No, no it will not. When asked awhile back, Coach Stefanski said that chemistry between a receiver and his quarterback requires lots of “time on task” which means hundreds, maybe thousands of practice reps. And while OBJ is more than happy to take *all* the in-game reps from Baker, he doesn’t appear to be willing to put in the long hours of taking practice reps like Rashard Higgins did when Baker showed up in 2018.
Make no mistake: the chemistry between Baker & Hig was developed through hard work. While it looks like straight-up magic now, it is the result of the deliberate efforts of two humble, hardworking professional football players.
And there’s your trouble right there. OBJ is not humble. In fact, he is the very opposite of humble. The idea of doing hundreds of practice reps with Baker would simply never occur to him. Rather, he is more likely to think that Baker needs to up his game, and that is exactly what OBJ’s sycophants say.
But we know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Baker is not the problem. With OBJ on the field in 2020, Baker’s stats stunk. But with OBJ gone for the second half of the season, Baker was fucking stellar.
OBJ is out of excuses. There is no dastardly Freddie Kitchens to blame. Baker is bonafide elite. And according to his last hype video, OBJ has recovered from his surgery better than anybody ever, ever, ever. But will he show up at Baker’s passing camp in Austin?
What about it OBJ fanbois? Why isn’t OBJ taking reps with Baker to develop that Higgins-like chemistry?
Note: the market for a 30-something WR1 has been set by the Julio Jones trade. If the Browns could get a similar deal, they would be crazy not to take it.
Update: a few hours after I posted this on Tuesday afternoon, there was reporting that OBJ and Jarvis Landry were down in Austin at Camp Baker. While that is good news, it doesn’t seem like there would be enough time for Baker and OBJ to do any significant chemistry work since OBJ & Landry need to get back to Cleveland in time for Landry’s charity softball game on Saturday. Is OBJ just doing a cameo? Or is he working hard with Baker? We will have to wait for further reporting.
Update: on Thursday a video surfaced showing Baker throwing a pass to OBJ. So, that’s one. I’m sure they did more than that, but nobody is uploading video from Camp Baker, so the official rep count stands at 1, pending further reporting.
Last week, Odell Beckham, Jr. posted a hype video on Instagram demonstrating his progress in rehabbing his knee. He looks good, but keep in mind that while running and cutting are progress, we need to know if OBJ is ready to take contact. Could his knee survive an assassination attempt by “Dirty as Fuck” Daniel Sorensen of the Kansas City Cheats, who the Browns will be facing right out of the chute in Week 1? You do remember the illegal hit on Rashard Higgins in the playoffs, right?
I trust that the Browns won’t put OBJ out there until he is completely ready, but that may take longer than the hype videos would have you believe.
OBJ began his video with a scene from Scarface where Tony Montana (Al Pacino) says: “You need people like me.” But if the 2020 season proved anything, it is that the Browns don’t need Odell. In fact, having OBJ out there might be a letdown because, down the stretch, and deep into the playoffs, fans got used to Baker throwing 40-yard laser beams to Rashard Higgins seemingly at will.
Why do you think Sorensen tried to kill Rashard?
Because that was the only way to stop him!
Now, you might think that since OBJ is more talented than Higgins that OBJ will be able to outproduce Higgins in the improved offense with the improved QB, but don’t be so sure. OBJ cannot match Higgins’ chemistry with Baker, and if the Browns decide to take that chemistry off the field, once again, don’t be surprised if the offense regresses a bit. Trading chemistry for celebrity? Not a good deal.
However, coach O’Shea is on the case, and I trust that the Browns will use OBJ better than ever this year. That is one of the keys to the Browns season: will OBJ take the coaching?
The other key is: will Baker Mayfield allow OBJ to pull him back down to non-professional play. Last week, we had some excellent commentary on this subject from Cleveland sports radio announcer, Garrett Bush:
“…Baker Mayfield; has he gotten to the point where his progression is: “I’m the man. I’ll throw you the ball when I see you open. I’m not forcing the ball to nobody else. I’m the dude in this offense, and you guys can fill in wherever you fill in. I don’t care what the name looks like, I’m going to throw it to who I want to throw to.” If he’s that guy, you would have no problems bringing him in (Julio Jones). Who cares? Baker would figure it out like Tom Brady does. But if you don’t think he’s that guy, just let Julio hang out there for a little bit…As your franchise quarterback, if you want $40 million, the top-of-the-food-chain guys, you never hear that about. You are never going to hear: Well, Patrick Mahomes was pressing because he thought he had to throw to Travis Kelce. NO! Aaron Rodgers is never pressed. He got Davonte Adams out there. Have you ever heard somebody say that Aaron Rodgers was scared because he didn’t get him [the ball] enough? NO! The top dudes is like listen…I’m Tom Brady, y’all gonna get in where you fit in. That is where you need Baker to be. When he figures that out, you don’t gotta worry about the receiver ever being the problem. The receiver is never going to be the problem because he’s already like listen: This is me. This is my show, and it’s understood how it goes.”
Exactly. However, in every other situation, Baker *is* The Man with full control of his receivers. It’s only when OBJ steps onto the field that Baker turns to mush and lets OBJ dictate the offense. Off the field, OBJ’s celebrity trumps Baker’s celebrity, but Baker can’t allow that on the field. He has to look at OBJ as just another ingredient that he is using to bake (ha, ha) a masterpiece. Heretofore, Baker has been using way too much of that OBJ salt.
OBJ hasn’t said anything like this about the Browns, but he probably still thinks this way. This is one of the things he said after being traded by the Giants to the Browns in 2019:
“I felt disrespected, because I felt like I was a main reason at keeping that brand alive. They were getting prime-time games, still, as a 5-and-11 team. Why? Because people want to see the show. You want to see me play. That’s just real rap.”
Odell thinks more like a circus performer than a football player. He thinks the fans want to see him catch balls one-handed, on every play. The Browns coaching staff, and Baker, need to disabuse him of that mindset because we have hard evidence that the OBJ Flying Circus Offense does…not…work.
One could imagine OBJ returning to his first huddle in 2021: “Okay Baker, I’m here. Time to start the show. Forget the play-call, just throw me the ball, and I will work my magic that everybody has come here to see.” If Baker says: “Okay, boss” in this hypothetical scenario, his career as a starting QB in the NFL will begin to rapidly disintegrate. And the coaches might want to see how Case Keenum handles OBJ.
I’m not saying this will be easy for Baker. After all, Baker loves OBJ, like all of the other players. OBJ is, by all accounts, a great teammate. Relegating OBJ to a very specific role, as O’Shea is doing might not take.
And finally, I don’t want to put all the blame on Baker because he was swept up in the OBJ hype-wave like everybody else. For example, back in 2019, after Baker threw a pass (of about 20 yards) to OBJ, Tony Romo, who was announcing the game said:
“This is what you got to do. If you’re Baker Mayfield, just give 13 a chance.”
That was during the Denver game in 2019. (See the 7:38 mark of this video.) The Browns were 2-5 at the time, and went to 2-6 after losing to the Broncos. I don’t know if Romo invented the “give him a chance” mantra, but Baker repeated it after the Week 1 loss to the Ravens in 2020. See my post here.
So, starting from the jump when OBJ joined the Browns, everybody thought that it was a good idea to just give 13 a chance. Even a former Dallas QB, Tony Romo, thought it was a good idea. But now we know for sure that such a one-dimensional offensive scheme just doesn’t work. Hopefully, the success that Baker had without OBJ in 2020 will finally allow him to see OBJ in a different light, and enable him to break free of OBJ’s mind control.
Make no mistake, this is the central drama for the Browns’ 2021 season, and for Baker’s career.
