Refs Hit Browns with New Touching-the-Passer Penalty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stefanski Surrenders to Cardinals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baker’s Hail Mary

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

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

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

Third, Baker threw a perfectly accurate pass.

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

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

Baker Did Better than it Feels

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

BAKER MAYFIELD CURED OF OBJ-itis!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also wrote last week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they failed.

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

But they failed.

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

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

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

The Browns Need a New Offensive Scheme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rashard Higgins Mystery

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

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

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

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

Mary Kay Cabot was TOTALLY Wrong

Here’s what she wrote back in February:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Browns Notes

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

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

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

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

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

Note: Andrew Billings only got a few reps against the Vikings, and nobody is mentioning him, but I saw him getting some serious push.

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

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

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

Beckham Returns & Baker Mayfield’s Regression Begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odell Beckham’s Demands – Will the Browns Surrender?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beckham Benched!

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

Two days ago, I wrote:

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

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

OBJ has effectively been benched.

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

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

Odell Beckham On Strike!

Odell Beckham, Jr. declined battle on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. While his teammates valiantly fought to avenge last year’s playoff loss, OBJ said: “Nah. I’m good here on the sidelines with the water-boys.”

By all accounts, OBJ is more than ready to play. So, I think he is on strike, and it’s exactly the kind of passive/aggressive strike you would expect from a hyper-narcissist diva like OBJ. He doesn’t like being tagged with these labels, but if the shoe fits…

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

I predicted this would happen. Back on July 27, 2021, I wrote:

“You heard it here first: war is brewing between the Browns and OBJ.”

When will OBJ come back? Here’s how he answered that question:

“So, whenever that is, week 1, week 17, I don’t know. Whenever we’re ready we’ll be ready.”

Why is he on strike? Because his coaches want him to run precise routes, and OBJ wants to run creative routes. The problem is that Baker can’t find OBJ on random routes, and the duo has put up terrible stats. So, the idea is to have OBJ run routes by the book, like all the other receivers, and keep Baker flying high.

At first, OBJ seemed to be with the program. But now it appears that being a diva is more important to him than being an effective receiver. Read “The OBJ Flying Circus Offense” to see why OBJ’s creative route running is such a disaster.

OBJ can end this strike whenever he wants, but he couldn’t call it a victory because he has not presented a formal list of demands. Maybe he would take the field, but just move onto the the next passive/aggressive ploy. Perhaps he won’t run his new routes at all. Or maybe he would do a piss-poor job on them.

Personally, I would love to see him hold out for the rest of the year. The Browns were #1 in total offense for Week 1 (see below), so it’s not like they need him or anything. And they have a new guy to break in. Some are calling Anthony Schwartz’s performance a breakout. I know I was surprised by how well he did. PFF gave Schwartz a 76.4 grade, which is slightly higher than OBJ’s grade from last year.

Make no mistake, the Browns are now in a power-struggle with OBJ. He is healthy, the choice to play or not is his, and he decided not to play in one of the biggest games of the year. If I were Stefanski, I would have been shopping him around from the sideline, during the game. And since OBJ is rarely in one piece, the Browns should hurry up and trade him before he gets hurt again.

Here are two quotes from Coach Stefanski about OBJ:

On Friday: “He was 50-50, questionable and just didn’t feel like he could go.

On Sunday: “He worked out before the game and didn’t feel like he could go a significant amount, so we felt like it was the right thing to do to keep him inactive.

Note: Keep in mind that Stefanski gave the decision to OBJ, and that means that the Browns’ medical staff have cleared him.

Note: the Browns had 457 yards of total offense; more than anybody except the Raiders who had 491. However, I counted 110 yards for the Raiders in overtime, so in regulation time the Browns were still the most potent offense in the league. Also, if you look down the list, you will see the Chiefs way down at #14. They must be pretty upset about that since they were #1 last year. A lot of people are complaining about the Browns defense, but they beat the Chiefs down 13 ranks, which is pretty fantastic.

Stefanski Motivates Chiefs with “Rugby Play”

In the first half of the Week-1, Browns-vs-Chiefs game, the Browns gave the Chiefs a sound drubbing. But just before the 2nd quarter ended, Browns head coach
Kevin Stefanski called his “rugby play” where the players lateral the ball backward to each other to keep the play going. It looks more like rugby than football, and it’s not a serious play. Rather, it’s something fun to do on the last play of a game.

However, by calling this play just before halftime, Stefanski was rubbing it in, and I think that pissed off the Chiefs who then came out roaring in the 3rd quarter. Stefanski was being cavalier, and acting as if he had the game won. In other words, the rugby play is blackboard material; the kind of thing that motivates your opponent.

As much as I enjoy watching the rugby play, it might be a good idea to retire it. Even at the end of a game, your opponent just might hold onto the hard feelings for the next time around.

Having said that, the Browns did an amazing job of weathering the emotional storm after the Chiefs came charging back out of the locker-room to start the third quarter. Not only can the Browns handle the Chiefs, but they can handle them when they are fired up. Very impressive.

Note: I was bullish on the Browns’ chances in my last post. However, if you bet on the Browns, you were a winner because they covered the spread.

Note: The Browns are a great team and are going to win a lot of games this year. Just think: they almost beat the Chiefs without having their best receiver involved. And of course, I am talking about Rashard Higgins, who did quite well against the Chiefs last season.

