Odell Beckham, Jr. may not be a coach, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t call the shots. He’s like a pretty girl who just seems to always get her way, despite not having any official power. When OBJ is on the field, there is always a danger that he will grab the steering wheel and run the Browns right into a fucking tree.
And if you look at his stats from the 22 games he has played with the Browns, he has done exactly that. When OBJ is on the field, Baker’s passer rating drops through the floor boards. When OBJ is not on the field, Baker plays at an elite level.
The reason for this is that the Browns are an excellent football team – when OBJ is injured. But when OBJ is on the field, the Browns turn into a cult of personality solely dedicated to aggrandizing OBJ’s ego. In other words, they stop playing professional quality football, and devolve into something I call the OBJ Flying Circus Offense (OBJ-FCO).
Make no mistake, the cult knows exactly what goes wrong when OBJ is in the lineup, but that doesn’t stop them from eating it up with a spoon. Perhaps the most rabid OBJ thrall is Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Here she is fingering the exact problem (see footnote #1):
“Odell likes to get open however he can. Baker likes a precise route run.”
Elsewhere, Cabot praises this as OBJ’s creativity. But consider what happens when Baker has no idea what the fuck OBJ is going to do: he has to stop reading the defense and read OBJ. He literally has to stop looking at his other receivers, and lock onto OBJ, otherwise he will miss the moment when OBJ gets open. This throws off the entire offense: the lineman don’t know how quick Baker will be getting the ball out, the other receivers don’t know where OBJ is going to be so that they can block for him, etc. And when OBJ gets open, and Baker doesn’t see him, it looks like Baker is the one who stinks.
So, the central principle of the OBJ-FCO is that the QB reads OBJ, not the defense.
And, as you might imagine, that is not how professional football is played. Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins do just the opposite: they run precise routes and are always at their designated location when the laser beam from Baker materializes. For their efforts, they are derided by the cult as mere technicians.
The OBJ-FCO was so bad in 2019 that Kevin Stefanski was brought in to muzzle both OBJ and Baker with a run-oriented offensive scheme. At the time, it was not known who the real problem was. So, Stefanski just turned the ball over to Nick Chub, Kareem Hunt, Wyatt Teller, etc. and the Browns did just fine.
Fast forward to the present day, and the cult is in a frenzy over OBJ returning from rehab. They actually believe that OBJ will make the Browns better, despite there being zero statistical evidence of him ever doing any such thing. Here is Mary Kay Cabot yearning for the OBJ-FCO (footnote #2):
“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.”
In other words, give the ball to OBJ on every play. Ironically, this comment was made right after a discussion of how OBJ’s celebrity gets inside of Baker’s head and screws him up! They know that OBJ is football poison! And they still drink the Kool-Aid!
But Cabot goes even further: she wants the team to negotiate with OBJ in what his role will be (footnote #3):
“One of the things I would look seriously into is: what does he want? What does he want? You have to sit down with him, and with his representatives, and you have to see if he is willing to continue to pour his heart and sole into being here, and if he wants to make a go of it here, and if he feels like he and Baker are going to be a great match together…If he really sees that he can be an integral part of this offense, and that he can shine and help this team win, and be used in so many different ways; throw the ball, run the ball, and some of the other things we’ve seen him do, then I think that goes on the plus side of the ledger. Let me stay here and show you guys what I think I can do in this offense.”
Can you imagine? The Browns ran deep into the playoffs without OBJ and now we are going to have OBJ dictate the offensive scheme? Are you fucking insane?
Regardless of talent, you just can’t give the ball to any player on every down because that makes the offense too predictable. The incredible parity produced by the NFL neutralizes talent. The only way to win is to fool the other team. The NFL game is a game of deception, and this is the second fatal flaw of the OBJ-FCO; it is predictable. What did Baker do as soon as OBJ was injured during the Bengals game? He started spreading the ball around, and it worked like magic.
Also, in case you didn’t notice, Coach Stefanski got more conservative with his play-calling as the season went on, and it was looking more-and-more like the Browns had a real shot at making the playoffs. His tolerance for OBJ might have even decreased since he installed the Kubiak-Shanahan system at the beginning of the 2020 season. And, if you recall, that move was widely understood as a demotion of OBJ’s role.
Nevertheless, former Rams running back Doc Holliday has the correct solution for handling OBJ (footnote #4):
“Y’all have some chemistry going on. I would think the best thing y’all can do; y’all holding onto OBJ…don’t let him come back into the offense forcing things, forcing him the ball. Let him come back and play a role because offensively y’all got some chemistry going on…You have a superstar like OBJ with a superstar mentality. Just don’t let him come back trying to force things, and force them to give him the ball. Make him come in and play within the parameters of the offense.”
I sure hope the Browns are able to do that. But what I want to know is, given the analytics that we now posses, why is OBJ even on the team? The fact that he hasn’t been shipped off is a blatant case of football malpractice, and the people of Cleveland should file a class action lawsuit against the Haslams. Why not just trade OBJ for some draft capital, bring in another top-flight edge rusher, and win the Super Bowl? It really would be that easy.
Note: To see the statistical evidence against OBJ, scroll down to the “The Statistical Evidence of the OBJ Albatross” section on my “Trade Away OBJ” page.
Footnote #1: this quote came near the 25:08 mark of the Orange & Brown Podcast on February 24, 2021 titled: “Building the Browns wide receiver room…”
Footnote #2: this quote came near the 31:25 mark of the Orange & Brown Podcast on February 24, 2021 titled: “Building the Browns wide receiver room…”
Footnote #3: this quote begins around the 17:05 mark the February 22, 2012 episode of “The Orange and Brown Talk” podcast titled “The Case for and Against trading Odell Beckham, Jr.”
Footnote #4: Doc Holliday is a former Rams running back, and co-host of the “Bleav in Rams” podcast. Holliday said the words above near the 27:50 mark of Brad Ward’s “All Eyez on Cleveland” podcast during the March 17, 2021 episode titled “Browns FA Profile: Star Safety John Johnson III featuring Doc Holliday.” YouTube link here.