Footnote: Garrett Bush made the comments above at the 1:42:57 mark of Brad Ward’s “All Eyez on Cleveland” podcast in the episode titled “Projecting the Browns in 2021 with Garrett Bush of 92.3 The Fan.” YouTube link here. Ward’s podcast is just about the only place where you can hear objective OBJ commentary.
Thank the sweet baby Jesus! Forget the Jadeveon Clowney signing! Forget the 2021 draft class! Forget the return of Grant & Greedy! The Browns have done something far more momentous: they have reined-in Odell Beckham, Jr.!
OBJ, who is notorious for lacking chemistry with Baker Mayfield, has been taken to the woodshed by Browns receivers coach, Chad O’Shea, who was recently a guest on an official Browns podcast. When asked by a happy-talking corporate shill just how giddy he was to have OBJ back from injury, O’Shea said, in a stern tone:
“I think the one thing that’s been great for him to see is we’ve gone through a lot of the film this off-season already with Odell and showed him the things that he can be a part of offensively for us and be a productive player, and be a big part of our offense that we now have evidence of on film that we didn’t have last year…hey, this is where you’re going to be, this is how you’re going to run the route, and this is how you’re going to win the route. That’s been something that’s been very good for him, spending time the last several weeks, to be able to go through that process and to envision himself in how he can be a big part of this offense.”
Sounds to me like OBJ has been assigned a very specific role, don’t you agree? No more “creative” route-running, no more using his superstar-powered charisma to tilt the field in his favor. From here on out, OBJ will be required to play to a professional standard. And to accept being told “how you’re going to run the route.”
At least that’s the plan. But will O’Shea be able to enforce it when the season begins? Imagine OBJ defiantly running his own route, catching a ball from Baker, and running it in for a touchdown. Will O’Shea reprimand him? Will he bench him? Or will OBJ just go back to doing how he pleases?
We will see. But if O’Shea can pull this off, the Browns will win the Super Bowl, and O’Shea should win the Assistant Coach of the Year Award.
Keep in mind that the metric is not how well OBJ does. It’s how well Baker does. The whole reason why you want OBJ restricted to a well-defined role is so that he doesn’t distract Baker. Of course, Baker needs to do his part too. He needs to read the defense, and go through his progressions regardless of how insistent OBJ is that he get the ball.
Ideally, this problem would be solved by trading OBJ. But if your knucklehead owner insists on inflicting OBJ on the Browns, then this is the best you can hope for.
Note: Maybe this is why OBJ shut down his Instagram. There’s no way in hell he wouldn’t bristle at being micromanaged like this. Maybe the shutdown is just his way of showing displeasure for not being treated like God’s gift to football. A little passive/aggressive ploy to deprive fans, and maybe even the team, of his rehab videos. Fine with me. As far as I’m concerned, Rashard Higgins was the better receiver in 2020 anyway.
Baker Mayfield has zero on-field chemistry with Odell Beckham, Jr. Never had it; never will. Chemistry can’t be built with a “no practice” guy like OBJ. Despite that, and according to everybody on the Browns, including Baker, OBJ will be starting for the Browns again this fall, kicking Rashard Higgins right back to the curb, no doubt.
In other words, a formula that got the Browns deep into the playoffs will be scrapped in favor of one that is statistically dogshit. Baker and OBJ were the worst QB/WR combo in 2019. They were terrible in the beginning of 2020 too. In the second half of 2020, Higgins replaced OBJ, and he and Baker played at an elite level for the rest of the season.
Obviously, we can’t have that…
…because the Browns are not a football team; but rather an OBJ cult of personality.
It is statistically irrefutable that the Browns are better without OBJ. And yet everybody is parading around acting like OBJ’s return is going to be a big boost for the Browns. That’s just plain crazy. But don’t take my word for it; it was ESPN who dropped the statistical nuke on OBJ.
Have you noticed that OBJ’s defenders never cite stats when they defend OBJ? That’s because OBJ’s stats with the Browns stink. What they do say is that ESPN’s work is a mere narrative; just a yarn spun from whole cloth by OBJ haters. Even Baker does that. Here’s what he said in a recent interview:
“The narrative can be what it is, but we’re looking forward to getting back to work together.”
Note to Baker: it’s not a narrative; it’s cold, hard stats. You and OBJ are a terrible duo. In fact, I would go so far as to speculate that if OBJ had stayed healthy in 2020, and Hig stayed on the bench, instead of picking up your fifth-year option, the team would have given up on you and traded you away. You, my friend, were saved by fate. This year, you have a chance to take matters into your own hands by demanding that Higgins be on the field instead of being a healthy scratch. Landry, Higgins, Njoku, that’s where your bread is buttered.
Sadly, Baker himself is a member of the OBJ cult and is doomed to regress this year. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Speaking of narratives, Baker spouts the official team narrative that it was the Bye Week “self scout” that took the offense to a higher level. But this narrative is child’s play to debunk. The Bye Week was Week 9, and Baker had his franchise-record 22-pass-completion streak in Week 7, only twelve minutes after OBJ left the game. Not a lot of time for a sideline self-scout in there, right? Baker went from being a mediocrity to being elite mere minutes after OBJ was out of his hair. For more details, see what I wrote here.
Can the Browns still win the Super Bowl with OBJ on the field? Probably not. The defense is poised to be greatly improved. And Coach Stefanski can go back to a more strict Kubiak-Shanahan implementation on offense, release the Two-Headed Monster, and minimize the poor play of Baker & OBJ. But winning the Super Bowl without an elite QB is just not a thing.
Note: I am a huge Baker fan, and it was fantastic watching him play so well last season, post-OBJ. And it will be heartbreaking to watch him go back to forcing ball-after-ball to OBJ again with half the balls going uncaught. But on the bright side, that will force the Browns to lean more on Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt who are just as much fun to watch. It will be a replay of Weeks 1-6 of the 2020 season, but with a much better defense. If you don’t get your hopes up about a Super Bowl, you should enjoy the season.
Odell Beckham, Jr. may not be a coach, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t call the shots. He’s like a pretty girl who just seems to always get her way, despite not having any official power. When OBJ is on the field, there is always a danger that he will grab the steering wheel and run the Browns right into a fucking tree.
And if you look at his stats from the 22 games he has played with the Browns, he has done exactly that. When OBJ is on the field, Baker’s passer rating drops through the floor boards. When OBJ is not on the field, Baker plays at an elite level.
The reason for this is that the Browns are an excellent football team – when OBJ is injured. But when OBJ is on the field, the Browns turn into a cult of personality solely dedicated to aggrandizing OBJ’s ego. In other words, they stop playing professional quality football, and devolve into something I call the OBJ Flying Circus Offense (OBJ-FCO).
Make no mistake, the cult knows exactly what goes wrong when OBJ is in the lineup, but that doesn’t stop them from eating it up with a spoon. Perhaps the most rabid OBJ thrall is Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Here she is fingering the exact problem (see footnote #1):
“Odell likes to get open however he can. Baker likes a precise route run.”
Elsewhere, Cabot praises this as OBJ’s creativity. But consider what happens when Baker has no idea what the fuck OBJ is going to do: he has to stop reading the defense and read OBJ. He literally has to stop looking at his other receivers, and lock onto OBJ, otherwise he will miss the moment when OBJ gets open. This throws off the entire offense: the lineman don’t know how quick Baker will be getting the ball out, the other receivers don’t know where OBJ is going to be so that they can block for him, etc. And when OBJ gets open, and Baker doesn’t see him, it looks like Baker is the one who stinks.
So, the central principle of the OBJ-FCO is that the QB reads OBJ, not the defense.
And, as you might imagine, that is not how professional football is played. Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins do just the opposite: they run precise routes and are always at their designated location when the laser beam from Baker materializes. For their efforts, they are derided by the cult as mere technicians.
