Odell Beckham Jr. is an Overrated Distraction (Cleveland Browns Red Flag #2020-2)

In early 2019 when people were remarking that the Browns had no first-round draft pick, coach Freddie Kitchens responded: “Yeah, but we have Odell Beckham, Jr.

Wrong again Freddie. OBJ did not help the Browns win more games during the 2019 season. In fact, the Browns slipped from 7-8-1 in 2018 to 6-10 in 2019. Turns out, having 14 million Instagram followers doesn’t make you a great player.

And no, OBJ is not the best wide receiver in the NFL. He’s not even the best receiver on the Browns. That title belongs to Jarvis Landry who had 1,174 yards in 2019; the 10th best in the league. Beckham barely squeaked over one thousand, finishing in 26th place with 1,035 yards. Yes, OBJ was not at 100%, but neither was Landry, and both players had surgery right after the season ended.

What I find truly absurd about OBJ is his off-the-charts level of narcissism. OBJ went over 1,000 yards during the last game of the season against the Bengals (early in the 4th quarter). When he achieved this oh-so-fabulous milestone, he took himself out of the game, sat down on the bench, and put a towel over his head. He was all verklempt, and had to shield his eyes from the beam of pure, white-hot light pouring down upon his glorious personage. But his team was losing, and if he has such a high opinion of himself, why did he stop trying to win the game?

Answer, because OBJ doesn’t give a shit about the Browns.

Odell sat out for a play or two, and then came back in the game, but the drama show was ridiculously unprofessional.

And nothing has changed since then. In early May of 2020, Beckham released a video updating fans on his recovery from surgery, and was roundly criticized for his narcissistic attitude. Nowhere in the video does Beckham say the words “team” or “Browns.” Just the opposite; Beckham declares:

“This is my time. That’s all.”

See for yourself:

Is OBJ telling coach Stefanski and Baker Mayfield: “throw me the ball, or I will demand to be traded?” Because if that’s what he means, I say just trade him now. If Stefanski and Mayfield capitulate to OBJ, then the Browns will have yet another disappointing season.

Beckham’s declaration is an insult to the entire Browns receiving corps – including his best friend Jarvis Landry. And I don’t even think Beckham will make it through the season without yet another injury. In fact, the only way he will make it into the season is to skip practice and the preseason because Beckham is made of tissue paper.

While Beckham is the same size as Jarvis Landry, Beckham gets rag-dolled a lot when being tackled. It’s like watching the Broncos 5’8″ Phillip Lindsay – you brace yourself for him getting smashed by a lineman twice his size. But even Lindsay is more durable than Beckham.

While Beckham and Landry are virtually twins, Beckham’s yards-after-catch (YAC) were a paltry 331 in 2019, #44 in the league. By contrast, Landry’s YAC was #18 in the league at 440. Landry had a few more catches than Odell, but his average YAC is still higher at 5.25 vs Beckham’s 4.40.

And of course, Landry is the Browns’ team leader, while OBJ is the exact opposite of that; whatever you might call it.

In May 2020, while the Browns facility was on coronavirus lockdown, Baker Mayfield hosted some of his receivers and tight-ends in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Rashard Higgins, Damion Ratley, Austin Hooper, and David Njoku were there. Meanwhile, Beckham was frolicking in a fountain. Literally. Frolicking. (Click photo to enlarge.)

In all fairness, Jarvis wasn’t there either, but at least he was mentoring Browns rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones in Deerfield, Florida where both players were training.

And of course, wide receivers are known to be narcissists; but I think OBJ is a narcissist among narcissists. Imagine if he were to show up at training camp with a Nick Chubb style attitude. That would be incredible, but I’m not holding my breath.

If the NFL had a Harlem Globetrotters type of team, Odell would be perfect for it, doing his one-handed circus catches and whatnot. But short of that, I am not a fan, and would like to see him traded ASAP. The Browns could use a linebacker, and I hear that Joe Schobert guy in Jacksonville is pretty good. Or maybe the Browns could trade him back to the Giants straight-up for Jabrill Peppers or Kevin Zeitler. Just kidding; the Giants would never go for either trade. What the Browns need to find is an unsuspecting, linebacker-rich wide-out poor team to dump OBJ on.

Note to Odell: the first rule of football is DON’T RUN BACKWARDS:

That’s the way a narcissist returns a punt: he thinks he can juke the entire coverage team. Remember when Jabrill Peppers returned punts for the Browns? Those were the days…until the Browns sent him to New York for OBJ.

