No, the Browns are not Embarking on a Speed Overhaul

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.

The Long Knives are out for Baker Mayfield

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%.”

…and…

“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:

In 11 Personnel, There is no Team Faster than the Giants.

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.”

Rashard Higgins Tops Tyreek Hill

Before the Browns-vs-Chiefs playoff game, everybody was carrying on about how “explosive” the KC receivers were. After the game, Browns’ analysts were complaining that the Browns’ receivers weren’t explosive enough. I guess they didn’t look at the box score, because Rashard Higgins was the best receiver on the field.

Average Yards-per-Catch (4 catches or more):
17.6 – Rashard Higgins (CLE)
14.8 – David Njoku (CLE)
14.5 – Mecole Hardman (KC)
13.8 – Tyreek Hill (KC)
13.6 – Travis Kelce (KC)
04.0 – Darrel Williams (KC)
02.9 – Jarvis Landry (CLE)

Honorable mention for Donovan Peoples-Jones who had 1 catch for 23 yards.

I bring this up because even after a fantastic season, the long knives are already coming out for Rashard Higgins. Idiots think that if only the Browns had Odell Beckham, Jr. to “take the top off the field” they could have beaten KC. Well, I hate to break it to you, but if the flagrant violation of the NFL’s helmet-to-helmet rule perpetrated by Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen were not ignored by the referees, the Browns would have beaten the Chiefs.

So yes, the Baker-to-Higgins duo is of Super-Bowl caliber.

And we have the analytic evidence that the Baker-to-Odell duo is the very worst in the NFL.

So, what will the Browns do in 2021? They will demote Higgins yet again, and go back to what we know does not work: throwing the ball to OBJ. So, fans need to mobilize and pressure the Browns front-office to not lead us out of The Promised Land and back into the desert.

Do you want to see Baker go back to being a “game manager,” and Browns receivers being chosen for their ability to block for Nick Chubb? Because that was Stefanski’s original scheme when he took over and was saddled with OBJ.

Speaking of which, Higgins also outdueled OBJ during the 2020 regular season by averaging 16.2 yards-per-catch versus OBJ’s 13.9. Higgins might be the most-underrated receiver in the league.

You probably noticed that David Njoku also topped the legendary Tyreek Hill in the stats above. Njoku also exceeded all Browns tight-ends during the regular season by averaging 11.2 yards-per-catch. And yet, he is still #3 on the depth-chart. But if Njoku got the same number of targets as Austin Hooper did, he would have put up the same numbers. In other words, it looks like the Browns overpaid for a tight-end that they didn’t even need.

Higg & Njoku, as original members of the Bake Pack, have proven chemistry with Baker and should be on the field with him as much as possible – regardless of what other celebrity players the Browns may have on the roster.

Back to the game: not only did Daniel Sorensen commit a flagrant violation of the NFL’s helmet-to-helmet rule, but the idiot announcers, Jim Yance & Tony Romo, lauded him for doing so:

Instead of giving the ball to the Chiefs, the refs should have called the penalty, and given the Browns 15 yards and a first down. Sorensen should have been ejected from the game, and the NFL should fine and suspend him. Considering the magnitude of the violation, I would be willing to call it even if KC forfeited a draft-pick to the Browns.

Baker “Magic” Mayfield

Two weeks ago, after the loss to the Jets, I criticized Baker Mayfield for fumbling, and holding the ball too long on pass plays. What happened next? In the following two games versus the Steelers, Baker had zero fumbles. In the wild-card playoff game, he got the ball out in 2.34 seconds versus his usual snail’s pace of 3.05 seconds. The legendary “Blitzburgh” pass rush couldn’t lay a finger on him – even going against the Browns’ alarmingly depleted o-line.

So, Baker fixed two big problems quickly. As if by magic, he transformed himself into a much better player in only a couple of weeks. This is what’s possible when Baker is not distracted by Odell Beckham, Jr. Everybody is amazed at Baker’s transformation since OBJ’s injury, but all of this progress would have occurred back in 2019 if the Browns had not traded for OBJ.

In any case, enjoy your playoff Browns while you can because as far as anybody knows, OBJ will be coming back to wreck the team again in the 2021 season.

Can the Browns beat the Chiefs? I don’t see why not. All season, Browns fans have been horrified by the team’s defense. But guess what? The Chiefs’ defense is just as bad. Almost exactly as bad. The Brown’s gave up an average of 358.4 yards per game during the regular season (yes, we have to specify that now 😊) and the Chief’s gave up 358.3.

Now, when you consider how the Browns went through the #3 defense of the Steelers like a hot knife through butter, the Browns should be able to score at will against the Chiefs. The Browns’ offense scored 5 touchdowns against the Steelers, so I’m thinking they should score about 15 against the Chiefs. 😊

Of course, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense are the class of the league, but even they stink sometimes. Just watch the first 3 minutes of the condensed version of their game versus the Dolphins. My favorite part is when Mahomes runs backward for a 30-yard sack!