The OBJ-FCO was so bad in 2019 that Kevin Stefanski was brought in to muzzle both OBJ and Baker with a run-oriented offensive scheme. At the time, it was not known who the real problem was. So, Stefanski just turned the ball over to Nick Chub, Kareem Hunt, Wyatt Teller, etc. and the Browns did just fine.
Fast forward to the present day, and the cult is in a frenzy over OBJ returning from rehab. They actually believe that OBJ will make the Browns better, despite there being zero statistical evidence of him ever doing any such thing. Here is Mary Kay Cabot yearning for the OBJ-FCO (footnote #2):
“If you do keep Odell on the team, you really do have to make sure, like they did in the Dallas game…they have to make sure that you give him plenty to do, plenty to do early on. You’ve got to let him throw the ball, you got to let him run reverses, you got to let him catch the ball from Jarvis, you’ve got to let him find a way somehow to really showcase all of his talents and his abilities.”
In other words, give the ball to OBJ on every play. Ironically, this comment was made right after a discussion of how OBJ’s celebrity gets inside of Baker’s head and screws him up! They know that OBJ is football poison! And they still drink the Kool-Aid!
But Cabot goes even further: she wants the team to negotiate with OBJ in what his role will be (footnote #3):
“One of the things I would look seriously into is: what does he want? What does he want? You have to sit down with him, and with his representatives, and you have to see if he is willing to continue to pour his heart and sole into being here, and if he wants to make a go of it here, and if he feels like he and Baker are going to be a great match together…If he really sees that he can be an integral part of this offense, and that he can shine and help this team win, and be used in so many different ways; throw the ball, run the ball, and some of the other things we’ve seen him do, then I think that goes on the plus side of the ledger. Let me stay here and show you guys what I think I can do in this offense.”
Can you imagine? The Browns ran deep into the playoffs without OBJ and now we are going to have OBJ dictate the offensive scheme? Are you fucking insane?
Regardless of talent, you just can’t give the ball to any player on every down because that makes the offense too predictable. The incredible parity produced by the NFL neutralizes talent. The only way to win is to fool the other team. The NFL game is a game of deception, and this is the second fatal flaw of the OBJ-FCO; it is predictable. What did Baker do as soon as OBJ was injured during the Bengals game? He started spreading the ball around, and it worked like magic.
Also, in case you didn’t notice, Coach Stefanski got more conservative with his play-calling as the season went on, and it was looking more-and-more like the Browns had a real shot at making the playoffs. His tolerance for OBJ might have even decreased since he installed the Kubiak-Shanahan system at the beginning of the 2020 season. And, if you recall, that move was widely understood as a demotion of OBJ’s role.
Nevertheless, former Rams running back Doc Holliday has the correct solution for handling OBJ (footnote #4):
“Y’all have some chemistry going on. I would think the best thing y’all can do; y’all holding onto OBJ…don’t let him come back into the offense forcing things, forcing him the ball. Let him come back and play a role because offensively y’all got some chemistry going on…You have a superstar like OBJ with a superstar mentality. Just don’t let him come back trying to force things, and force them to give him the ball. Make him come in and play within the parameters of the offense.”
I sure hope the Browns are able to do that. But what I want to know is, given the analytics that we now posses, why is OBJ even on the team? The fact that he hasn’t been shipped off is a blatant case of football malpractice, and the people of Cleveland should file a class action lawsuit against the Haslams. Why not just trade OBJ for some draft capital, bring in another top-flight edge rusher, and win the Super Bowl? It really would be that easy.
Note: To see the statistical evidence against OBJ, scroll down to the “The Statistical Evidence of the OBJ Albatross” section on my “Trade Away OBJ” page.
Footnote #4: Doc Holliday is a former Rams running back, and co-host of the “Bleav in Rams” podcast. Holliday said the words above near the 27:50 mark of Brad Ward’s “All Eyez on Cleveland” podcast during the March 17, 2021 episode titled “Browns FA Profile: Star Safety John Johnson III featuring Doc Holliday.” YouTube link here.
After Rashard Higgins was resigned with the Browns two weeks ago, the team’s hype train took on a new mantra: “running it back on offense” and “keeping the band together.” And it is remarkable that the 2021 Browns offense will consist of virtually all the same players and coaches.
However, in the real world, the Brown’s offense is poised for collapse. That offense that took the Browns deep into the playoffs did not include Odell Beckham, Jr. While OBJ was rehabbing his knee, Baker was throwing balls to Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and David Njoku. That is, players with which Baker has developed chemistry since he joined the team in 2018.
OBJ, on the other hand, is infamous for not having chemistry with Baker. And the team appears to be doing nothing whatsoever to remedy that situation. Can one player blow up an entire offense? Yes, of course. You can’t make the playoffs without a top-notch QB, and OBJ has been proven analytically to discombobulate Baker to the point of making him the very worst QB in the league. Because of this, Baker and the Browns offense are likely to regress just like they did in 2019 because the cause of that regression will be waltzing right back onto the team!
The Kansas City Scumbags had to resort to playing dirty to stop the Baker-to-Higgins juggernaut. Hang your head in shame Kansas Shitty! But fans looking for a replay of that QB-WR magic are likely to be disappointed. Looking back on the season, it seems like Rashard Higgins filled OBJ’s shoes after OBJ’s injury. But that’s not really what happened.
Hig only got to play because three receivers went down with injuries, not just one. Don’t forget that the “Coach of the Year” had Hig so far down the depth chart that he wasn’t even allowed to wear the uniform for three games.
Hig only got to play because JoJo Natson tore his ACL in Game 3, and KhaDarel Hodge injured his hamstring warming up for the Dallas game. So, when OBJ went down, Hig was practically the only guy left. If you think that the “Coach of the Year” brilliantly replaced OBJ with Hig, you are sadly mistaken. The “Coach of the Year” didn’t have a fucking clue.
The only reason why Hig is even on the team is because he is a fan favorite. The team has never put any value on his legendary chemistry with Baker, nor any other chemistry. In fact, they stomp on chemistry. Instead of letting Higgins play, they brought in OBJ and paid him big bucks to put up lame numbers. Instead of letting Njoku play, they brought in Austin Hooper and paid him big bucks for lackluster numbers. This is why I call the Browns a bullshit franchise: they are totally pissing away their Super Bowl window by denying the importance of chemistry between their franchise quarterback and his pass-catchers.
The Browns obviously believe that players are cookie-cutter cogs in the machine, that can easily be replaced with other cogs. And that chemistry has no value. Why anybody would hold this idiotic view is beyond me. But if OBJ is brought back, so will Bad Baker, and if you think you can make the playoffs with Bad Baker, you have failed the IQ test.
Note: at least Austin Hooper tries to improve his chemistry with Baker. So, there is hope that he will elevate in 2021, while there is no hope for OBJ at this point. Remedying OBJ’s lack of chemistry with Baker is not even a topic of conversation, let alone the subject of an actual project.
Note: if the Browns make Landry, Higgins, and DPJ their top receivers, and trade OBJ for a top-notch edge rusher, then the Browns win the Super Bowl and put Tom Brady out to pasture.
But he wasn’t specific. I suppose that he meant that he was motivated to finish rehabbing and get back on the field. However, if he is in need of something specific, I have a couple of suggestions.
First, maybe OBJ could do some practice reps with Baker to finally build that chemistry that has eluded the duo. I’m thinking they should do hundreds of reps during this off-season.
What about it, OBJ? I’m sure that Baker would be game. What about you? Or are you Too Perfect to Practice (to coin a phrase)? Maybe you could get some tips from Rashard Higgins.
Speaking of which, maybe you could set some goals to exceed the numbers that Hig put up last year. For example, “Yards per Catch” – Hig was 8th best in the NFL with 16.2, while you only racked up 13.9. And there are several more; see my list here.
Hint: you can’t beat Hig without the chemistry.