The Chiefs Should Fear the Browns

It seems like the majority of Browns analysts are picking their team to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. And they are already explaining away the loss as not important in a long, 17-game season. These people need to snap out of it already, because the truth is that the Chiefs should be fearing the Browns – a lot.

The #1 Iron Law of NFL Football is that games are won in the trenches. We saw this law in action during the Super Bowl where the Chiefs were blown out due to their depleted offensive line.

The #2 Iron Law of NFL Football is that you can’t win without a good quarterback. But, as we also saw in the Super Bowl, even if you have Patrick Mahomes that does not nullify Iron Law #1.

So, the Browns-vs-Chiefs game here in Week 1 of the 2021 season will be decided by the Browns d-line vs the Chiefs o-line. Now, imagine if you were a Chiefs fan, and you just spent the last seven months obsessing over the rebuild of your o-line. Then in Week 1, Myles Garret comes to town? And he brings Jadeveon Clowney with him? Both freshly removed from their bubble wrap? Wouldn’t you be terrified? Talk about a trial by fire…

By all accounts, the Chiefs have done a good job with their rebuild, and the Browns are also fielding a revamped d-line. So, both lines will need a few games to gel to get up to speed. But the job of an o-line is much more complicated and intricate than that of a d-line. Not only that, but the Chiefs will be fielding three rookie linemen. I predict tough sledding for them on Sunday.

Last year, the Chiefs put up 438 yards against the mediocre Browns defense, but I don’t think they will come close to that this time. Last year, Browns DC Joe Woods staffed his defense with guys acquired via pickup truck from the Home Depot parking lot: “Necesito once! Necesito once!” And Andrew Sendejo jumps in. This year, Woods actually has a whole pile of elite players to work with. Imagine what he will do, KC. Just imagine.

Last year, the Steelers learned the hard way that there is a new sheriff in town in the AFC North. This year, the Chiefs will meet the new sheriff of the entire AFC: your Cleveland Browns.

How to Prevent Sports Injuries

I have been working on a longer blog about this subject, but seeing as how just about everybody on the Cleveland Browns has a hamstring issue, I have decided to post a condensed, emergency edition.

I am a 61 year-old cyclist with knees of steel. I can grind the peddles of my bike with maximum effort without having to worry about tweaking a knee. That wasn’t always the case. A few years ago, I had so much pain in my knees that I could barely walk. As you age, it becomes more and more difficult to keep your joints hydrated. So, I have had to become knowledgeable about sports nutrition out of necessity.

I have learned that you need to do two major things to keep your body injury-free:

Step 1 – Eliminate Diuretics

That means no alcohol, caffeine, theobromine (chocolate), or low-carb diets, which are the very worst diuretic of all. If you take any prescription drugs, find out if they are known diuretics and ask your doctor if there is an alternative. Diuretics cause you to urinate out water, leaving less available to form the synovial fluid that keeps your joints lubricated.

Step 2 – Keep Your Body Alkaline

That means no junk food, including sugar, soda, pizza, and surprisingly, some fruits like grapes and raisins. One of the most acidic foods I have found is honey. So, just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it isn’t acidic. Your body has several mechanisms to keep itself pH balanced. However, if you eat an acidic diet, your pH will eventually drop, and things will start to go haywire. The classic symptom is a stiff neck.

Discussion

Avoiding diuretics is pretty easy, but learning about pH balance takes a little bit of work. So, start out by reading my Acidic & Alkaline Foods page.

Hydration and pH balance are related in that your body burns up electrolytes to neutralize acid. For example, calcium is an electrolyte and also the main ingredient in antacids like Tums. If your body needs more calcium to neutralize all the acid you are consuming, it will pull it out of your bones and teeth, weakening both.

And finally, pH balance is especially important for athletes because training itself is acidifying! Each ATP energy molecule that you burn results in the creation of an acidic hydrogen ion, which then has to be disposed of. Your bloodstream will carry the hydrogen to one of your kidneys where it will be injected into your urine. But when it goes, it takes a potassium atom with it, and potassium, of course, is one of your primary electrolytes.

If you stay hydrated and pH balanced, you will dramatically improve the condition of your joints, muscles, and bones, and have a huge advantage over nearly every one of your competitors. After all, what young athlete is going to give up beer & pizza? Answer: no one. So, this is low-hanging fruit.

If you are an athlete and have success using these principles, please let me know. If you would like to hire me as a consultant, please send an email to the address shown on this page.

Odell Beckham Fanbois Just Won’t Quit

OBJ fanbois remind me of the Black Knight character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The last limb of the metaphorical OBJ Knight was cut off by Browns receivers coach, Chad O’Shea, two months ago when he took OBJ to the woodshed. See what I wrote back on May 14, 2021.

One such limbless OBJ Knight is Brett Kollmann who obviously didn’t get the O’Shea memo. In a video titled: “The Odell Beckham Jr. Narrative Makes No Sense” Kollmann rolls out a bunch of lame excuses for OBJ’s poor performance in Cleveland. Even though OBJ’s route-running has already been retooled from the ground up, I feel a duty to attempt to deprogram these thralls out of their cult of personality so that they may move on to more productive lives.