But wait! There’s more! Like the Steelers, the Chiefs seemed to have peaked early. Over the last three games of the season, the Chiefs’ offense ranked at a mere #18! Which is only two rungs better than the Browns. The Chiefs’ defense has done considerably better than the Browns’ defense over the same period, but the Chiefs are, statistically, only a little bit better than the Browns at this point in time. And without the Coronavirus breakout, the Browns would probably be right there with the Chiefs.

And there’s even more! The last time the Chiefs won a game by more than 7 points was two-and-half months ago! They beat the Jets 35-9 back on November 1st. Since then, every victory has been a squeaker. And finally, the Chiefs closed the season with a loss to the Chargers.

So, at this point in time, I would concede that the Chiefs might be a slightly better team than the Browns are – on paper. But a 10-point favorite? That’s ridiculous. In fact, if I were a Chiefs fan, I would be afraid of the Browns; very afraid. I mean, look what happened on Sunday: Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan shut-out the Steelers legendary pass-rush with a pick-up truck full of guys he fetched from the Home Depot parking lot. How does that even happen?

Answer: magic.

Deal with that Kansas City!

Baker “Fumbles” Mayfield

Two weeks ago, I wrote:

“Baker has done an incredible job of reducing his interceptions, and now he has to fix his fumbling problem.”

He didn’t listen. Now look what happened.

Nevertheless, Bakes almost pulled off a victory in one of the NFL’s patented shit-shows that they insist on stocking their shelves with. Without fans in the stadiums, the NFL is a straight-up TV show. Forcing teams to play without large chunks of their starters is like tuning into Seinfeld and seeing the Jerry character played by Ricky Gervais.

Nobody wants that.

And nobody wants the ridiculous “Holy Roller” rule either. Talk about random nonsense. But kudos to Kareem Hunt for recovering the ball and getting what should have been a first down. Once again, Kareem does everything and should be on the field at all times, including special teams and defense. Maybe he could play free safety, and at this point, we should probably let him kick extra points too.

He’s. Just. That. Good.

Last year, Baker had no confidence in his o-line and would often bail out of the pocket too early. Against the Jets on Sunday, Baker had the opposite problem: he trusted his depleted o-line too much. Hopefully, he will learn from the experience and get the ball out quicker until Jedrick and Wyatt are back.

I can’t believe these people who criticize Chubb & Hunt for failing to gain more yardage. Running backs don’t make holes; they find holes. The hard truth is that, like the loss to the Raiders, the Browns got beat in the trenches. With the Browns’ passing threat greatly diminished, the Jets were able to pin their ears back and shut down the Browns’ ground attack.

However, after the Browns finally started throwing some short passes to Chubb & Hunt, things started percolating. The Browns average 145 yards per game rushing, and if you add in those short-passing yards, Chubb & Hunt combined for 118 all-purpose yards. Not too shabby considering the circumstances. Chubb & Hunt also scored a touchdown apiece.

That wasn’t the problem.

The real problem was all the dropped passes. With more-reliable pass-catchers, the Jets would have had to back off a bit, and that would have loosened up the run game. Since the Browns were spotting the Jets four receivers, the tight-ends needed to step up their game, but they could not. David Njoku was the exception, catching all four of his targets. It’s not surprising that the Baker-Njoku duo would be the best of such a game seeing as how Njoku was the only member of the original Bake-Pack on the field. But unbelievably, Njoku was only on the field for 31 of the game’s 81 snaps.

Njoku is the Browns’ #3 tight-end, but catches more of his targets (70.8%) than Hooper (64.6%) or Bryant (63.2%). Time for a promotion.

All of the above notwithstanding, Baker did lead an impressive comeback in the second half and came very close to sending the game into overtime. Baker & the Browns don’t always win, but they never quit.

The Steelers will be resting Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday, and possibly some other banged-up players. So, we might have the Browns’ “A” team versus the Steelers “B” team. Therefore, nothing short of a dog-pounding is required for the Browns to conclude that they are the better team. Even Mason Rudolph should be able to throw a couple of touchdowns against the Browns’ secondary (if they play like they did against the Jets) so an acceptable final score would be in the neighborhood of: Browns 62 Steelers 14.

Will Baker Mayfield Stay Fixed?

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.

Don’t Sleep on Freddie Kitchens

Having heard that Freddie Kitchens will be calling the plays for the New York Football Giants on Sunday, some Browns fans might be expecting an easy victory.

That would be a mistake.

The prevailing opinion is that the Browns’ “Lost Year” of 2019 was due to having an imbecile for a coach. But I believe that this historical era needs to be revised.