Note to Browns fans: if OBJ did develop chemistry with Baker, the Browns would win the Super Bowl, easily. But don’t hold your breath. In fact, you should do just the opposite and gird your loins for another 2019-style regression as the same old OBJ does the same old shit, and drags Baker back down to the bottom of the QB rankings.
Odell Beckham, Jr. has failed to thrive on the Cleveland Browns. Some blame his lackluster 2019 season on a bad head coach, and a nagging injury. But what about the first 6 games of 2020 when he was healthy, and the Browns had the Coach of the Year? OBJ still managed to disappoint, catching only 53.5% of his targets.
This didn’t happen at his previous team, the New York Giants. So, what was the difference between those two situations?
OBJ was drafted onto a team with a veteran quarterback, Eli Manning, and a veteran head coach, Tom Coughlin. That duo had two Super Bowl victories under their belts, and I suspect that they did not allow OBJ to seize control of their offense.
Contrast that to Cleveland. Freddie Kitchens was a rookie head coach when he was given custody of OBJ. In 2020, Kitchens was replaced by another rookie head coach, Kevin Stefanski. Not only that, but the Browns also brought in a rookie general manager, Andrew Berry.
Baker Mayfield was only in his second year as the Browns’ QB when he was teamed-up with OBJ. Baker, of course, is a celebrity himself, but not of OBJ’s magnitude.
And so, OBJ arrived into an easily-manipulable situation whereupon he bent the offense to his will, and got exactly what he wanted: pass after pass from Baker, even when it wasn’t part of the play-call, or called for by Baker’s read of the defense.
All of those low-odds throws to OBJ sank Baker. He went from being a rookie sensation to being the worst QB in the NFL. And OBJ didn’t do so hot either. After all, he is not an offensive coordinator, and “Just Throw Me the Ball” is not a real scheme.
So, in order to thrive, OBJ needs to be saved from himself. He needs sufficiently strong leadership to keep him in line. Unfortunately, the Browns just don’t have that now.
Could a seasoned veteran like Tom Brady get better production out of OBJ? Probably. So, that’s the solution for OBJ: get himself traded to a team with proper adult supervision.
But what if OBJ likes the leadership vacuum at Cleveland? What if he likes being able always get his way? What if he won’t go away? If that’s the case, then Coach Stefanski and Baker will have to sack-the-fuck-up already and get OBJ under control. Otherwise, it will be 2019 all over again with Baker regressing sharply.
Note: Baker’s back-up, Case Keenum, is 33 years-old, and has more playing experience than Baker. It would be interesting to see if he could perform better with OBJ on the field than Baker can.
Note: If it were me, I would just start Rashard Higgins and be done with it. With Higgins, you are guaranteed nothing but the highest quality professional play.
During the Browns playoff game versus the Chiefs, Tony Romo said:
“Rashard Higgins is gifted in this offense.”
That’s right: gifted. Have a listen:
Higgins is Gifted
Let’s look at some stats. Keep in mind that during 2020 Odell Beckham, Jr. missed ten games due to injury. However, since Hig was benched much of the time, the two players had a similar number of targets: 43 for OBJ, and 52 for Hig. You might be thinking that Hig just had a good year. But Hig actually beats out OBJ on a number of career stats too.
So, OBJ is paid 24.7 times more per-catch than Hig. Of course, Hig will win any “cost per” comparison with OBJ because the Browns lavish money on OBJ and Hig is paid like a Chinese slave child at the iPhone factory. For 2020, Hig was paid $910,000 while OBJ was paid $14,000,000. Of course, OBJ was injured for much of the season, so let’s adjust for that.
OBJ is paid $14 million to play 16 games, which is $875,000 per game. He was injured very early during Game 7, so let’s say he played 6 games. So, 6 * 875,000 = $5,250,000. Dividing that by 23 catches comes to $228,261 per catch. That’s better, but not exactly a bargain.
However, Hig didn’t play every game either. He wasn’t injured, he was just kicked to the curb by “The Coach of the Year.” So, let’s adjust his number too. Hig is paid $910,000 to play 16 games, which is $56,875 per game. Hig only played in 12 regular season games, so for those games, he was paid $682,500. Dividing by 37 catches comes to $18,446 per catch.
If we divide these adjusted numbers, we get OBJ being paid 12.37 times more per-catch than Hig. Another way to think of it is that you could have 12 Higgins for the price of one OBJ. Obviously, the Browns should clone Hig and staff their entire receiving corp with them.
It’s not a huge difference, but considering the hype around OBJ, it’s rather surprising, no? The fact is that OBJ is very easy to tackle, and is one of the very worst YAC guys in the NFL. See the chart here.
Even more, OBJ’s percentage has dropped since he joined the Browns. With the Giants, OBJ caught 62.7% of targets. With the Browns, he has only caught 55.1%. And it’s not Baker’s fault either because he has slightly better career stats than OBJ’s QB on the Giants, Eli Manning.
11) Career Yards per Catch
Higgins = 14.3
Beckham = 14.0
12) Career Drop Percentage
Higgins = 4.7%
Beckham = 9.2%
Note to OBJ: maybe try two hands?
Over his career, Higgins has less than one-quarter the volume that OBJ has. Would Hig be able to keep his lead over Beckham on these career metrics if HIg got more volume? Maybe. As shown above, in 2020, Hig averaged 16.2 yards on 37 catches. That’s an average that OBJ has never even approached. The best OBJ did was in 2015 when he averaged 15.1.
If OBJ’s sycophants in the sports media read this, they might reply: “Yes, but OBJ single-handedly won the Dallas game.” But here is Higgins “single-handedly” defeating the Buffalo Bills in 2019:
Of course, the 2019 Buffalo Bills (10-6) were a much better team than the 2020 Dallas Cowboys (6-10). OBJ beat up on a hapless Dallas defense that ranked #23 in the league. Meanwhile, Higgins out-smarted the Bills’ elite defense that ranked at #4 for the 2019 season.
I might also add that by discombobulating Baker in 2019, OBJ may have cost the Browns a Super Bowl, as he will likely do again during the 2021 season.
Hig was with the Browns for two years before Baker arrived. Hig’s stats jumped when Baker joined the team. Baker’s stats jump on those rare occasions when Hig is allowed to play. The two together are magic. If it were me, I’d start Higgins over OBJ without even thinking about it. But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. Nobody on the Browns has the balls to fly in the face of OBJ’s celebrity, and absorb the blow-back from such a decision.
Note: I don’t have a PFF account or a Football Outsiders account, so any of their numbers cited here are from authors who do have access.
Note: As I was writing this, John Middlekauff weighed-in on OBJ during his “3 and Out” podcast (March 9, 2021 – 54:10). One of his listeners asked him how much the Browns could get in a trade for OBJ, and Middlekauff responded:
“I think, for OBJ, with his contract, probably get a third-rounder. Coming off an ACL, he hasn’t been that productive, even though he did show signs of greatness last year…Personally, I used to love Odell Beckham, Jr., coming off an ACL, I’d probably be willing to trade a fourth-round pick. A little like Randy Moss at the Raiders. Maybe I get a bounce-back year or two from him, but I’d be pretty leery right now.”
Note: thanks to ad-injection, it is now impossible to cite podcast times. So, while my podcast has this quote at the 54:10 mark, yours may have it earlier or later.
After Baker Mayfield’s amazing transformation became apparent in 2020, people started talking about the coaching miracle that occurred during the bye week. I don’t know who started this myth, but the hard truth is that Baker’s transformation actually began during the Bengals game in Week 7, mere minutes after Odell Beckham, Jr. was injured.
To review, we had:
Week 7 – vs. Bengals
Week 8 – vs. Raiders
Week 9 – bye
Note: Baker threw 4 incomplete passes between the OBJ injury and the Landry catch.
