Last week, Odell Beckham, Jr. posted a hype video on Instagram demonstrating his progress in rehabbing his knee. He looks good, but keep in mind that while running and cutting are progress, we need to know if OBJ is ready to take contact. Could his knee survive an assassination attempt by “Dirty as Fuck” Daniel Sorensen of the Kansas City Cheats, who the Browns will be facing right out of the chute in Week 1? You do remember the illegal hit on Rashard Higgins in the playoffs, right?
I trust that the Browns won’t put OBJ out there until he is completely ready, but that may take longer than the hype videos would have you believe.
OBJ began his video with a scene from Scarface where Tony Montana (Al Pacino) says: “You need people like me.” But if the 2020 season proved anything, it is that the Browns don’t need Odell. In fact, having OBJ out there might be a letdown because, down the stretch, and deep into the playoffs, fans got used to Baker throwing 40-yard laser beams to Rashard Higgins seemingly at will.
Why do you think Sorensen tried to kill Rashard?
Because that was the only way to stop him!
Now, you might think that since OBJ is more talented than Higgins that OBJ will be able to outproduce Higgins in the improved offense with the improved QB, but don’t be so sure. OBJ cannot match Higgins’ chemistry with Baker, and if the Browns decide to take that chemistry off the field, once again, don’t be surprised if the offense regresses a bit. Trading chemistry for celebrity? Not a good deal.
However, coach O’Shea is on the case, and I trust that the Browns will use OBJ better than ever this year. That is one of the keys to the Browns season: will OBJ take the coaching?
The other key is: will Baker Mayfield allow OBJ to pull him back down to non-professional play. Last week, we had some excellent commentary on this subject from Cleveland sports radio announcer, Garrett Bush:
“…Baker Mayfield; has he gotten to the point where his progression is: “I’m the man. I’ll throw you the ball when I see you open. I’m not forcing the ball to nobody else. I’m the dude in this offense, and you guys can fill in wherever you fill in. I don’t care what the name looks like, I’m going to throw it to who I want to throw to.” If he’s that guy, you would have no problems bringing him in (Julio Jones). Who cares? Baker would figure it out like Tom Brady does. But if you don’t think he’s that guy, just let Julio hang out there for a little bit…As your franchise quarterback, if you want $40 million, the top-of-the-food-chain guys, you never hear that about. You are never going to hear: Well, Patrick Mahomes was pressing because he thought he had to throw to Travis Kelce. NO! Aaron Rodgers is never pressed. He got Davonte Adams out there. Have you ever heard somebody say that Aaron Rodgers was scared because he didn’t get him [the ball] enough? NO! The top dudes is like listen…I’m Tom Brady, y’all gonna get in where you fit in. That is where you need Baker to be. When he figures that out, you don’t gotta worry about the receiver ever being the problem. The receiver is never going to be the problem because he’s already like listen: This is me. This is my show, and it’s understood how it goes.”
Exactly. However, in every other situation, Baker *is* The Man with full control of his receivers. It’s only when OBJ steps onto the field that Baker turns to mush and lets OBJ dictate the offense. Off the field, OBJ’s celebrity trumps Baker’s celebrity, but Baker can’t allow that on the field. He has to look at OBJ as just another ingredient that he is using to bake (ha, ha) a masterpiece. Heretofore, Baker has been using way too much of that OBJ salt.
OBJ hasn’t said anything like this about the Browns, but he probably still thinks this way. This is one of the things he said after being traded by the Giants to the Browns in 2019:
“I felt disrespected, because I felt like I was a main reason at keeping that brand alive. They were getting prime-time games, still, as a 5-and-11 team. Why? Because people want to see the show. You want to see me play. That’s just real rap.”
Odell thinks more like a circus performer than a football player. He thinks the fans want to see him catch balls one-handed, on every play. The Browns coaching staff, and Baker, need to disabuse him of that mindset because we have hard evidence that the OBJ Flying Circus Offense does…not…work.
One could imagine OBJ returning to his first huddle in 2021: “Okay Baker, I’m here. Time to start the show. Forget the play-call, just throw me the ball, and I will work my magic that everybody has come here to see.” If Baker says: “Okay, boss” in this hypothetical scenario, his career as a starting QB in the NFL will begin to rapidly disintegrate. And the coaches might want to see how Case Keenum handles OBJ.
I’m not saying this will be easy for Baker. After all, Baker loves OBJ, like all of the other players. OBJ is, by all accounts, a great teammate. Relegating OBJ to a very specific role, as O’Shea is doing might not take.
And finally, I don’t want to put all the blame on Baker because he was swept up in the OBJ hype-wave like everybody else. For example, back in 2019, after Baker threw a pass (of about 20 yards) to OBJ, Tony Romo, who was announcing the game said:
“This is what you got to do. If you’re Baker Mayfield, just give 13 a chance.”
That was during the Denver game in 2019. (See the 7:38 mark of this video.) The Browns were 2-5 at the time, and went to 2-6 after losing to the Broncos. I don’t know if Romo invented the “give him a chance” mantra, but Baker repeated it after the Week 1 loss to the Ravens in 2020. See my post here.
So, starting from the jump when OBJ joined the Browns, everybody thought that it was a good idea to just give 13 a chance. Even a former Dallas QB, Tony Romo, thought it was a good idea. But now we know for sure that such a one-dimensional offensive scheme just doesn’t work. Hopefully, the success that Baker had without OBJ in 2020 will finally allow him to see OBJ in a different light, and enable him to break free of OBJ’s mind control.
Make no mistake, this is the central drama for the Browns’ 2021 season, and for Baker’s career.
Footnote: Garrett Bush made the comments above at the 1:42:57 mark of Brad Ward’s “All Eyez on Cleveland” podcast in the episode titled “Projecting the Browns in 2021 with Garrett Bush of 92.3 The Fan.” YouTube link here. Ward’s podcast is just about the only place where you can hear objective OBJ commentary.