After the strong finish to the 2018 season with Freddie at the helm, everybody was pleased as punch. Nobody was expecting the Browns to regress in 2019. That’s why the beat-down administered by the Titans in Week 1 was so shocking.

So, how did Freddie go from being great in 2018 to stinking in 2019? Answer: he didn’t. He was the same guy. It was Baker Mayfield who dramatically regressed. And that was because he was injected with a heavy dose of Football Poison, otherwise known as Odell Beckham, Jr.

The flashes of genius that we saw in Freddie’s play-calling were washed away by the “throw it to Odell” scheme which simply did not work.

Coach Stefanski has won more games than Freddie, but he was also the recipient of a raft of top-notch talent on offense: Austin Hooper, Jedrick Wills, Jack Conklin, and an astonishingly improved Wyatt Teller.

The Browns should act like they are up against the 2018 version of Freddie Kitchens, not the 2019 version. Because the OBJ-free version of Freddie wasn’t too shabby.

Browns Defensive Player of the Week: Kareem Hunt

Kareem Hunt doesn’t play on the the Browns’ defense, but when there is a turnover, every player on the offense becomes a defensive player. And that’s what happened during the last minute of the Browns’ shellacking of the Tennessee Titans last Sunday. Baker Mayfield fumbled the ball, again, and Kareem had to save a Kenny Vaccaro scoop-and-score. See the 13:10 mark of this video.

Kareem says he practices this, and it shows. He took the perfect angle to run down Vaccaro. What I liked best is that Vaccaro didn’t even try to juke Hunt. It was almost as if he was resigned to his fate: “Oh shit, Kareem fucking Hunt is on my ass. I should probably just surrender myself.” And then Kareem unceremoniously rag-dolled Vaccaro, throwing him down without even hitting the ground himself. What a fantastic football player.

If the Browns are ever short-handed at linebacker, we know who can fill in.

Honorable mention to Donovan Peoples-Jones who had to take a wider angle than Kareem, but might have caught Vaccaro near the goal line. Andy Janovich also made a good effort, though his 4.81 speed wasn’t a match for Vaccaro.

This is Baker’s second fumble in three games. The first was against the Eagles where Baker was saved by a quick whistle. I wonder if Baker does the same fumble drill that the running-backs do. You know, the one we saw Kareem and Nick Chubb doing at the beginning of episode 9 of Building the Browns. Baker has done an incredible job of reducing his interceptions, and now he has to fix his fumbling problem.

Laser Mayfield

After Baker Mayfield’s franchise-record 22 consecutive pass-completions against the Bengals on October 25, 2020, many analysts downplayed the achievement because the Bengals had a poor record. I had the opposite opinion and wrote: The Second Coming of Baker Mayfield. Here’s a quote:

“Baker is now free to re-ascend into Football Heaven where he had previously spent his entire life before OBJ came to town.”

And that’s exactly what has happened. Since that watershed moment when OBJ exited the scene, Baker has been throwing laser-beams to his receivers.

Having been humiliated by the Titans in the 2019 season opener, the consensus last week was that the Browns would do better, but would still lose. And then Baker lasered those smug Titans for thirty-eight points in the first half, putting on another historic display of quarterbacking prowess.

The o-line kept Baker clean, and his receivers got open, but make no mistake, Baker was the star of the show. Fans were ecstatic during what might have been the most exciting half of football ever. It just doesn’t get better than that.

Fans were also raving about Rashard Higgins, who was just doing exactly what he has also been doing for his entire life. Here’s what Josh Keatley wrote:

“Benching Higgins may have been the biggest mistake of the John Dorsey tenure.”

That’s high praise, but let the record show that Hig was also benched in 2020 and only got to play after a series of injuries suffered by other receivers.

And Hig will probably be benched again when OBJ and the other “faster” Browns receivers come back – assuming that Paul DePodesta is still wielding his slide-rule. But Hig is plenty fast. See #39 of the Titans in this photo?:

Higg Beats Borders

That’s Breon Borders who runs a 4.49s 40-yard time, substantially faster than Hig’s 4.64. And yet, there’s Hig burning him for a touchdown – something he has been doing his entire career. Here is a scouting report from 2016 (emphasis is mine):

“Higgins was ultra productive in college, putting up crazy numbers over the past two seasons. He is Colorado State’s all time leader in catches (230), receiving yards (3520), and touchdowns (31). He put up these eye popping numbers by being an excellent route runner and having great hands. Higgins is one of the more advanced Wide Receivers in regards to footwork and route running and route concepts. He plays the game very smart. He shows good awareness to read the defense and find the open gaps. He uses subtle movements to get defenders flat footed and off balance. After the catch, Higgins shows quick feet and good change of direction to make defenders miss. Despite his smaller than ideal frame, he shows no fear going over the middle and will fight for contested balls. He tracks the ball well and shows a good ability to high point the ball. When the ball is not in his hands, Higgins shows a willingness to become a blocker downfield.”