So, 12 minutes and 24 seconds after OBJ left the game, Baker began his franchise-record pass-completion streak, and his amazing, and lasting, transformation into an elite QB.
Now, if you believe what happened during those mere minutes was a miraculous display of coaching prowess, please tell me what Coach Stefanski told Baker there on the sideline. Something like this, perhaps:
Stefanski: Baker, you gotta complete more passes.
Baker: Sure thing coach!
No. That did not happen. Rather, what we saw was a sleeping giant awakening. Freed from his mental cage, Baker spread his wings like one of those dragons on Game of Thrones. The mental cage was the reality-distortion field generated by OBJ’s celebrity. Once that cage came down, and the pressure to feed OBJ was off, the Browns’ offense transitioned from an ego-driven, throw-it-to-OBJ scheme to a professional Kubiak-Shanahan scheme operated by an elite QB.
And it showed. Big time.
Some people claim that it was just a coincidence. Those people are not bright. According to NFL NextGen Stats, the odds against Mayfield completing 22 straight passes were 19,062 to 1.
What we saw may have been the most amazing transformation in NFL history. So, when you adhere to the Bye-Week Myth, you are desecrating that event. And covering up the truth of what actually happened. A truth that can deliver a Super Bowl to long-suffering Browns fans if it is honored.
As of now, Coaches Stefanski, O’Shea, and Van Pelt are all basking in the glory of their elite QB, and not making a peep about OBJ. But what if they bring OBJ back, and then Baker regresses again, just like in 2019? Who will get the blame?
Certainly not OBJ. Baker will get a lot of criticism. But it is more likely that people will do the logical thing: ask the coaches to administer another self-scouting exercise to Baker. After all, they fixed Baker in 2020, why don’t they just fix him again in 2021?
Do you see the problem now? If the coaches fail to fix Baker again, their heads may be on the chopping block.
Coach Stefanski is not one to hog all the credit for his players’ success. He is wisely humble. However, if he lets the Bye-Week Myth stand, then he is tacitly endorsing it.
Of course, the coaching staff may have their hands tied by an OBJ supporter higher-up the organization. If Andrew Berry, Paul DePodesta, or the Haslams insist on keeping OBJ, then there is nothing the coaching staff can do other than pray that somehow Baker and OBJ finally develop chemistry this summer. But with OBJ rehabbing, that is very unlikely.
And so, Coach Stefanski should be preparing to go back to his original strategy of featuring Nick Chubb and Wyatt Teller over Baker & OBJ. It may be his only way to survive at this bullshit franchise.
After suffering through 22 games of hideous QB/WR performance from Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham, Jr. during 2019 and 2020, we finally know exactly what the problem was: Baker felt pressure to get the ball to Odell regardless of what the play-call was or what the defense was doing or whether or not OBJ was even open. He was pressured to abandon the playbook, the scheme, and professional quality quarterbacking in general. For 22 games, the Browns practically operated with a scheme called “throw it to OBJ.”
Mary Kay Cabot who writes for Cleveland.com referred to this phenomena as the “ghost of Odell,” which is an apt description. However, she thinks the ghost has been exorcised. From this podcast (11:40):
“I don’t think he’s going to have the ghost of Odell reigning over him saying, my god, I’ve got to get the football to Odell Beckham, Jr.”
Cabot thinks that the success Baker had during 2020, while OBJ was sidelined, has built up his confidence to a level where he could resist the pressure to get the ball to OBJ. And that Baker can just sail right into the 2021 season ghost-free.
But we have no evidence that the ghost has been exorcised, and it is dangerous to think that it has. This is a powerful ghost that brought the development of the Browns’ franchise quarterback to a grinding halt for 22 games. I don’t know about you, but I sure as fuck did not enjoy that period of Browns history, and definitely don’t want to see it repeated.
But the ghost doesn’t just draw power from OBJ. The ghost is also energized by the players, coaches, management, ownership, sports media, fans, and probably Baker himself. Just assuming that it will not come back is an act of pure folly.
The fact is that feeding a ball-hog, regardless of how talented he is, is not something that can work in the NFL. The Browns have rather solid proof of that. And building a team around a WR instead of the QB is simply not done in the NFL. But that’s what you contribute to when you join the OBJ cult.
It’s important to remember that OBJ does not want Baker to read the defense! He does not want Baker to go through his progressions. And Baker will have pressure to comply; to “get the ball into the hands of the play-makers” which is code for “shut up and throw the damn ball to OBJ already.”
A player like OBJ is the very last type of player you would acquire for the run-oriented, spread-the-ball-around Kubiak-Shanahan offense that Coach Stefanski runs. Stefanski’s system calls for selfless players who know that no single player can be the main focus. So, why is OBJ still on the team? Because the ghost has not been exorcised.
Note to podcasters: gushing over OBJ is not helping the Browns win games. That is your goal, is it not? Because you can’t have both. The New York Giants were not a winning team with OBJ on the squad (31-49). And neither were the Browns during OBJ’s 22 games in Cleveland (10-12). Turns out, ego-aggrandizement is not an effective offensive scheme for an NFL team.
As we speak, legions of mind-controlled thralls are fighting a desperate rearguard action to protect his majesty, Odell Beckham, Jr. from the widespread knowledge of his horrific stats that he has registered during his 22 games with the Browns. This zombie army has deployed a bioweapon that has infected nearly all Browns reporters with the most inane meme of all: speed.
Of course, speed is a valuable attribute for a receiver to have, but the fact is that defensive backs are plenty speedy themselves. For example, Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (4.32) is faster than every receiver on the Browns except for Marvin Hall (4.28). But I would bet that Ward will have no trouble covering Hall during practice this summer.
Remember Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi (4.38)? He couldn’t make the team despite being faster than OBJ (4.43). As it happens, being a receiver in the NFL requires quite a lot more skills than just running fast in a straight line – skills that take years of hard work to develop.
And now look what Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com just wrote:
“Trading Beckham could leave Landry and Higgins as your top two, but where does the speed come from?”
Answer: Who cares? We see Landry and Higgins burn faster DBs all the time. And they have been doing that all their lives. Did you know that Jarvis is slower than all four Browns tight-ends? (See my speed page here.) Did you know that Jarvis ran the slowest 40-yard dash time (4.77) among receivers at the 2014 NFL Combine? What happened next?
Five Pro Bowl invitations.
By contrast, his majesty, OBJ, has only made three trips to the Pro Bowl. (Note: both Landry and OBJ entered the NFL in 2014.)
Here’s another interesting stat: OBJ is known as a very dangerous threat after catching the ball, but that alleged slow-poke, Rashard Higgins actually has a better YAC (yards after catch). For the 2020 season, Hig ran for 77 yards after catching 37 balls, which is an average of 2.08 yards. OBJ ran for 47 yards after 23 catches, which averages out to 2.04 yards. It’s not a huge difference, but considering the hype around OBJ, it’s rather surprising, no?
Labbe also wrote:
“Beckham, Landry and Peoples-Jones makes sense as a top three, but it likely means there aren’t many targets for a player like Higgins…”
Can you imagine? Labbe is benching Hig after he was instrumental in helping the Browns win their first playoff game in 26 years! Ridiculous! But that isn’t all that the Browns did with Landry & Hig as their #1 & #2 WRs. The Browns also defeated the Steelers at Heinz Field for the first time since 2003. They beat the Steelers again a week later in the first round of the playoffs. They made the Steelers cry. And now it looks like the Browns cracked the very foundation of the franchise as Ben Roethlisberger and GM Kevin Colbert butt heads in public.
And so, if your brain has been mostly eaten by a mind virus, get a Crayon and scribble this on your walls: “If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it.” That will help you prevent embarrassing yourself. And no, the Browns playoff-caliber offense did not require OBJ’s services. Any non-brainwashed, objective individual can see that OBJ should be traded, and the returning resources should be put at the disposal of DC Joe Woods. In fact, that might be the only path to the Super Bowl for the Browns. The NFL is rather competitive, and wasting resources in order to showcase a celebrity prima-donna is not going to get it done.
