hig & Njoku getting all those targets – and touchdowns! Switching focus from Hooper back to Njoku was a massive home run.

So, I recommend more of the same for the Cardinals game simply because Stefanski, Baker, Chub, Hunt, Njoku, and Hig are so damn good at it. As for the defense, I don’t know that they need to do much more than get healed-up, and work on those blown coverages.

I’m sure that the gloom is so thick up in Cleveland that you can cut it with a knife. But Browns fans should look beyond the loss to the Chargers and rejoice in the knowledge that they now possess an unstoppable scoring machine that can put up 40 points a game. With even a modest defense, the Browns will be unbeatable. Trust me; it’s going to be good; so good that the Browns might not even need to keep a punter on the roster. 🙂

Remember: Baker is cured, and you heard it here first.

The Browns Front-Office has Become the Village Idiot of the NFL

During the network broadcasts of the last two Browns games, the announcers discussed the Baker-Beckham problem, and put stats about it up on the screen. In other words, everybody is talking about it now, not just a handful of us “cranks.” And the Browns front office is starting to look like the Village Idiot of the NFL for deploying two blatantly incompatible players.

Somebody in the Browns franchise has made the decision to continue employing Odell Beckham, Jr. even though ANALYTICALLY it is the very dumbest decision possible. Whether it is Coach Stefanski, GM Andrew Barry, analytics nerd Paul DePodesta, or the Haslams, this person(s) has decided to blow up the team, and appears resolute in doing so.

We know Baker is Superman, and OBJ is his kryptonite. Nobody knows why Baker falls to pieces when OBJ is on the field, but that is exactly what happens. Everybody has a pet theory now, but rest assured, NOBODY knows with certainty what the actual problem is. None of us are mind readers. We don’t KNOW what is happening inside Baker’s head. Hell, Baker himself probably doesn’t know.

That’s why this problem has gone unsolved for years.

However, we know it can be solved because we witnessed the solution after an Act of God removed OBJ from the equation last year.

But the Village Idiot doesn’t like that solution; separating Baker from the kryptonite? Good God, no! We couldn’t possibly do that! Baker must be forced to eat the kryptonite until he likes it!

Trust me; this is an emergency! The Village Idiot is poised to piss away our Super Bowl!

To their credit, Baker & OBJ worked hard over the summer trying to build their chemistry.

But they failed.

The Browns coaching staff also worked hard on fixing their dysfunctional duo.

But they failed.

Make no mistake: the team has lost its elite QB and nobody knows how to bring him back. Could heads roll over this? Yes, because this is exactly what a coaching staff is supposed to be able to do: get the most out of its players. And here we have two enormously gifted athletes playing like dogshit, and nobody has a fucking clue how to fix them.

Now, this may be a rare problem that only a very small number of coaches have experience with. Or maybe this is the first time it has ever happened and nobody knows what to do about it. But conducting business as usual is likely to get somebody fired, so something must be done.

Personally, I would love to see how a Keenum-Beckham duo would do as an experiment. What if OBJ were to catch 8 of 10 passes from Case Keenum? That would be an important data-point, no? It would isolate the problem in Baker. More precisely: in Baker’s head, because we know he can physically play at an elite level.

The Browns Need a New Offensive Scheme

Having Keenum take a few reps with OBJ is unlikely to happen because benching Baker, even briefly, would be crazy controversial. But what could politically be done is for the team to return to Stefanski’s original solution to this problem that he deployed when he took over in 2020: a strict Shanahan-Kubiak offense where Baker is the game manager handing the ball off to Chubb & Hunt, and throwing short passes to his tight-ends, as OBJ runs down the field as a decoy.

It was good enough for a 4-2 record to start the 2020 season before the dynamic was changed by OBJ’s injury. So, my advice to Stefanski, if he continues to be saddled with playing Baker & OBJ, is to roll back the passing game, amp up the ground game, and let a strong defense take you to an 11-6 record. And keep your fingers crossed that that will be good enough for a playoff berth.

It’s Time for a Baker-Beckham No-Fault Divorce

It’s sad watching Baker regress like this, and it will likely cost him millions of dollars. I have tried my best to prevent this outcome, but after writing passionately on this topic for a couple of years now, there is really nothing else I can do.

As for OBJ, he really should ask for a trade. It’s blatantly clear now that he is not going to get what he wants by playing with Baker.

Again, they tried, they failed, and now it is time to give up. It’s time to stop banging your heads against the fucking wall. Just “putting your best players on the field” is not working. Baker & OBJ are not suddenly just going to “click.” We can’t even identify the problem, let alone address it.