The first argument Kollmann defends OBJ with is that “correlation does not equal causation.” And just because Baker’s stats suffer when Beckham is on the field doesn’t prove that it’s OBJ’s fault. But sometimes a correlation does reveal a causation. In fact, correlations should be looked at as clues that might lead you to a valuable causation. And in this case, there is plenty of causation. That’s why the Browns’ expert coaches have ruled against OBJ. He has been weighed, measured, and found wanting.

Kollmann’s second argument is this:

“Believe it or not, this offense was not designed around getting volume opportunities to Odell Beckham. It was designed around using the threat of Odell to give wide-open opportunities to basically every other skill-position player on the roster.”

But why was that done? Answer: Stefanski was aware of the 2019 shit-show and had to come up with a way to work around the hideous Baker-Beckham duo. Using OBJ as a decoy instead of a receiver was one of the solutions deployed. Running a Kubiak-Shanahan system, and making Baker a game-manager QB, was another.

Kollmann’s third argument is that Baker did better without Beckham on the field in the second half of the season because the whole team had gotten better as the season went on. But we know that isn’t the case. In reality, it only took 12 minutes and 24 seconds after OBJ got injured for Baker to light the Bengals’ fur on fire. (See my time-line here.) According to NFL NextGen Stats, the odds against Mayfield completing 22 straight passes were 19,062 to 1.

It was no accident. Baker transformed almost instantaneously after he was free of the OBJ albatross.

Kollmann claims that OBJ could not possibly be the problem because:

“Football, the most complicated team sport in the world does not work that way. It never has been, and it never, ever will be that simple…”

True, football is indeed complicated, and it is rare when a single player, no matter how talented, can change the fate of a team. However, there is a reason why QBs get paid so much more money than other players: they have an outsized impact on the team. Receivers are the second-highest paid players because the QB needs talent to throw to.

But OBJ is no ordinary receiver. He is a megastar, far more popular than Baker off the field. And he has used his star-power to deploy a reality-distortion field around the Browns offense. See what I wrote here. So, the Browns are a special case when it comes down to a single player dramatically discombobulating the offense.

Kollmann puts his hopes in the fact that Baker and his receivers worked on their chemistry over the summer at Camp Mayfield in Texas:

“The only thing – and I mean literally THE ONLY THING – holding the Browns’ offense back in the first half of last year was themselves. They had all the talent in the world, but they just didn’t have the chemistry to make that talent work efficiently.”

This is a common argument from OBJ fanbois. The problem is that nobody actually knows how to create chemistry, and I’m pretty sure that hanging out together off the field isn’t going to do it. The only thing that seems to work is a massive number of practice reps, which OBJ could not do this off-season because he was still rehabbing his knee. So, OBJ fanbois need to brace for more suck on the chemistry front this year.

Of course, if you really wanted chemistry, Landry, Higgins and Njoku would be starters. And Donovan Peoples-Jones would be your #3 WR. DPJ has shown signs of developing chemistry with Baker; and he is doing it with far fewer reps than OBJ has done with Baker. In fact, DPJ has surpassed OBJ on the chemistry front. If OBJ goes back to running predictable routes, and Baker can finally find him, there is a chance for them to develop chemistry. But as far as we know, as of today, OBJ & Baker have no chemistry whatsoever and likely never will. The same goes for Hooper, though he has tried much harder than OBJ. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. But again, the Browns do not lack chemistry! All they have to do is fucking deploy it!

In other OBJ Cult news, Mary Kay Cabot still thinks OBJ should be able to freelance his routes. Here’s what she wrote back here:

“In addition to building their friendship off the field, the two will have to compromise on the field. Mayfield likes his receivers to run precise routes so he can deliver the ball on a dime. Beckham, often double-teamed, freelances to get open, using every bit of his artistry and athleticism, and expects the QB to find him. This season, in addition to communicating about route details, ball placement and the like, they’ll need to come each other’s way a bit. It will help that both know the offense a lot better, but Mayfield will sometimes have to allow Beckham the freedom to get open — even though offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt is on Team Precise Routes — and Beckham will have to sometimes be more disciplined in this timing offense.”

Compromise? What the hell no! This isn’t the NBA where players have much more power than NFL players. Didn’t you see the QB rebellion led by Aaron Rodgers this summer? He lost. The Browns have pissed away half of their Super Bowl window already by letting OBJ discombobulate Baker. Now, it’s time for Baker to be THE MAN and put OBJ on a short leash.

This is why I am for shedding OBJ instead of trying to rehab him: the stakes are just too high. The marvelous “point guard” style of play that we saw from Baker as he fed the ball to whoever was open just doesn’t have room for a psychologically disruptive prima-donna WR like OBJ.

If the higher-ups insist on keeping OBJ, the team has two lines of defense. First, we must pray for Coach O’Shea to succeed with his rehabilitation of OBJ’s route-running. Second, Baker has to acquire the skill of being psychologically impervious to any mental manipulation from OBJ. An example is sulky body-language when OBJ feels like he isn’t getting the ball enough. Baker needs to totally ignore that.

So, that is what we Browns fans need to hope for. As for you limbless Black Knights, instead of simply slobbering over OBJ, recognize that Baker is THE MAN, and that OBJ should run his routes to the letter and not try to influence Baker to get more targets.

P.S. The new “point guard” style that we saw Baker running during the second half of last season was not new. That’s how he played during his rookie year in 2018 when he set the NFL record for most TD passes by a rookie. He stopped playing like that when OBJ arrived.