It looks like the fanbois have figured out that OBJ is in danger of being traded, and they have begun to say crazy things. The Browns didn’t need OBJ in the back half of the 2020 season, and it is now obvious that OBJ’s huge salary can be better deployed to acquiring much-needed defensive players.
“The biggest position-in-need offensively, this off-season…to me, it’s not a position, it’s an asset. And it’s the asset of speed. I think the only thing we don’t have offensively is, holy heck that dude runs 4.28!”
This is hilarious because the Browns actually have a speedster who runs EXACTLY 4.28. His name is Marvin Hall. The Browns signed him on December 7, 2020. He played in the game against the Jets, had two targets, and caught one 12-yard pass from Baker. You can watch Hall’s highlights reel here.
So, there’s your speedster. Happy now? Of course, all this nonsense about “speed” is just disguised OBJ fanboi-ism. “Speed” is now a code-word that means “bring back OBJ.” Now, watch how fast it goes out the window. Bishop went on to say (at 58:14):
“I think that David Njoku has a real future in this offense. And speed can be defined in a lot of different ways. What you basically want is someone to stretch the field and I think David can be that.”
Can you imagine? A tight-end with 4.64 speed “stretching the field?” So, it’s not actually about speed, now is it? What this looks like is a way to save OBJ by throwing the vastly over-paid Austin Hooper under the bus instead of OBJ.
And so we see the fanbois in a panic, lashing out at other players in a desperate attempt to keep the big-shot celebrity on the Browns. And that’s a good sign for real Browns fans who know that Baker only thrives when he is unburdened of OBJ.
Note: yes, Njoku should be made the #1 tight-end, but not because of his speed. And yes, Austin Hooper’s giant contract was an equally giant mistake by Andrew Berry. Imagine if the Browns liberated funds from both OBJ and Hooper, and used them to sign a few defensive players. Then you bring in Ricky Seals-Jones to fill the tight-end spot. Seals-Jones has proven chemistry with Baker, and would probably out-produce Hooper.
There is nothing wrong with being a fanboi, per se, as long as you don’t mind having your brain turn to mush. But this is the primary threat to the Browns going forward because Odell Beckham, Jr. fanboi-ism is running rampant in Cleveland. Let’s look at some examples.
What about all the plays where OBJ didn’t catch his target? Why not highlight one of those? God knows there were plenty. During the 2020 season, OBJ was targeted 43 times and caught 23 of them, which comes to a miserable 53.5%. By contrast, Rashard Higgins had 52 targets and 37 catches for a superb 71.2%.
The problem, of course, is that OBJ’s stats suck, so defenders really have no other option than to cherry-pick the evidence to support their flimsy cases. Or float ridiculous theories like this one from Lesmerises (at 28:20):
“Is part of this then that – I know there’s the discussion point of: did Baker get better because Odell wasn’t there? But, what you’re explaining Ellis is that Baker got better despite Odell not being there because he was efficient in this 10-20 yard area…”
In other words, without having OBJ to blaze down the field, Baker was forced to perfect his pathetic little dink-and-dunk passing game. What a ridiculous idea. But this is emblematic of OBJ fanbois who always ignore the fact that Donovan Peoples-Jones is just as fast as OBJ, and that the Browns, as of this writing, have five more receivers who are faster than OBJ. (See my speed page here.) Not to mention the fact that the fabled “speed” of the Chiefs that the fanbois are constantly carrying on abut didn’t prevent them from getting their faces smashed-in by Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl.
And it’s not a mere “discussion point.” The cold, hard, statistical facts prove unequivocally that Baker and OBJ are a literally terrible QB/WR duo, and that Baker is elite when throwing to his other receivers.
After acknowledging that Baker & Odell have zero chemistry (at 37:40) Williams goes on to say:
“…that’s the last progression I’m waiting to see Baker Mayfield take and if it happens in weeks 1-4 next year, where he’s in a rhythm with Odell that we haven’t seen before, Browns fans are going to be feeling pretty dang good about that connection going forward.”
In other words, hope, is his plan.
This is what I’m talking about. This is the mushy-brained thinking that rules the Browns. The biggest take-away from the 2020 season is that Baker Mayfield just might be the next Tom Brady unless OBJ is on the field with him; then he regresses into one of the worst QBs in the league.
And you know what? Just about everybody in Cleveland is okay with that; as long as they can get that selfie with the big celebrity.
The fanbois also dubbed that OBJ touchdown against the hapless Bengals defense as “Peak Browns Offense” simply because it was OBJ’s best play of the season. Of course, calling it the peak is an insult to the rest of the team that beat the Steelers twice in a row and made them cry! OBJ had nothing to do with those glorious, victories.
Why don’t the fanbois analyze this play? Because this is how the Browns got to the playoffs; with the old-school crew of Hig, Landry, and Njoku:
Tom Brady has a record of 7-3 in the Super Bowl. But did you know that two of his losses came at the hands of Eli Manning and the New York Giants? Those victories over The Goat capped the 2007 and 2011 seasons. Three years later, Odell Beckham, Jr. was drafted by the Giants, and the trips to the Super Bowl came to a screeching halt.
OBJ played five years for the Giants from 2014-2018. During that time, the Giants only had one winning season. Their overall record was 31-49. During the prior five years, 2009-2013, the Giants were 43-37. So, you could argue that the Giants went from being a winning franchise to being a losing franchise while employing OBJ. And the most important variable of all stayed steady during that period: the incredibly durable Eli Manning was the Giants QB, and only missed a single game between 2005-2018.
Today, we see OBJ dragging down Baker Mayfield’s stats whenever OBJ is on the field. As counter-intuitive as it may be, OBJ’s stats point to him as being Football Poison. The reason is very simple: OBJ is a narcissist who demands that the offense revolve around him. But, regardless of talent, that just doesn’t work in the NFL. Quite to the contrary. OBJ’s reality distortion field discombobulates his QB so much that the team suffers. Eli Manning could not make it back to the Super Bowl while being saddled with OBJ, and Mayfield won’t make it either.
So, OBJ is shooting himself in the foot.
However. Imagine if OBJ were to show up at training camp with a Nick Chubb attitude, right down to the no-nonsense haircut. Imagine if he didn’t beg for the ball. Imagine if he didn’t sulk and pout, and annoy Baker into throwing him low-odds passes. Imagine if he just let Baker read the defense, go through his progressions, and get the ball to OBJ only when it made actual sense.
Now that would be something. The Browns would win all the games.
The fact is that receivers like OBJ, Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones, etc. have to expect to be doubled-teamed frequently. Sure, it might feel unfair to be punished for being talented, but it’s just the way the game is played. But, if you draw a double team, you are effectively taking two defenders off the field. Instead of it being 11-on-11, now it is 10-on-9, and a QB like Baker Mayfield is going to go to town against that kind of alignment. So, you give up some targets in exchange for your teammates balling out; in exchange for winning more games; in exchange for going to the Super Bowl.
It’s not a bad compromise. But does OBJ actually value a Super Bowl ring higher than he values his own narcissism? I don’t think that he does, and this is why the Browns need to wash their hands of him.
As the Soup Nazi might say: “No ring for you!”
Note: In 2019, the aging Eli Manning was replaced by Daniel Jones. So, we can’t look at that year to see if the Giants improved after trading OBJ because of the tectonic shift in the team.
