After suffering through 22 games of hideous QB/WR performance from Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham, Jr. during 2019 and 2020, we finally know exactly what the problem was: Baker felt pressure to get the ball to Odell regardless of what the play-call was or what the defense was doing or whether or not OBJ was even open. He was pressured to abandon the playbook, the scheme, and professional quality quarterbacking in general. For 22 games, the Browns practically operated with a scheme called “throw it to OBJ.”
Mary Kay Cabot who writes for Cleveland.com referred to this phenomena as the “ghost of Odell,” which is an apt description. However, she thinks the ghost has been exorcised. From this podcast (11:40):
“I don’t think he’s going to have the ghost of Odell reigning over him saying, my god, I’ve got to get the football to Odell Beckham, Jr.”
Cabot thinks that the success Baker had during 2020, while OBJ was sidelined, has built up his confidence to a level where he could resist the pressure to get the ball to OBJ. And that Baker can just sail right into the 2021 season ghost-free.
But we have no evidence that the ghost has been exorcised, and it is dangerous to think that it has. This is a powerful ghost that brought the development of the Browns’ franchise quarterback to a grinding halt for 22 games. I don’t know about you, but I sure as fuck did not enjoy that period of Browns history, and definitely don’t want to see it repeated.
But the ghost doesn’t just draw power from OBJ. The ghost is also energized by the players, coaches, management, ownership, sports media, fans, and probably Baker himself. Just assuming that it will not come back is an act of pure folly.
The fact is that feeding a ball-hog, regardless of how talented he is, is not something that can work in the NFL. The Browns have rather solid proof of that. And building a team around a WR instead of the QB is simply not done in the NFL. But that’s what you contribute to when you join the OBJ cult.
It’s important to remember that OBJ does not want Baker to read the defense! He does not want Baker to go through his progressions. And Baker will have pressure to comply; to “get the ball into the hands of the play-makers” which is code for “shut up and throw the damn ball to OBJ already.”
A player like OBJ is the very last type of player you would acquire for the run-oriented, spread-the-ball-around Kubiak-Shanahan offense that Coach Stefanski runs. Stefanski’s system calls for selfless players who know that no single player can be the main focus. So, why is OBJ still on the team? Because the ghost has not been exorcised.
Note to podcasters: gushing over OBJ is not helping the Browns win games. That is your goal, is it not? Because you can’t have both. The New York Giants were not a winning team with OBJ on the squad (31-49). And neither were the Browns during OBJ’s 22 games in Cleveland (10-12). Turns out, ego-aggrandizement is not an effective offensive scheme for an NFL team.