Every word of that is still true today.

Fans were unhappy with Coach Stefanski taking his foot off the gas in the second half and letting the Titans restore their dignity. But having Baker laser-beam the defense in the first half, then Chubb & Hunt pound them to dust in the second half is not a bad strategy for winning. You also have to allow your o-line to join in the fun with the run-blocking that they enjoy more than pass-blocking.

Who’s going to stop the Browns now? Answer: nobody. Barring serious injuries, the Browns will win the Super Bowl. Then, next season, OBJ will come back, Hig will go back to being a “healthy scratch,” Baker will be discombobulated, and the Browns will struggle to make the playoffs.

But for now, the Browns are The Greatest Football Show on Earth, so enjoy it while you can.

Baker Mayfield Soars without OBJ Albatross

As I have been saying for a while now, the way to fix Baker Mayfield is to ditch Odell Beckham, Jr. And that is exactly what has happened. Read it and weep, OBJ fans:

So far this season, the Browns have played six games with OBJ on the field, and five with him off. With OBJ playing, Baker’s passer-rating was a rotten 84.3. Without OBJ, Baker’s rating is an excellent 103.3!

In other words, if OBJ were not on the team this year, Baker would be the ninth-best quarterback in the league, ahead of QBs like Josh Allen, Ben Roethlisberger, Justin Herbert, Dak Prescott, etc. See the rankings here.

Without OBJ, Baker’s completion percentage has improved from 60.6% to 62.1%, with three of those non-OBJ games played in horrendous weather. Baker’s rating also got a large boost from throwing fewer interceptions: 7 with OBJ, 0 without. Keep in mind that the theory is that OBJ distracted Baker. And without OBJ, Baker is now free to concentrate on improving other parts of his game, like reducing his interceptions. This is a big deal because it shows that Baker is improving again.

In his rookie year of 2018, Baker ranked at #19 with a 93.7 rating. Then OBJ joined the team in 2019, and Baker nose-dived to #31 with a hideous rating of 78.8. He actually ranked beneath Mason Rudolph!

Baker was poised to stink up the season again this year until OBJ’s injury. While obviously bad for OBJ, that injury will be worth millions of dollars for Bakes at contract-negotiation time.

We were all baffled by Baker’s regression in 2019. Just about everybody blamed it on coach Freddie Kitchens. However, the mystery deepened when the regression continued into 2020 under coach Stefanski. Now, the case has been solved.

But the big question is: will the Browns keep OBJ for next season? Remember, Baker’s resurrection was a happenstance. Coach Stefanski did not fix the situation. Coach Van Pelt did not pull the plug on OBJ’s reality distortion field. And Paul DePodesta didn’t figure it out with his fucking slide-rule. It was pure dumb luck, and that dumbness just might inflict OBJ on long-suffering Browns fans again in 2021.

If that happens, then the Browns need a new scheme. Baker said that if he saw OBJ with man-to-man coverage, he would throw the ball to him regardless of what play was called because it was assumed that OBJ was Football Jesus and could win the jump-ball against any cornerback. It didn’t work. Back here, I calculated some stats that showed OBJ was the worst receiver on the team, catching only 53.5% of his targets (compared to 80% for Rashard Higgins.)

So, that scheme would need to be shit-canned. In the new scheme, OBJ would be treated like any other receiver, and he should explicitly be prohibited from pouting about not getting the ball on every fucking play. Something like that might work, but probably not because Andrew Berry and coach Stefanski simply don’t have the balls to get OBJ in line.

I think the ideal home for OBJ is a team with a seasoned QB who will not let his will be bent by OBJ’s celebrity. And a coach, like Bill Belichick, who would not be a-feared to pop the thick bubble of narcissism that surrounds OBJ. Ironically, I would bet that OBJ’s numbers would improve if he became a humble cog in a well-oiled offensive scheme simply because narcissism has no place in a team sport.

Note: I calculated Baker’s passer-ratings with an Excel spreadsheet. If you would like a copy, just let me know and I will email it to you.

Note: Remember when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin yawned at OBJ last year? He was right.

Note: Baker’s longest pass this year was a 43-yard touchdown throw to OBJ in Week 2 against the Bengals. Baker tied that record with another 43-yard throw to Rashard Higgins against the Eagles. If it hadn’t been pouring rain, Baker might have gotten a slightly better touch on the ball allowing Higgins to catch it in stride for another 17 yards and a TD. But Hig had to dive for it. In any case, the point is that Baker can throw the long ball to any of his other receivers.