As everybody now knows, Baker Mayfield plays much worse when Odell Beckham, Jr. is on the field. But exactly how much worse? If we examine the “yards per passing attempt” metric, OBJ taxes the Browns to the tune of 365 yards per season. Take a look at this chart:
So, during his rookie year in 2018, before OBJ joined the Browns, Baker averaged 7.66 yards per throw. When OBJ joined the team in 2019, that number dropped to 7.17. OBJ only played the first six games of 2020 before being injured, and during those games Baker’s average dropped some more, down to 6.44. But, as soon as OBJ was gone, Baker went off like a rocket, averaging 7.81 for the remainder of the season.
For the entire 2020 season, in this metric, Baker ranked at #17 with 7.3 yards-per-attempt. However, without OBJ there to distract him, he likely would have ranked at #8. That’s the difference between being ho-hum and being elite.
Combining the data from Baker’s three seasons, we find that he has averaged 7.72 yards per pass attempt without OBJ, and 6.99 with OBJ.
So, OBJ has cost the Browns 0.73 yards per pass attempt. That doesn’t sound like much, but suppose that Baker makes 500 pass attempts in a season. That would give us a total of 365 yards (500 * 0.73). Spotting an opponent 365 yards would theoretically translate into almost 5 touchdowns.
Of course, when you employ a player like OBJ, you expect just the opposite. In fact, if OBJ added 5 touchdowns, you would probably consider that to be a lackluster performance. So, going from expecting +5 touchdowns, but only getting -5 is a 10-TD swing in expectations, at least.
Rather disappointing, but only if your goal is to win games. If your actual goal is to rub shoulders with a celebrity, then perhaps you might think 10 touchdowns is a small price to pay to hang out with Odell.
Good Baker has returned, and it feels like the Browns have a shiny, new elite quarterback. Everybody in Cleveland is just tickled pink at their good fortune. But some just can’t wait to “fix” Baker some more. Can you imagine? People, who have no idea whatsoever as to how they were gifted with this miracle, think they can make it better.
It’s the spring of 2019 all over again. Back then, there was nothing wrong with the Browns’ passing game. Mayfield and his Bake Pack were the talk of the town after a strong finish to the 2018 season. No “fixing” was required. And then the team decided to fix it anyway.
On March 13, 2019, the Browns blew a giant hole in their o-line by sending ace guard Kevin Zeitler to the New York Giants. They also made the dubious decision to take in return a wide receiver who was being run out of town for publicly criticizing his quarterback: Odell Beckham, Jr. Freddie Kitchens was then expected to make that mess work, but could not do so.
The Browns then did the unthinkable in the 2019 season: they regressed. So, is that what you want? Regression? Because that’s how you get regression; you try to fix something that ain’t broke. Ideally, the Browns offense would be encased in carbonite just as it was for the playoffs. And that means NO ODELL.
Baker, Chubb, Kareem, Hig, Landry, DPJ, Njoku, Jedrick, Bits, J.C., Wyatt, Conklin, Hooper. That’s the squad; don’t change a fucking thing. Don’t mess with success. All the Browns need to do is put everybody on the WTP (Wyatt Teller Program) where they work hard and make themselves into elite players. And that little extra oomph will get them to the Super Bowl. Maybe you add some depth to the o-line, but the Browns should be almost solely focused on upgrading the defense.
The very dumbest idea I have heard so far is that the Browns should use their first-round draft pick on a receiver. Proponents suffer from “Tyreek Envy.” But Rashard Higgins averaged 17.6 yards-per-catch against Kansas City, while Tyreek only averaged 13.8. Both Hig and Jarvis Landry lack elite speed, but still somehow manage to play at an elite level. Anybody who proposes to “fix” the Browns’ passing game needs to be exiled to Toledo.
Fixing the passing game didn’t work in 2019, and it probably won’t work again in 2021. However, I am open to re-acquiring some former Bake Pack members who have proven chemistry with Baker. For example, Ricky Seals-Jones is on the Chiefs now, but in 2019 he had 14 catches from Baker, 10 of which were first downs, and 4 of which were TDs. And one of only 7 receivers in the league to have a higher per-catch average than Higgins in 2020 was former Brown Breshad Perriman, who is on the Jets now. In 2018, Perriman averaged 21.3 yards-per-catch on 16 receptions playing with Baker.
We already know that Baker has chemistry with Seals-Jones and Perriman, so having those two guys for depth would be amazing. There might even be some other receivers that Baker had good chemistry with back in college that the Browns can look at. Perriman is a free-agent, and the Chiefs haven’t done much with Seals-Jones, so the Browns should be able to sign both of them.
Baker seems to be developing chemistry with Austin Hooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones, but as we see, it takes time and lots of reps. This is why we want to freeze them in carbonite; we have a good investment in them and don’t want to start over with new prospects.
Here are my chemistry rankings with 5 being the highest score:
5.0 – Rashard Higgins
4.5 – Jarvis Landry
4.0 – David Njoku
4.0 – Kareem Hunt
3.5 – Donovan Peoples-Jones
3.0 – Austin Hooper
3.0 – Harrison Bryant
3.0 – Nick Chubb
0.0 – Odell Beckham, Jr.
I like Landry and Hig as the superstar starters, and DPJ as Baker’s top protégée. Njoku made some clutch catches in the playoffs and deserves to be reinstated as the #1 tight-end. The Browns overpaid for Hooper, but the guy is talented.
Having gone through this exercise, I feel more strongly than ever that OBJ needs to be voted off the island. He is an ego guy; not a chemistry guy.
And the stakes are high, because I believe that, given high-quality prospects, Baker can manufacture superstar receivers just like the Cleveland Indians manufacture Cy Young Award winning pitchers.
You read it here first.
Note: the Browns have treated Rashard Higgins like he was gum stuck to the bottom of their shoe. Then, after a series of injuries to other receivers, Hig finally got to play and Baker made him a star.
Note: The QB/WR duo is similar to pitcher/catcher battery-mates in baseball. A QB obviously needs more than one “catcher” but the Browns should bend over backwards to keep Baker’s favorite catchers on the roster for as long as possible.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has two personas: Good Baker and Bad Baker. Good Baker delighted fans during his 2018 rookie year. Bad Baker showed up to spoil the 2019 season, and was mundane during the first six weeks of 2020. Then Good Baker returned and lit the NFL on fire, taking the Browns this close to defeating Kansas City in the playoffs.
People are baffled as to why sometimes the Good Baker shows up, and other times you get the Bad Baker. But it is all very simple. Good Baker is the default Baker. This is the Baker that won the Heisman Trophy, broke the NFL record for most touchdown passes for a rookie, etc.
Bad Baker emerges the moment Odell Beckham, Jr. walks on the field.
Why would that be? Because OBJ demands that Baker stop playing his position correctly. Baker is supposed to “read the defense.” So, his job is to look at how the defense has lined up, send a man in motion to see how they react, consider the routes that each one of his receivers will run, and then decide which one will have the best odds for success.
Odell communicates something like this to Baker: “Forget all that bullshit and just throw me the fucking ball because I am a million times more talented than any receiver on this team.” Bad Baker caves to Odell, throws a low-odds pass to him, and the cornerback breaks it up because he sees it coming a mile away. When your scheme is “throw it to OBJ,” your offense becomes a bit predictable, and Bad Baker racks up a pile of shitty stats. He also gets criticized for being a “one-read quarterback,” and deservedly so.
Now, when OBJ leaves the field, none of the other receivers demand the ball because they aren’t narcissistic prima donnas. Good Baker goes back to reading the defense, lights them on fire, and the Browns are off and running again.
That, is all there is to it.
This explains how Good Baker reappeared so rapidly during the Bengals game in Week 7. It doesn’t take Baker long to shift gears from Bad Baker to Good Baker. Being an elite quarterback is in his bones, and always will be. Just think of OBJ as the light-switch that turns Good Baker on and off. He had Baker switched off during Week 7, and Baker switched back on after OBJ had to leave the game.