Disaster Strikes Browns: DePodesta Extended for 5 Years

Bad news everybody: The Browns have extended Paul DePodesta’s contract for 5 more years. The team’s “Destroyer of Chemistry” will continue his campaign to stamp out chemistry wherever he finds it. Why? Because he is a famous analytics guy, and chemistry does not compute. In fact, chemistry makes DePo and his bullshit spreadsheet look bad.

In 2018, Rashard Higgins and David Njoku became fan favorites by making many clutch plays with rookie QB Baker Mayfield. Both players were rewarded by being benched by DePo in 2019 and then again in 2020. Njoku asked to be traded, and Hig suffered in silence. Both players were unjustly persecuted.

In 2020, after a series of injuries to other receivers, the Browns finally had to let Hig play. And he (and Njoku) did as they always have: they were key in the Browns first playoff run in a very long time.

Their reward? Njoku clearly should be the #1 tight-end, but almost certainly will not. Hig should be a starter but will likely end up benched again. Both players will likely play behind their far more expensive, and lower-performing “upgrades” Austin Hooper and Odell Beckham, Jr. Two players that account for a mind-boggling waste of money.

In recent years, the Browns have become infamous for having lots of talent on paper, but surprisingly poor performance on the field. This, in retrospect, is exactly what you might expect of a team built with a fucking slide-rule.

Think about this: what if Njoku and Hig were starters for all of 2019 and 2020? Can you imagine how lethal Baker would be by now? And what if all those reps wasted on OBJ & Hooper had gone to train-up other, more-promising pass-catchers?

Sure, it’s easy to make such rear-view statements, but keep in mind that the Browns employed OBJ for 22 games of dogshit performance, hoping that he would start to click with Baker. He never did. Hope, was their plan. It didn’t work.

One thing we have learned is that you cannot parachute in a big-dollar, big-shot player and expect him to fit in. Providing pass-catchers to Baker just doesn’t work that way.

Hooper has tried very hard, but it doesn’t seem like he will ever approach the chemistry that Njoku has with Baker. Imagine two couples. Couple A is always finishing each other’s sentences. Couple B never finishes each other’s sentences, but think it is cool, so they start practicing doing so. What are the chances that they will be able to develop the same chemistry that Couple A has? Not very good, right? Are there any analytic techniques that might help them? Probably not.

This is why the Browns should move on from Hooper and OBJ. They need to stop ramming their head into the wall already. Like they say: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Coach O’Shea is retooling OBJ’s route running, and if anybody can fix OBJ, it is O’Shea. But there is copious evidence that Baker and Beckham are a Couple B.

Without DePodesta, Browns coaches would almost certainly pay more heed to the chemistry between Baker and his receivers.

I expect the Browns to have another good year, but not good enough to get Baker on the Hall-of-Fame track where he belongs. That can’t be done with an analytics nerd stripping Baker of his favorite targets.

Note: When Coaches Kitchens & Stefanski benched Hig & Njoku, they did not give reasons. This enraged fans. But my theory is that it was DePo who gave the orders and swore the coaches to silence.

How About a John Ross vs Anthony Schwartz Showdown?

The New York Giants are coming to Cleveland to practice with the Browns, and play a preseason game on August 22, 2021. And guess who they signed back in March: none other than reigning-champion speedster, John Ross, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ross holds the 40-yard dash record, clocking in at 4.22 seconds at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. The fun part is that Browns’ rookie speedster Anthony Schwartz said that he would have broken that record if the NFL had not cancelled his combine due to COVID-19 fears.

So, why not have a little foot race in Berea? If the players are healthy and warmed up, and the field is in good shape, I don’t see the harm. After all, players are doing 40-yard dashes left-and-right as they run routes during practice.

Such a race would garner a good number of eyeballs.

For more info on the forty, see my Browns Player Speeds page.

Odell Beckham Jr. Bends the Knee!

The major drama in this year’s Browns preseason is: can the team persuade Odell Beckham, Jr. to run technically-correct routes so that Baker Mayfield can find him? OBJ prefers to do how he pleases, and run what he considers “creative” routes despite the statistical evidence that shows that such BS simply does not work.

Well, last week, OBJ bent the knee to his position coach, Chad O’Shea, and said in an interview that it was now up to him to fit into the new Browns offense that gelled while he was rehabbing his knee during last season.

As far as I can tell, no reporter has published OBJ’s comments, so I don’t have a link for you to follow. However, apparently, OBJ made his “fit in” comment on July 25, 2021, when he hosted a football ProCamp at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio.

This is fantastic news. Last year, the dysfunctional Baker-Beckham duo forced the Browns to run a tight-end heavy ground game. Once OBJ was injured, Baker was able to spread his wings and soar to elite levels, and the Browns adjusted their scheme to accommodate more passing.

If OBJ does his job correctly and becomes an asset to Baker instead of an albatross, the Browns can come out in Week 1 with both guns blazing.

Of course, just because OBJ is running technical routes doesn’t mean that he will develop chemistry with Baker. However, it does enable the possibility of it happening, though I wouldn’t bet on it. As the coaches tell us, it’s “time on task” that allows chemistry to develop, and OBJ’s knee precludes him from doing the required extra hundreds of practice reps with Baker.

