Back in May, when asked about his “excitement level” for Odell Beckham, Jr.’s return from injury, Browns receivers coach, Chad O’Shea, struck a much different tone. He actually dropped a bombshell: the Browns were dictating to OBJ exactly how they wanted him to run his routes. It was quite the spectacle. See what I wrote back here.
A month later, during mini-camp in June, Coach Alex Van Pelt was asked the same thing by OBJ thrall, Mary Kay Cabot:
“The question is with Odell; there was just so much talk last year obviously about how Baker seems to play freer and looser without Odell, and his numbers were so much better without Odell. Can you just address the notion of what Odell will mean and bring to the offense and to Baker. And I’m guessing that you think that concept of Baker being better without Odell is not true.”
Holy Christ! Talk about leading the witness! But Van Pelt replied, in a pretty stern tone:
“I think Baker was better as the season went on, whether there had been Odell or not still out there.”
AVP, like Coach O’Shea, went on to compliment Odell on his talent. But it was “faint praise” and a pro-forma response that you would expect in the name of team harmony.
But make no mistake, the Browns’ coaching staff is not gushing over OBJ’s return, no matter how many times sycophant reporters prompt them to do so.
And that is fantastic news because it indicates that the offense will be conducted as a professional NFL operation rather than a cult of personality designed to aggrandize the ego of one Odell Beckham, Jr.
Also, during AVP’s press conference, he said that Odell “ran some really good individual routes during the side periods.” This is what Coach O’Shea said they were doing: dictating very specific routes to OBJ. That was back in May via Zoom, and now AVP has informed us that they have installed the new routes live, during mini-camp. And OBJ seems to have taken the coaching.
So, the effort to get professional-quality route-running out of OBJ is on track, and that is exactly what needs to be done. Now, we just need OBJ to practice those routes with Baker, hundreds of times, until they can connect on them with their eyes closed, and bring OBJ up to Higgins-grade chemistry with Baker.
And that is a tall order because Baker & Hig have reached a level of near-perfection. Not to mention Jarvis Landry. In fact, OBJ will have to work hard to catch up with Baker’s entire receiving corps. Right now, statistically, OBJ is the very worst when it comes to on-field chemistry with his quarterback. I believe he is now trying, but his success is not guaranteed. He has a lot of work ahead of him.
All in all, I like the way things are going with the Browns. As for the Cleveland sports media, not so much. They are completely missing the most important story of the year. Can OBJ finally develop chemistry with Baker Mayfield? What’s bigger than that? And yet, all these reporters want to do is rub shoulders with the big shot celebrity.
Maybe I have to spoon-feed ideas to them. Here’s one: call up Eli Manning and ask him how he handled OBJ during his years with the Giants. Not only is that a great subject, but it could actually help to improve Baker’s management skills. But, don’t hold your breath waiting for such valuable content from Browns reporters.