Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has two personas: Good Baker and Bad Baker. Good Baker delighted fans during his 2018 rookie year. Bad Baker showed up to spoil the 2019 season, and was mundane during the first six weeks of 2020. Then Good Baker returned and lit the NFL on fire, taking the Browns this close to defeating Kansas City in the playoffs.
People are baffled as to why sometimes the Good Baker shows up, and other times you get the Bad Baker. But it is all very simple. Good Baker is the default Baker. This is the Baker that won the Heisman Trophy, broke the NFL record for most touchdown passes for a rookie, etc.
Bad Baker emerges the moment Odell Beckham, Jr. walks on the field.
Why would that be? Because OBJ demands that Baker stop playing his position correctly. Baker is supposed to “read the defense.” So, his job is to look at how the defense has lined up, send a man in motion to see how they react, consider the routes that each one of his receivers will run, and then decide which one will have the best odds for success.
Odell communicates something like this to Baker: “Forget all that bullshit and just throw me the fucking ball because I am a million times more talented than any receiver on this team.” Bad Baker caves to Odell, throws a low-odds pass to him, and the cornerback breaks it up because he sees it coming a mile away. When your scheme is “throw it to OBJ,” your offense becomes a bit predictable, and Bad Baker racks up a pile of shitty stats. He also gets criticized for being a “one-read quarterback,” and deservedly so.
Now, when OBJ leaves the field, none of the other receivers demand the ball because they aren’t narcissistic prima donnas. Good Baker goes back to reading the defense, lights them on fire, and the Browns are off and running again.
That, is all there is to it.
This explains how Good Baker reappeared so rapidly during the Bengals game in Week 7. It doesn’t take Baker long to shift gears from Bad Baker to Good Baker. Being an elite quarterback is in his bones, and always will be. Just think of OBJ as the light-switch that turns Good Baker on and off. He had Baker switched off during Week 7, and Baker switched back on after OBJ had to leave the game.
Apparently, the exact thing that OBJ does to Baker involves sulky, petulant, body-language. Perhaps there is also pouting, and maybe a few words in the huddle. I don’t know exactly what OBJ does, but he sure as hell does something. Something that should have been stopped a long time ago.
Everybody is carrying on about how fabulous Coach Stefanski and GM Berry are, but neither one reigned in OBJ enough to bring out Good Baker. The return of Good Baker was pure, dumb luck; the direct result of OBJ’s injury. No coaching miracle happened during the bye-week, as some allege.
Receivers coach, Chad O’Shea, didn’t tell OBJ to stop bothering Baker. Coach Van Pelt didn’t tell Baker to ignore OBJ. Baker himself didn’t tell OBJ to knock it off. And Browns’ alleged analytics wiz, Paul DePodesta didn’t discover the glaring stats screaming for OBJ to be benched.
I’m not saying the coaching staff did a bad job; obviously they did quite well. But I guarantee you that the Browns are not winning the Super Bowl with Bad Baker at the helm.
Since nobody on the Browns has demonstrated the ability to reign in OBJ, they need to trade him. The team is simply not able to tap into OBJ’s skills without blowing up their franchise quarterback. It’s time that they admit failure and move on from OBJ.
If they don’t, and if OBJ is brought back for the 2021 season, then there is only one thing Good Baker can do to survive: eat the sandwich. In episode 702 of Seinfeld, “The Postponement,” George is amazed by a man who is impervious to his girlfriend’s feminine wiles. He just keeps eating his sandwich as she cries, and even takes her french fries.
But can Baker eat the sandwich? While it seems like it might be easy for Baker to ignore Odell when he carries on, I’m not so sure that it is. OBJ appears to hold in thrall the entire Browns organization, sports media, and city of Cleveland itself. If Baker doesn’t target Odell enough, he will hear about it – loudly.
But again, I wouldn’t spend a single second trying to deal with this nonsense, and just trade OBJ for some badly needed talent on defense. OBJ had a fair chance, playing in 22 games with the Browns. And he failed utterly and completely to gel with his quarterback. That, we have learned the hard way, is simply not his thing.
Who should replace OBJ? It doesn’t matter. Any other Browns receiver lining up in Odell’s spot would result in a dramatically better passing game. It literally…
DOES. NOT. MATTER.
That’s how destructive OBJ is to this offense.