In any case, with OBJ buying into the new technical mandate, the Browns’ coaches have taken all the necessary steps to field a world-class offense in Kansas City on September 12th. As long as Paul DePodesta doesn’t issue an edict benching two of Baker’s favorite targets, Rashard Higgins and David Njoku, the Browns will be in fine shape.

The Decline and Fall of Odell Beckham, Jr.

As we speak, the once-mighty Odell Beckham, Jr. is being spoon-fed routes as if he were a fucking child. Coach O’Shea has given him a set of routes to practice. Coach Van Pelt said that OBJ was doing a good job drilling those routes during mini-camp. And even Baker Mayfield was pointing out flaws in OBJ’s route-running.

This is pretty amazing because OBJ was renowned for his technical route-running when he played for the Giants. But at some point, OBJ switched to being a “creative” route-runner. Maybe it was the $95 million contract that the Giants gave him in 2018 that went to his head. That would explain why Eli Manning was able to run up huge stats with OBJ, but Baker Mayfield can’t make head-or-tails of him.

But now the Browns are cracking down. They don’t want any more “creative” nonsense. They want professional-quality, technical route-running. They want OBJ to be where he is supposed to be so that Baker can fucking find him.

What took so long? I think that, before the 2020 season, the franchise looked at OBJ as a potential savior, who would, one day, when he was finally 100% healthy, score 5 touchdowns a game and lead the team to the Super Bowl. So, they were loath to question him.

But after the 2020 season when the Browns ran deep into the playoffs without OBJ, they finally snapped out of OBJ’s spell. They finally saw that the hype was just that: hype. They finally saw that they could do just fine with Rashard Higgins starting. And they realized that when Baker has receivers who can run precise routes, he suddenly transforms into an elite QB.

And having an elite QB is really, really nice. There are zero NFL teams with elite QBs that want to give them up. Not only that, but the new administration of Berry/Stefanski/Van Pelt can take credit for Baker’s renaissance – even though they were the recipients of pure, dumb luck. All it took for Baker to shine was for OBJ to leave the field.

So, keeping your prize pony prancing pretty is very simple: make OBJ run precise routes that Baker can work with, or kick OBJ to the curb. And that is exactly what Coach O’Shea has told OBJ.

And so, OBJ’s gigantic ego has been pounded with a Gallagher-esque Sledge-O-Matic, and I’m sure that it wasn’t an enjoyable experience for him. Make no mistake, OBJ has hit rock bottom.

Now the question is: will he take the coaching and rise from the ashes? Will he give up his egotistical, creative route-running and finally run professional-quality routes?

At this point in time, I think the answer to that question is: maybe. OBJ appears to be taking the coaching and trying to run QB-friendly routes. However, he will not be putting in the hundreds and thousands of practice reps with Baker to develop on-field chemistry. When asked about it last week, OBJ said:

“So, whenever that is, week 1, week 17, I don’t know. Whenever we’re ready we’ll be ready.”

In other words, he won’t be practicing, again, this year because he will be rehabbing his knee until at least week 1. Now look at what Baker said last week:

“We have a lot of great players, and this isn’t taking anything away from them because I love these guys. But it doesn’t matter who we have, if we don’t have chemistry and we don’t do our jobs, none of it matters.”

Obviously, he had OBJ in mind when he said that. Who else could it have possibly been?

This type of talk from Baker is a little bit alarming, but what the Browns are asking OBJ to do is very reasonable. They just want him to run routes as specified in the playbook. Hardly an onerous request. The Browns want Technical OBJ, not Creative OBJ.

Will they get him? I certainly hope so, because conflict with OBJ is not just conflict with a single player, but with a gigantic cult of personality. Imagine if OBJ were benched and Higgins became the #2 WR; people’s heads would explode. A divorce from OBJ would likely be a traumatic event that could potentially distract the team. If it has to be done, then it has to be done, but it could get ugly indeed.

And the Cleveland “sports” media isn’t even discussing the possibility, no doubt because, with notable exceptions, they are all OBJ fanbois. As a consequence:

You heard it here first: war is brewing between the Browns and OBJ.

In other news; No, You Can’t Have Kareem Hunt.
People are talking about how the Los Angeles Rams might want to trade some draft picks for Kareem Hunt. Is there anything more terrifying for a Browns fan than seeing Kareem line-up on the other side of the ball? When Kareem was running roughshod over the Browns during their 2018 game against the Chiefs, I remember thinking: “This isn’t fair; how are we supposed to stop this guy?” I don’t ever want to experience that feeling of helplessness again. That’s for Steelers, Ravens, and Chiefs fans now.

Also, in other news: People are all worried about the Browns defense gelling, what with all the new players. But anybody who saw Coach Woods in action last year knows not to worry. He is a magician when it comes to incorporating new players into his defense. In reality, the gelling problem the Browns have is OBJ, who may simply refuse the gel.

And finally, people are saying that LB Mack Wilson might not be able to make the team this year. But I hope the Browns don’t forget that it was Wilson who delivered justice for the highly illegal murder attempt on Rashard Higgins during the Chiefs game. The refs didn’t flag Daniel Sorensen so Mack Wilson took matters into his own hands and knocked out Patrick Mahomes. The refs didn’t flag Wilson, probably because it was their way of saying sorry for the Higgins call. But think about what Wilson did there. He was thinking something like: I need to avenge Hig, and then a few minutes later he did exactly that. Sometimes the players have to balance the scales of justice, and Wilson is a guy with the raw ability to do that.

