No, Rashard Higgins Does Not Stink

The Baker-hate in the Cleveland sports media is so thick you can cut it with a knife. There is also a surprising amount of Higgins-hate. Idiots like to say that Rashard Higgins “didn’t do anything” in 2021. But how are you supposed to catch balls when you are a “healthy scratch?”

For the first Ravens game, Hig was demoted beneath JoJo Natson and Ja’Marcus Bradley – two practice-squad guys. Natson has been with the Browns for two seasons and has been targeted zero times – literally. And he got the start over a healthy Higgins? WTF?

So, that’s the first problem. The Browns system is designed to throw to tight-ends and running-backs. The coaching staff is clueless when it comes to wide-receivers. So much so that OBJ had to engineer a jailbreak mid-season. OBJ’s subsequent play with the Rams has made HC Stefanski look like a fool. And he didn’t do any better managing Hig.

Speaking of OBJ…when he was with the Browns in 2021, he caught 50.0% of his 34 targets. However, Hig caught 51.1% of his 47 targets. So, if a receiver is out-catching the legendary OBJ, can you really say that he stinks? Yes, you can; but only if you are an idiot.

Here is another amazing Hig stat: Anthony Schwartz is a bonafide speedster, but he only managed 10 yards of YAC on his 10 receptions for the season. That’s one yard of YAC per catch. Meanwhile, Hig had 47 yards of YAC on his 24 catches, so the “slow poke” out YAC’d the speedster by nearly 2x. And Schwartz didn’t do much better in his rushing attempts. While he averaged 6.5 yards-per-carry, he only managed another half-yard after contact. So, that means that Schwartz was very easy to tackle, and was gifted his yardage by play-calls that achieved tactical surprise and/or excellent blocking. The moral of the story is that Hig was a better player than the flashy rookie.

Hig’s largest obstacle was his QB’s injury. Baker Mayfield and Rashard Higgins are attached at the hip. When Baker puts up elite stats, so does Hig. It is a marvel to watch when it is flowing. However, Baker was only in one piece for the first game of the season where Hig was effectively benched. Hig had one target in the Texans game before Baker was injured, but that was it for a healthy Baker-to-Hig battery for the season.

The fact that a ball-hog Baker wouldn’t let a healthy back-up QB take over wasn’t Hig’s fault. So, Hig had to play the whole season with a one-armed QB. We didn’t even get any data on how well Hig does with Case Keenum. Hig only got 2 targets during the Denver game that Keenum played, and Hig had no targets during the final Bengals game that Keenum also won.

A big part of the problem is that Baker & Hig are a textbook example of chemistry in action. However, they play for a team that goes out of its way to piss on chemistry. After all, Paul DePodesta’s whole claim to fame is analytics. If chemistry is allowed to flourish, then it makes the big-shot, nerd-dork with his slide-rule look bad. And so, the Browns stomp on chemistry whenever it crops up.

I am looking forward to watching a healthy Baker Mayfield play in 2022. To maximize his performance, the Browns have to embrace chemistry and give Baker his favorite targets. And those are David Njoku, Jarvis Landry, and Rashard Higgins. Honorable mention: Kareem Hunt, Donovan-Peoples Jones, and Harrison Bryant. Ja’Marcus Bradley has also shown flashes of chemistry with Baker, and should be retained.

I don’t think the passing game needs to be overhauled like everyone is saying. An intact Baker *is* your overhaul. Rather, the pressing needs are clearly at defensive tackle and kicker.