Now that Baker Mayfield is finally fixed, and throwing the ball with preternatural accuracy, Browns fans are literally ecstatic. But the big question looming over Cleveland is: will Baker stay fixed?
Don’t forget. Baker was fixed in 2018, and broken for all of 2019. Not even Kevin Stefanski could fix him, and started the 2020 season by demoting Baker to a “game manager” QB. It took an Act of God to remove the thorn (Odell Beckham, Jr.) from Baker’s paw to catalyze the astonishing transformation from Bungler Mayfield into Laser Mayfield.
But nobody on the Browns wants to admit that. All the players, coaches, and management continue to sing the praises of OBJ. After all, OBJ is not a bad guy. He simply does not gel with Baker.
But now there is hope. Look at what Baker said in a USA Today interview after the victory over the Giants:
“We’re not trying to force the ball to anybody. We are trusting our progressions and play calls. We’re taking what is there and keeping the chains moving.”
Baker was not asked about “forcing the ball” which is a reference to how he used to play his position with OBJ on the field. He brought the subject up himself. He has mentioned this before, but the fact that he brought it up himself, I think, is significant in that he now seems to be clear on what caused him to be such a terrible quarterback in 2019: a ball-hog, prima-donna, wide receiver who caused him to play his position wrong.
Contrast the quote above to what Baker said about OBJ after the Week 1 beating from the Ravens:
“I’ve got to be better giving him a chance on some of those things, the free play late in the game (on an offside penalty), just give him a chance. He’s a great player, so I’ve got to give him a chance.”
“Give him a chance” is not game-plan, an offensive scheme, or even a professional quality play-call. It was a simple indulgence of OBJ’s giant ego. I’m still amazed that Baker was allowed to think that way, and was never corrected by his coaches.
So, it’s good that Baker knows; that knowledge might help him to survive the suck when OBJ comes back. Because the Browns organization seems eager for his return. Here is what Browns radio announcer Nathan Zegura said on the December 21, 2020 episode of the Cleveland Browns Daily podcast (10:37):
“…not only do we not have Odell Beckham, Jr., we do not have a burner on this roster. We do not have a guy who runs 4.3 on this roster. We don’t have one. This offense thrives with one. You need to have one of those guys to be really high-end.”
What’s weird about this is that the Browns offense did not thrive until after their burner suffered a season-ending injury. Baker went on fire literally minutes after OBJ left the second game against the Bengals. Baker has been elite ever since that event.
It’s this mentality that terrifies me that OBJ will be brought back, instead of being traded, and Bakes will be instructed, or convinced by OBJ, to throw the ball to him every time he has man-coverage – just like they did throughout 2019 when they were the very worst QB/receiver duo in the league. And that will be the end of Baker’s reign as Football Jesus. The Browns will win one Super Bowl this year, then OBJ will plunge the team back into mediocrity in 2021.
And the Browns do have a burner. In fact, you could say that we have three of them. In the 40-yard dash, both KhaDarel Hodge (4.39) and Taywan Taylor (4.33) are faster than OBJ (4.43). And Donovan Peoples-Jones is only half an eye-blink slower than OBJ at 4.48 and actually catches the ball: 76% of targets versus 53% for OBJ. And he works quite a bit cheaper too.
Of course, Rashard Higgins (4.64) beats-out faster corners on a regular basis, as does Jarvis Landry (4.51). And super speed is not a requirement to be selected to the Pro Bowl. Just ask Jarvis who has been selected five times.
The Browns seem to think that they cannot win with Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins as their #1 & #2 receivers – even though that is exactly what they are doing! And even though all the stats say that the Browns are a far better team without OBJ, the allegedly “analytics organization” can’t wait to get him back in uniform. Perhaps the team wants to sing his praises in order to boost his trade-value, but I don’t think so. I think they really want him back on the field, time-travelling the Browns back to 2019.
So, the answer to the question up in the title is: no, Baker will not stay fixed. While the odds for a permanent fix have improved a bit, the Browns organization remains under the control of OBJ’s Svengali-like spell.
Note: OBJ disputes his combine time of 4.43, and claims that he is a “4.3 guy.” However, if you watch his touchdown run against the Cowboys (at the end of this video) you will see OBJ being caught from behind by #54. That was Jaylon Smith who runs a 4.44. It was about a 30-yard dash but it was a pretty good foot race. So, it’s plausible that DPJ is a third Browns receiver who is faster than OBJ.
Note: there is a new narrative being used to “explain” Baker’s transformation: running up to OBJ’s injury, Coaches Stefanski and Van Pelt had been working diligently with Baker to improve his skills. And during the Bengals game, all of those improvements suddenly blossomed into the phenomenal rebirth of Baker. And OBJ’s injury was just a coincidence. And if you believe that, may I suggest that you make an appointment to have your brain popped into the MRI machine at the nearest hospital? Because you just might have a tumor sprouting in your cerebral cortex.
Note: congratulations to the New Your Giants for giving the Browns a tough fight. For a awhile there, I was worried that Dexter Lawrence would snap in two the legs of our entire o-line. And to think that he could be on the Browns if they hadn’t been suckered into trading away his draft pick in the OBJ deal.