Higgins vs Beckham – Touchdowns per Target

You OBJ cultists are cringing right about now because you know what’s coming: yet another statistical beat-down of Your Majesty, Odell Beckham, Jr.

Today, we are looking at the touchdowns-per-target metric. Racking up yardage is nice, but scoring touchdowns is what actually counts. Rashard Higgins and Baker Mayfield are legendary for their aerial prowess, so let’s quantify exactly how fabulous they are. Take a look at this spreadsheet:

So, when Baker throws the ball to Hig, it results in a TD 8.57% of the time. But when Baker throws the ball to OBJ, it only results in a TD 3.45% of the time. OBJ only had two passing TDs from Baker in 2020 (see below).

How do Baker/Hig’s numbers compare to the rest of the league? If you look at this page, you will see that Hig finished 2020 just an eyelash behind DK Metcalf, so he is in pretty good company. Adam Thielen led the league with 13% – almost quadruple OBJ’s performance.

Since we are examining Baker/Higgins as a duo, versus the Baker/Beckham duo, we can’t just use the standard targeting numbers. Not all targets are created equal; most come from Baker, but some targets in the Baker Era came from Tyrod Taylor, Case Keenum, Garret Gilbert, Jarvis Landry, and Odell himself. So, here are the adjustments that were made:

Item: Higgins had 53 targets in 2018, but 10 were from Tyrod Taylor, so his targets with Baker in 2018 are 43. Taylor did not throw any TDs to Hig.

Item: Higgins had 11 targets in 2019, but one was from Garret Gilbert, so Hig’s total for the year has been reduced to 10.

Item: Jarvis Landry has not thrown any passes to Hig, but he threw 1 TD to OBJ during the Dallas game in 2020. So, OBJ’s 2020 TD total, and target total, were decremented for that play.

Item: One of OBJ’s TDs during the Dallas game was an end-around where Baker handed him the ball. So, that was not a pass, and OBJ’s TD total was decremented again.

Item: Case Keenum thew one pass to OBJ in 2020, so OBJ’s targets were decremented for that play.

Note: the full name for this metric is “Career Touchdowns-per-Target for QB/Receiver Duo.”

Note: See also my post: “12 Stats Where Rashard Higgins Beats Odell Beckham, Jr.

If OBJ’s 174 targets were given to Hig, and his conversion rate of 8.57% held up, a total of 24 TDs would have been scored instead of the actual total of 15 for both receivers combined. Why don’t the Browns bench OBJ, start Hig, and just pick up the low-hanging fruit of 9 free TDs? I don’t know, but I suspect that HC Stefanski has marching orders from the Haslams to play OBJ no matter how dysfunctional he is with Baker. Either that, or the orders come from Paul DePodesta, the analytics nerd.

The season hasn’t started yet, so there is still time for the team to come to its senses, but don’t hold your breath. Higgins, who is like a 50-caliber machine-gun with only a couple of rounds in its ammo belt, will likely ride the bench again this year, just like he did at the beginning of the 2020 season. It’s mind-boggling to have a weapon like this and not use it, but that’s what happens when your franchise is not a football team, but rather a cult of personality dedicated to keeping the ego of Odell Beckham, Jr. puffed-up.

The Odell Beckham Dallas Litany

Odell Beckham, Jr. cultists are just giddy with excitement, putting their idiocy on full display for all to see. They think that when OBJ returns to the field in September, he will embark upon a season where every game is like the Browns 49-38 victory over Dallas where OBJ scored 3 touchdowns.

They believe that His Majesty, paired with the new, improved Baker Mayfield will light the field on fire. Of course, Baker has never played well with OBJ on the field, but try telling that to a cultist.

Coach Chad O’Shea is valiantly attempting to fix OBJ, but his efforts are not guaranteed to succeed. At this point, I think that putting OBJ on the field is still very risky given how he has discombobulated Baker ever since he came over from the Giants.

Because of OBJ’s terrible performance with the Browns, cultists are always on the defensive, which is hard work because they have no glowing stats to point to. And so, they are forced to point to OBJ’s only bright spot: the Dallas game.

The Context

It’s important to keep in mind that going into this game, Browns fans were frustrated by the continued poor play of the Baker-Beckham duo. Their anguished cries could be heard: “We must get the ball into the hands of the play-makers!” By which they meant OBJ. Since having Baker throw the ball to OBJ wasn’t working, other options had to be considered, which would be:

1) Have somebody else throw the ball.
2) Have Baker hand the ball to OBJ.
3) Have OBJ throw the ball.
4) Have OBJ return punts and kicks
5) Have OBJ take a direct snap.

Right? Everything but having the preternaturally talented QB simply throw him the ball because OBJ couldn’t run a crisp route to save his life.

The Game

So, that’s why in this game we saw Jarvis Landry throw a TD to OBJ, and Baker hand the ball to OBJ on two end-arounds. And while it looked like success on the surface, with OBJ having a monster game, consider the opposition:

Dallas linebacker.

During the 2020 season, Browns fans suffered with an injury-plagued defense held together with chewing gum and twine, but the Dallas defense was quite a bit worse. The Browns’ defense ranked at #17 in the 32-team league, while Dallas ranked at #23. The Dallas rushing defense ranked at an abysmal #31.

