In his rookie debut in 2018, Baker Mayfield was a fantastic quarterback. In 2019, he sucked. Kind of mysterious, no? Most analysts attribute Baker’s regression to the loss of OG Kevin Zeitler, and a consequently degraded o-line.
But I blame Myles Garrett.
How is that possible? How could a defensive player like Myles effect Baker’s game when he isn’t even on the field at the same time as Baker?
Answer: Myles was on the field at the same time as Baker during practice. And no, Myles did not whack Baker in the head with his helmet. However, many people have remarked that Myles “ruined” practice by being way better than the Browns’ o-line that he was practicing against.
So, the ones are on the field practicing, and on just about every pass play, there’s Myles wrapping-up Baker before he can get the ball off. He doesn’t injure Baker of course, however, subconsciously Baker learns that he is not safe, and that he needs to flee the pocket – even when he is not being pressured.
This is the reddest of red flags because everybody is thinking that the addition of Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin to the Browns’ o-line is going to restore Baker to his former glory. But, if I am right, it will not, and Baker will continue to see ghosts, have another terrible year, and maybe lose his starting-QB job to Case Keenum.
Speaking of which… Maybe one of Keenum’s jobs as backup-QB should be to take snaps when Myles is on the practice field. I’m not saying that Baker should be coddled, however his subconscious mind does need to be reconditioned into trusting his revamped o-line, which by all accounts will be far superior to the 2019 edition.
This brings to mind a story about MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre as told by his coach, Firas Zahabi, on the Joe Rogan show. As GSP was training for his fight with Dan Hardy in 2010, he got knocked down during a sparring session. In order to rebuild GSP’s confidence, and unbeknownst to GSP, Zahabi instructed the sparring partner to not throw any punches at GSP in the final round, and he did not; he just took a beating. And it worked; GSP was elated after the round and very pleased with his comeback performance. And he went on to defeat Hardy, even though he was probably concussed going in.
The important part of this story is that even the GOAT, GSP, needed to have his confidence restored.
Of course, Baker might catch on if Myles is never on the field at the same time, and that might ruin the therapy. But if so, another treatment will need to be found. An intellectual recognition that he has a better o-line this year probably won’t be enough. He needs to be conditioned to know in his bones that he is safe enough to stand in the pocket and wait for his receivers to complete their routes.
The top priority of the Browns is fixing Baker Mayfield. However, the little adjustment to Baker’s footwork made by coach Van Pelt isn’t going to get the job done by itself. This a job for a sports psychologist. And Baker could start right now with perhaps some visualization exercises, hypnosis, etc.
If this isn’t done, then the Browns will need to change their offensive scheme to match Baker’s disability. Otherwise, we will be watching a rerun of the 2019 season, which nobody wants.