OBJ had no trouble catching balls from Eli Manning. Baker has no trouble throwing balls to Landry, Higgins, and Njoku. A divorce will free each player to get back to their elite level of play.

OBJ fanbois act as if trading OBJ will yield nothing in return, but that is not the case. OBJ looks fantastic, and would return substantial value. Maybe we could get a two-legged left-tackle for him…

The Rashard Higgins Mystery

Speaking of Higgins…don’t you think it was odd that Baker hit Hig so easily against the Vikings, but couldn’t hit OBJ to save his life? Even when OBJ was wide open? Normally, Hig isn’t allowed on the field until all the other receivers have sustained injuries, and we rarely see him at the same time as OBJ. So, here is another theory:

Nobody expects Higgins to even play, let along catch a pass. So, with zero expectations, there is zero pressure on Baker to throw to him, and his body relaxes, and he throws a nice, smooth pass. The exact opposite happens when he throws to OBJ where there are MASSIVE expectations. His body tenses up, and he throws a bad pass.

Letting Higgins play, and get some targets, is one thing the coaching staff got right on Sunday. So, good for them. One thing we KNOW about Baker is that he plays extremely well when Higgins, Landry, and Njoku are his primary targets. That is the only solution that we know of, yet the Village Idiot rejects it.

The team has been trying to force the big-dollar investments in OBJ & Austin Hooper to work, but it is long past time they give up on those sunk costs and get back to what we KNOW works.

Mary Kay Cabot was TOTALLY Wrong

Here’s what she wrote back in February:

“If he’s back, I think Beckham and Mayfield will flourish from the start, and that he [Beckham] will return to a Pro Bowl-caliber level.”

And Cabot’s partner in crime at Cleveland.com, Ellis Williams, wrote this:

“Assuming Mayfield picks up where he left off, I’m forecasting Beckham opening the 2021 season in electric fashion.”

Well, Baker did pick up where he left off, right up until he hit the brick wall when OBJ returned.

But guess what? After assuring us dozens of times over the summer that Baker & OBJ would get along just swimmingly, Mary Kay Cabot finally broke down and admitted that there is a problem. And she even has her own theory! Here is what she said on the “Orange and Brown Talk” podcast Monday:

“I think sometimes Baker gets almost a little too hyped up. He gets a little too much juice; a little too much adrenaline. And he can’t bring himself down. He can’t control himself.”

As I said above, none of us are mind-readers, so Cabot could be right. However, Baker has been thick as thieves with OBJ for a couple of years now. How could his adrenal glands still be going berserk when he is throwing a ball to OBJ? Also, we need solutions, not just theories. And we also need to convince the Browns to run experiments on our theories. Because the Browns clearly have no intention of doing anything at all. Like Stefanski said, “That’s not really a concern of mine or ours.” They are just going to keep sending Baker & Odell out there until they stop sucking. Not exactly a policy that is “Coach of the Year” material…but perhaps Stefanski is trying to tell us that the decision is not in his hands, but being handed down from above.

Browns Notes

Note: Yes, I know Baker’s left arm might be bothering him, but last year, he played at an elite level with a cracked rib. If his shoulder were the problem, he wouldn’t have been able to throw those laser beams to Hig.

Note: Baker got hit with not only the return of OBJ, but the loss of Landry, in the same game. And the Browns deployed a one-legged man at left tackle. That’s a lot to deal with, and it is amazing that Baker won the game, and did so without fumbling or throwing an interception.

Note: It wasn’t just an “off day.” It’s an off half-the-season so far. Baker has hit rock bottom and drilled deeper! During the last two weeks, Baker has managed to rank at #33 in the 32-team league with an abysmal completion rate of 53.1%. Go here and make sure the split is set to “Last 2 Weeks” to capture the Bears & Vikings games.

Note: Say goodbye to “Good Baker” because “Bad Baker” is back to stay. The blog I wrote on this eight months ago has held up well: Good Baker/Bad Baker Mystery Solved.

Note: was CBS announcer Kevin Harlan’s sing-song delivery nauseating or what? Hate that.

Note: Myles Garrett’s shirtless press conference before the Bears game lit a fire under the Browns defense. I think you could also include DC Joe Woods in that fire. Did Myles convince the DC to get more aggressive? I think so.