Apparently, the exact thing that OBJ does to Baker involves sulky, petulant, body-language. Perhaps there is also pouting, and maybe a few words in the huddle. I don’t know exactly what OBJ does, but he sure as hell does something. Something that should have been stopped a long time ago.
Everybody is carrying on about how fabulous Coach Stefanski and GM Berry are, but neither one reigned in OBJ enough to bring out Good Baker. The return of Good Baker was pure, dumb luck; the direct result of OBJ’s injury. No coaching miracle happened during the bye-week, as some allege.
Receivers coach, Chad O’Shea, didn’t tell OBJ to stop bothering Baker. Coach Van Pelt didn’t tell Baker to ignore OBJ. Baker himself didn’t tell OBJ to knock it off. And Browns’ alleged analytics wiz, Paul DePodesta didn’t discover the glaring stats screaming for OBJ to be benched.
I’m not saying the coaching staff did a bad job; obviously they did quite well. But I guarantee you that the Browns are not winning the Super Bowl with Bad Baker at the helm.
Since nobody on the Browns has demonstrated the ability to reign in OBJ, they need to trade him. The team is simply not able to tap into OBJ’s skills without blowing up their franchise quarterback. It’s time that they admit failure and move on from OBJ.
If they don’t, and if OBJ is brought back for the 2021 season, then there is only one thing Good Baker can do to survive: eat the sandwich. In episode 702 of Seinfeld, “The Postponement,” George is amazed by a man who is impervious to his girlfriend’s feminine wiles. He just keeps eating his sandwich as she cries, and even takes her french fries.
But can Baker eat the sandwich? While it seems like it might be easy for Baker to ignore Odell when he carries on, I’m not so sure that it is. OBJ appears to hold in thrall the entire Browns organization, sports media, and city of Cleveland itself. If Baker doesn’t target Odell enough, he will hear about it – loudly.
But again, I wouldn’t spend a single second trying to deal with this nonsense, and just trade OBJ for some badly needed talent on defense. OBJ had a fair chance, playing in 22 games with the Browns. And he failed utterly and completely to gel with his quarterback. That, we have learned the hard way, is simply not is thing.
Who should replace OBJ? It doesn’t matter. Any other Browns receiver lining up in Odell’s spot would result in a dramatically better passing game. It literally…
Browns announcer, Nathan Zegura, continues to claim that the Browns are looking to acquire faster players. This is odd because Coach Stefanski told him that they were doing no such thing. During the January 20, 2012 episode of the “Cleveland Browns Daily” podcast Stefanski said:
“We’re looking for skill-sets at specific positions…”
And that is basic common sense. Stefanski made a few more comments along the lines that, “speed is good” talking about how players on the perimeter (WR & CB) need to be fast, but he is not looking to replace any players because they aren’t fast enough.
So, why does Zegura persist? Because he is an Odell Beckham, Jr. fanboi, and doesn’t care about OBJ’s documented and disastrous effect on Baker Mayfield. In the next podcast (on January 21st) Zegura implied that the Browns top three receivers for 2021 would be OBJ, Landry, and DPJ. Zegura hoped that Rashard Higgins could “fit in” and that the team could “work that out.”
Of course, the real lineup should be Landry, Higgins, and DPJ with OBJ traded. And you could make a strong case for Hig being the #1 receiver. Not only was he #8 in the league in yards-per-catch, but he came in at #3 for DVOA.
Furthermore, future Hall-of-Fame QB, Aaron Rodgers, has a passer rating of 120.7. But when Baker targets Hig, he has a 126.1 rating. That is Super-Bowl caliber. Meanwhile, the Baker-to-OBJ duo is literally, statistically dogshit. And Hig works cheap; he gets a fraction of what Landry and OBJ get.
Besides, if you were going to order your receivers by speed, OBJ wouldn’t even be playing. Marvin Hall, Taywan Taylor, JoJo Natson, KhaDarel Hodge, and Ja’Marcus Bradley are all faster than OBJ. And Donovan Peoples-Jones is only 5/100ths of second behind OBJ in the 40-yard dash. At the wide receiver position, the Browns are overloaded with speed. See my speed page here.
Note: I can’t verify Hig’s DVOA rank myself since I don’t have a Football Outsiders account. However, I’ve heard a couple of people on podcasts cite it, so it’s probably true.
Everybody knows that Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham, Jr. have failed to achieve chemistry. That is not in dispute. The war that broke out immediately after the Browns playoff-loss to the Chiefs is over what is to be done. And Baker Mayfield is the one with the red laser dot on his forehead as Browns employees and OBJ thralls in the media open fire.
This is completely insane, and I can hardly believe it is happening. Only moments after OBJ left the scene did we see, right before our eyes Baker Mayfield rise like a phoenix from the ashes and play at an elite level, just like he did in 2018 before he had the bad fortune of being teamed-up with OBJ.
In the first off-season episode of the “Orange and Brown Talk” podcast, Dan Labbe said that Baker’s ascension was an illusion caused by weather & weak opposing defenses. Mary Kay Cabot said that Baker didn’t deserve a raise because he only had “one good half-season.” Cabot also said that the Browns wouldn’t have made the playoffs if OBJ hadn’t single-handedly won the Dallas game. Perhaps, but the Browns probably could have made the playoffs in 2019 if OBJ weren’t there to discombobulate Baker. Getting in was much easier that season with the Titans getting a wild-card spot with a mere 9-7 record.
We know that OBJ is a super-talent, but we also know that he is bad at his job. And trying to build a team around him instead of Baker is the kind of crazy talk that should land a person in a padded cell. I’ve posted these two quotes before, but they bear repeating because analytically, this is an open-and-shut case. From this ESPN story:
“Mayfield’s completion percentage targeting other receivers this season is 78.6%…Mayfield’s completion rate to Beckham, meanwhile, was just 59.9%.”
“Over the last two seasons, Mayfield and Beckham have the worst completion success rate (55.6%) of any duo in the NFL (with at least 100 attempts).”
The. Worst. In. The. League.
Like Chris Rock said to Howard Stern when he announced that he was re-marrying: “You’re going back to Shawshank???”
Another pro-OBJ sign came from the very first off-season episode of the “Cleveland Browns Daily” podcast on January 18. Nathan Zegura said that the Chiefs receivers were able to get more separation than the Browns receivers because they were faster. And:
“Perhaps that is something that the Browns need to look to improve is their overall speed.”
First, my impression was that the Chiefs were holding our receivers until the refs started flagging them. Then Baker lit them up. So, it wasn’t even about speed.
Second, “speed” is nonsense. Last year, the New York Football Giants improved their team speed, and were very proud of their accomplishment. Here is a story:
The Giants finished at 6-10; hardly a ringing endorsement of “speed.”
I believe that “speed” is a code-word for bringing OBJ back, and making Higg a “healthy scratch” again. Something that will wreck our newly-found playoff Browns. Besides, we already have a promising young burner. Donovan-Peoples Jones only had 14 receptions, but he averaged 21.7 yards apiece; way higher than OBJ’s 13.9. Higgy & Hodgy also outdid OBJ with 16.2 & 16.4 respectively. Higg’s numbers won him the #8 spot in the league! That is not something that needs to be fixed!!! And people think he’s slow! Absurd!
The Browns offense wasn’t broke at the end of the 2018 season, but the team “fixed” it anyway and dropped from 7-8-1 to 6-10-0 in 2019. The offense isn’t broke now, and I pray that the only fix is trading OBJ.
P.S. Rashard Higgins is the #8 receiver in the league when measuring by yards-per-catch. How could he have accomplished that if Baker’s resurrection was an “illusion?” Answer: it was no illusion. After OBJ got hurt, Baker threw laser beam after laser beam to Higg for the rest of the season just like I told you he would back on November 17th when I wrote: “the Baker-Higgins duo is lightening in a bottle.”