So, with the Browns elite (#3) running attack going up against the league’s second-worse ground defense, it was no surprise that the Browns crushed Dallas like a Native-American hunting party clubbing baby seals. Even if you take out OBJ’s 73 rushing yards, the Browns still had 234 yards on the ground – and that was with Nick Chubb being injured and missing three quarters. D’Ernest Johnson took the baton from Chubb and had a field-day with 95 yards on 13 carries for an average of 7.3.

So, OBJ’s most glorious moment in his career with the Browns came against a truly inept defense. Cultists like to say that OBJ single-handedly won the game for the Browns, but is that really the case? If Rashard Higgins were allowed to wear the uniform for that game, instead of OBJ, do you really think the outcome would have been much different?

Cultists also like to say that OBJ’s 50-yard end-around TD in the 4th quarter won the game for the Browns. But it was really Denzel Ward’s interception with 1:42 left on the clock that sealed the victory. Not to mention the Browns defense winning the turn-over battle 3-0.

During his big end-around TD, OBJ first ran backward 14 yards. It worked against the puny Cowboys, but not on a real defense when he tried it against the 49ers in October 2019:

Cultists like to say that OBJ won the Dallas game “single-handedly” but if they can say that, then we can say Higgins “single-handedly” defeated 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 defense while Higgins out-smarted the Bills’ elite defense that ranked at #4 for the 2019 season.

Aftermath

OBJ cultists need to explain why, if OBJ is so fabulous, why didn’t he repeat this performance in the next two games versus the Colts and the Steelers? Why didn’t he stop the Steelers from smashing the Browns 38-7? The answer, obviously, is that the Colts and Steelers had elite defenses at the time. Instead of facing cute little baby seals, OBJ had savage polar bears to deal with. He scored zero touchdowns. In an end-around attempt versus the Colts, OBJ was thrown for a one yard loss. Meanwhile, Rashard Higgins caught a TD pass in each game.

After being smashed by the Steelers, the Browns went to Cincinnati where OBJ sustained his season-ending injury.

Here is an actual sample of the Dallas Litany from reporter Mary Kay Cabot who repeats this virtually every time she speaks:

“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.”

No, no, no! The Browns do not exist to “showcase” anybody! The Browns exist to win football games! This is why the Cult of OBJ is so dangerous: it is not focused on winning games, but rather on aggrandizing OBJ’s massive ego. That is not how professional football if played.

Note: thankfully, not everybody is brainwashed. See how MMA fighters Brendan Schaub and Josh Thomson reacted during their live-stream when OBJ was briefly shown in the audience of UFC 264:

Schaub, in addition to being a former MMA heavyweight also made it to the Buffalo Bills practice squad, and is knowledgeable about football. I believe that he became a Browns fan when Baker Mayfield was drafted and/or the Browns were on the NFL’s “Hard Knocks” TV show in 2018. Schaub was a fullback/tight-end kind of player in college at the University of Colorado.

Note: the Dallas game is the one where Donovan Peoples-Jones failed to field a kickoff and almost caused a disaster. See the 12:15 mark of this video.

The Odell Beckham, Jr. Debate is *OVER*

What the fuck is wrong with these OBJ fanbois? Are they ever going to quit? How can they still be spewing their specious rhetoric when the issue has long been settled with actual facts?

For example, during episode #10 of the “For Pete’s Sake” podcast (43:40), Nicole Chatham wagged her finger at OBJ critics, and questioned our ability to think logically. She suggested that we go back to high-school debate class:

“You know what I think it really comes down to? Everyone needs to take debate in high school. This is what it actually comes down to because the number of logical fallacies that get applied to this scenario is incredible. First of all, we have the correlation-causation thing with OBJ. Just because Baker played better in the second half of the season and OBJ wasn’t on the field in the second half of the season does not mean that one of those things caused the other thing.”

Can you imagine? Debate? I’ve got news for you fanbois: The OBJ debate is over, and has been over since ESPN dropped their statistical nuke on October 29, 2020.

And I quote:

“In fact, 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).”

That’s right; the Baker-Beckham duo is objectively dogshit. That is not an opinion up for debate! In fact, the Browns knew about this long before ESPN published their numbers. That’s why they brought Stefanski in in the first place. His job was to work around the dogshit stuck to the franchise’s shoe by installing a Kubiak-Shanahan system that would feature Nick Chubb & Wyatt Teller rather than Baker & OBJ. The franchise was matching the coach to the talent, such as it was.

After The Great Regression year of 2019, nobody was really sure if the problem was Baker, OBJ, or Freddie Kitchens. After all, Baker played superbly with Freddie as his coach in 2018. But Freddie was made the fall-guy, and everybody thought that 2020 would be different.

It wasn’t.

Despite having the Coach of the Year at the helm, Baker-Beckham still stunk in 2020. That removed the coach as a variable. Baker-Beckham stunk under both Kitchens and Stefanski.

Then OBJ got hurt, and we saw Baker go back to his real self and play as well as any QB in NFL for the rest of the year. Anybody who even entertains the idea that Baker was the fly in the ointment is just plain crazy. You literately could not ask for better evidence to solve a mystery like this. During the second half of 2020, we learned that Baker could hit a ham sandwich if it ran a crisp route. And that proved that OBJ is the poison in the Baker-Beckham duo because even the most enthralled fanboi admits that OBJ does not run crisp routes.