Note: I didn’t know it, but PFF grades QB-WR duos. John Kosko, Lead Analyst of PFF was on the Locked On Browns Podcast “Under the Lens 4” episode this week. At the 16:50 mark of the show, Kosko says that Baker has a grade of 90.7 when OBJ is not on the field. And when OBJ is on the field, Baker’s grade plunges to a 68.7. He thinks it is a Baker issue and not OBJ’s fault, and Baker has a mental block. Kosko says that OBJ’s route running vs the Vikings was awesome, so the Browns could easily get some nice trade offers for OBJ. And that is the only way to solve the problem because it is far more difficult to replace a franchise QB than it is a receiver. [Emphasis mine.]

Note: What if Dee Haslam is smitten by both Baker & OBJ and insists on having them both on her team? Then we all would be just wasting our breath, now wouldn’t we?

Beckham Returns & Baker Mayfield’s Regression Begins

After Week 2, Baker Mayfield was the most-accurate QB in the NFL. Then Odell Beckham, Jr. returned to the lineup for Week 3 and Baker sunk to #5. Baker completed 75% of his passes against the Chiefs, and 90% against the Texans, but only 61% versus the Bears, with OBJ on the field.

Everybody knows that Baker has historically played poorly with OBJ present. The two superstars have never been able to get on the same page. When Baker’s play improved so dramatically in 2020 after OBJ was injured, many of us assumed that Baker could not be the culprit of the dysfunctional duo because he was so blatantly talented.

And indeed, during the off-season, the Browns drew up a set of routes for OBJ and tasked him with running them with technical precision. He and Baker practiced those routes and seem to have implemented them in the Bears game. In this video, you can see OBJ running a timing route to perfection, and the ball from Baker arriving with laser-like precision. So, well done all around: Baker, Odell, and Coach O’Shea. But…

OBJ had 5 catches on 9 targets for 55.6% versus the Bears. The rest of the team had 14 catches on 22 targets which is 63.6%.

Okay, it’s only one game, and a small amount of data, but still…shouldn’t OBJ have been higher than the average? Especially with all the extra work he did with Baker?

Not only that, but the 63.6% rate the rest of the team had wasn’t so great either. In other words, Baker had an off day, and while it might be a coincidence that his play regressed on the very same day OBJ returned, what if it isn’t? What if the Baker-Bekham duo is still broken somehow?

Perhaps Baker forced a couple of balls to OBJ that he should not have? But if he did, why would he do that? Yes, OBJ could have pestered him in the huddle for more targets. But it could also be that Baker, alone, feels the massive weight of OBJ’s stardom, and of his own accord, tries to get a few more balls to OBJ.

That would be a problem. That alone would constitute a regression from the superb play Baker achieved in the second half of last year. Analysts have been assuring us that it is impossible for Baker to regress because he has full command of the team now, but they may be wrong.

The fact is that commanding a squad of regular players is one thing, and Baker has indeed mastered that. But, even a fully cooperative OBJ still comes with a social-media following massive enough to bend anybody’s mind. In other words, leading a team that includes OBJ is a completely different skill than leading a regular team.

While it might seem to be too early to raise a red flag, there is no such thing as “too early” when it comes to a possible regression of your franchise QB. So, here are two things that need to be done:

#1 – The coaches need to find out if OBJ is pestering Baker for more targets. And if he is, he needs to be made to stop.

#2 – Baker must be examined to see if he is putting undo pressure upon himself. I imagine a sports psychologist might be useful here.

I would also bring in Eli Manning as a consultant to learn from his experience of playing with OBJ.

NFL players have always played in front of huge audiences. However, a social-media audience is inherently different because they can interact more with players.

If the Browns can’t get a handle on this problem, then further options would be to bench OBJ until a fix is found, trade OBJ, trade Baker, or maybe limit the number of OBJ’s targets. So, if Baker were only permitted to throw 5 balls to OBJ, he would have to be more judicious with his decisions to make sure all 5 counted. In fact, I like this idea so much that the Browns should implement it on Sunday against the Vikings while also working on the two points above.

With his contract negotiations coming up, Baker has incentive to get to the bottom of this problem and get it fixed. He should look at it as a challenge; as an opportunity to acquire an important leadership skill.

Let’s face it: the Browns should have knocked quite a lot more stuffing out of the Chicago Teddy Bears. The fact that Baker only threw 1 touchdown pass is just plain wrong. Four field goals? Get the fuck outta here with that bullshit. Seriously, is that how a Super Bowl team plays? What if Kareem Hunt couldn’t play? What would the score have been? A 10-6 squeaker? Trust me; something has gone wrong.

Odell Beckham’s Demands – Will the Browns Surrender?