So, that’s our second red flag for the 2020 season. OBJ needs to be reigned in, or traded. He is a walking red-flag.

How Beckham Broke the Browns

Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t trying to break the Browns, of course. And there were plenty of other problems during the 2019 season. But the OBJ trade in March of 2019 sealed the team’s fate.

When I first heard about the trade, I was baffled. “They traded Peppers, of all people? WTF?” That was the defensive equivalent of trading Nick Chubb. But that wasn’t the worst of it. The Browns also traded OG Kevin Zeitler, one of the guys who pass-blocked for Baker Mayfield as the rookie QB rose to super-star status in 2018.

It was a large six-player trade. The Browns got Beckham and DE Olivier Vernon in exchange for OG Kevin Zeitler, SS Jabrill Peppers, and the Browns’ #17 & #95 picks in the 2019 draft. Those picks turned into the highly-regarded DE Dexter Lawrence, and LB Oshane Ximines. Here’s the spreadsheet:

Browns Got Giants Got
Odell Beckham Jr. Kevin Zeitler
Olivier Vernon Jabrill Peppers
Dexter Lawrence
Oshane Ximines

Ironically, this trade hobbled OBJ himself by blowing a giant hole in one of the finest o-lines in the NFL. The Browns never came close to filling Zietler’s shoes in 2019, and Baker Mayfield spent most of the season running for his life. Consequently, OBJ put up mediocre numbers.

OBJ was hurt for most of the season, and said that he could not hit top gear. Olivier Vernon also had an injury-riddled lackluster season. So, in hindsight of course, it looks like the Browns acquired two over-the-hill players in exchange for four, count ’em!, FOUR! solid players. So, as of this writing, the OBJ trade is looking like one of the very worst in NFL history.

And it gets worse. Shorty after the trade, Bucky Brooks, in a prescient article, took OBJ to task for not participating in the Browns’ off-season “organized team activities” (OTAs). OBJ had a new offense to learn, but didn’t bother to show up for practice.

So, it was a multifaceted disaster: 1) The Browns made a terrible trade for OBJ. 2) OBJ’s celebrity presence amplified the reality distortion field around the Browns to a lethal level. 3) The Browns’ passing game was not broken, but they fixed it anyway. They fixed the hell out of it. 4) OBJ didn’t practice enough to develop a chemistry with his new quarterback.

But wait! There’s more! OBJ will be the subject of my next “red-flag” series for the 2020 season.

Note: the Browns later said that there were two trades, with one being a straight-up swap of Zeitler for Vernon. I don’t know why the Browns wanted to rewrite history, but here I went with the trade as originally announced and reported.

Watch Zeitler (#70) opening the hole for Nick Chubb’s franchise-record 92-yard touchdown run against the Falcons in November of 2018:

That’s what the Browns gave up for OBJ. But this wasn’t just any old 92-yard touchdown run. At the time, the Browns were 2-6-1, and suffering yet another abysmal season. But then went 5-2 to finish the season at 7-8-1. You could make a case that the hole Zeitler opened was the very beginning of that seven-game “Golden Age” of 2018. Not only did it establish Nick Chubb as truly something special, but it also demonstrated that the Browns’ o-line could spring him loose. No doubt that it gave the Browns a new-found confidence.

Baker Mayfield does not Step Up into the Pocket (Cleveland Browns Red Flag #2020-1)

Early in the 2019 season, retired OG Geoff Schwartz wrote an article about how Baker Mayfield was making life difficult for his o-line. One of the things Schwartz pointed out was that Baker was not stepping up into the pocket.

With the problem publicly identified by a credible observer, I was expecting Baker to fix it. But he did not. And he finished the season as one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL.

While it’s true that the Browns haven’t set foot on the practice field yet, I am worried that this problem is not being addressed. I have not heard Baker, coach Stefanski or OC Van Pelt even mention this issue. Even worse, I have not heard anybody in the sport media discussing this glaring flaw in Baker’s game.

I’m excited to watch first-round draft-pick Jedrick Wills Jr. pass-block for Baker, but I wonder if Wills knows that he has a QB who won’t be stepping up into the pocket? Can he adjust for such a thing? Because everybody is expecting Wills to make a meaningful contribution to Baker having a great season. Everybody is acting like it’s a done deal, but I don’t think it is.

So, that’s our first red flag. Somebody needs to teach Baker how to play his position, and there is no sign of that happening yet.