Sometimes correlation *is* causation.

But that’s all ancient history.

Here in 2021, the *fact* is that while the fanbois were continuing to defend OBJ, Coach O’Shea was retooling OBJ’s routes. That’s right; the magical unicorn is now being micro-managed to fix his glaring fault: the inability to run QB-friendly routes. Maybe OBJ’s random route-running can’t be covered, but it can’t be hit either because Baker just doesn’t know what the fuck OBJ is doing out there.

Here is a summary for fanboi knuckleheads who are living in the past:

Phase 1 – Baker is awesome in his rookie year of 2018.
Phase 2 – OBJ arrives and Baker stinks for all of 2019.
Phase 3 – Baker-Beckham continues to stink in early 2020.
Phase 4 – OBJ is injured & Baker is awesome for the rest of the season.
Phase 5 – ESPN proves OBJ is Baker’s Achilles Heal in October of 2020.
Phase 6 – Coach O’Shea re-tools OBJ’s routes as first order of business in 2021.
Phase 7 – OBJ appears to be taking the coaching, though there is no reporting.

If your head is not in Phase 7, then you are a terrible football analyst/reporter, no doubt mentally crippled by your need to worship His Majesty, Odell Beckham, Jr. My advice to you is to snap the fuck out of it, and report on Coach O’Shea’s effort to fix OBJ. Because if he succeeds, it could be a truly epic event in football history. Make no mistake, this is a huge story.

Here are some questions that I want answered by the Cleveland sports OBJ-worship media:

1) Is OBJ taking the coaching? How does he feel about it?
2) Is he practicing the new routes with Baker? If so, how many reps are they doing?
3) When did he start running his random routes? High school? College? With the Giants?
4) How did Eli Manning get so much production out of OBJ?
5) How long will the Browns be patient with OBJ in 2021 if he doesn’t produce?

The last question is the most-important, because if the answer is more than three games, then we will be witnessing the Browns sliding down their Super Bowl window a few more inches.

Browns Coaches Refuse to Gush Over Odell Beckham Jr. *AGAIN*

Back in May, when asked about his “excitement level” for Odell Beckham, Jr.’s return from injury, Browns receivers coach, Chad O’Shea, struck a much different tone. He actually dropped a bombshell: the Browns were dictating to OBJ exactly how they wanted him to run his routes. It was quite the spectacle. See what I wrote back here.

A month later, during mini-camp in June, Coach Alex Van Pelt was asked the same thing by OBJ thrall, Mary Kay Cabot:

“The question is with Odell; there was just so much talk last year obviously about how Baker seems to play freer and looser without Odell, and his numbers were so much better without Odell. Can you just address the notion of what Odell will mean and bring to the offense and to Baker. And I’m guessing that you think that concept of Baker being better without Odell is not true.”

Holy Christ! Talk about leading the witness! But Van Pelt replied, in a pretty stern tone:

“I think Baker was better as the season went on, whether there had been Odell or not still out there.”

AVP, like Coach O’Shea, went on to compliment Odell on his talent. But it was “faint praise” and a pro-forma response that you would expect in the name of team harmony.

But make no mistake, the Browns’ coaching staff is not gushing over OBJ’s return, no matter how many times sycophant reporters prompt them to do so.

And that is fantastic news because it indicates that the offense will be conducted as a professional NFL operation rather than a cult of personality designed to aggrandize the ego of one Odell Beckham, Jr.

Also, during AVP’s press conference, he said that Odell “ran some really good individual routes during the side periods.” This is what Coach O’Shea said they were doing: dictating very specific routes to OBJ. That was back in May via Zoom, and now AVP has informed us that they have installed the new routes live, during mini-camp. And OBJ seems to have taken the coaching.

So, the effort to get professional-quality route-running out of OBJ is on track, and that is exactly what needs to be done. Now, we just need OBJ to practice those routes with Baker, hundreds of times, until they can connect on them with their eyes closed, and bring OBJ up to Higgins-grade chemistry with Baker.

And that is a tall order because Baker & Hig have reached a level of near-perfection. Not to mention Jarvis Landry. In fact, OBJ will have to work hard to catch up with Baker’s entire receiving corps. Right now, statistically, OBJ is the very worst when it comes to on-field chemistry with his quarterback. I believe he is now trying, but his success is not guaranteed. He has a lot of work ahead of him.

All in all, I like the way things are going with the Browns. As for the Cleveland sports media, not so much. They are completely missing the most important story of the year. Can OBJ finally develop chemistry with Baker Mayfield? What’s bigger than that? And yet, all these reporters want to do is rub shoulders with the big shot celebrity.

Pathetic.

Maybe I have to spoon-feed ideas to them. Here’s one: call up Eli Manning and ask him how he handled OBJ during his years with the Giants. Not only is that a great subject, but it could actually help to improve Baker’s management skills. But, don’t hold your breath waiting for such valuable content from Browns reporters.

Note: the transcript of AVP’s comments is here. The video is here, and Cabot’s question comes at the 12:28 mark.

Will 2021 be the Year When Odell Beckham, Jr. *Finally* Develops On-Field Chemistry with Baker Mayfield?

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?

Hell no.

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.