Being a passive/aggressive drama queen, we can’t expect OBJ to explicitly state his demands to return to the field. However, he might be funneling his demands through reporter Mary Kay Cabot, his biggest fanboi. Cabot has been emphatic that OBJ will only return “on his terms” and has been clear on what OBJ wants:

OBJ wants creative freedom. He does not want to be restricted by the routes designed for him by receiver’s coach Chad O’Shea. OBJ needs creative freedom because he is often double-teamed, and must be free to dance around and shake his coverage.

In other words, OBJ wants business as usual, just like before when he and Baker were the very worst QB/WR duo in the league.

The Browns coaches want none of that. After all, if OBJ is permitted to take the offense back to the Great Regression of 2019, some coaching heads might roll. Baker will suffer too. As of Week 2 in 2021, Baker is the most-accurate QB in the league, and looking to cash in with a huge contract. Being saddled with a “creative” OBJ will likely cost Baker millions.

Cabot also scoffs at Baker & OBJ’s off-season efforts to improve their chemistry, and repeats what is likely another OBJ demand: OBJ needs all the balls all the time to rack up the necessary in-game reps to create real chemistry.

So, in OBJ’s ridiculous system, Baker would just stand there, eyes locked onto his majesty, waiting for that magical moment when OBJ shakes his coverage, and then throw him the ball. In other words, a 100% predictable offense in a league where deception is the only edge.

If the Browns coaches cave to this nonsense, then they deserve what they will get.

In 2020, OBJ was paid $228,261 per catch, yet he only caught 53.5% of his targets, ranking him at #191 in the league. So, we already know that OBJ’s system is dumb, but OBJ does not appear to have any interest whatsoever in going back to being the master technical route runner that he was with the Giants. Even though, if he did that, and seeing as how laser-beam accurate Baker is, OBJ could put up incredible numbers.

During the Browns-vs-Texans game on Sunday, one of the NFL announcers said that Texans receiver Brandin Cooks was known as the “quarterback’s best friend” because of his ability to create instant chemistry. Here’s what Cooks said back in May:

“For me, it doesn’t matter who is throwing me the ball. I’m going to get on the same page and figure out how you like things to be done, and we are going to go out there and ball. I’ve shown that throughout my career.”

And indeed he has. If you look at his stats, Cooks has had 1,000-yard years with all four teams he has played for.

Cooks is a solid, level-headed professional football player. He gets the job done. Why can’t OBJ do that? Because OBJ is not satisfied with being a “mere cog” in a winning system. OBJ want to be THE SHOW. He wants everything to revolve around himself. He probably secretly thinks of QBs as “ball-throwing bitches.”

Ultimately, what OBJ wants can’t be achieved. OBJ wants football to be an individual sport like bowling where he can roll a perfect 300 game every time. It’s a fool’s errand, but who is going to talk him out of it? Doesn’t he have any friends who can do an intervention? All Odell has to do is adopt “The Cooks Attitude” and it’s raining TDs. But he won’t. The Browns should stop trying to knock sense into this knucklehead and move the fuck on already.

Stefanski, Van Pelt, and O’Shea need to hold fast to the training they have given OBJ, even if OBJ holds out until Week 17 as he has threatened to do. They should only back down on a direct order from management or ownership. That way, they will have a paper trail absolving them of the inevitable regression of their franchise QB.

Note: Just like last year, everybody is up in arms over the defense. However, the Browns are above average in total yards allowed, ranking at #14. And that is only two rungs below the Rams who were the #1 defense last year. Not bad.

Note: If you watch the Browns-vs-Texans game-recap, it’s pretty fantastic. Watching Chubb, Hunt, and Felton running the ball is like mainlining heroin.

Beckham Benched!

Browns HC Kevin Stefanski announced on Wednesday that Odell Beckham, Jr. would not be playing against the Texans on Sunday. The coach didn’t want any distractions during his preparations this week, and preemptively booted OBJ out the door.

Two days ago, I wrote:

“Coach Stefanski seems to be indulging OBJ now, but it will be interesting to see how he handles the situation once he realizes what is actually happening.”

And it is “interesting” indeed. The coach mentioned that he had included OBJ in his game-plan for Kansas City, and didn’t seem to like the fact that OBJ refused to play. This week, he wants OBJ out of the picture so that he can develop his plan for the Texans without any drama.

OBJ has effectively been benched.

Note to OBJ fanbois: As this war of words heats up, whose side will you pick? Your majesty, who won’t play, or Stefanski and the Browns? I’m sure this is very stressful for you, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you!

Note to Texans: Don’t even think about celebrating. You will be smashed either way. The Browns don’t need OBJ, at all. Now, get back to putting your affairs in order.