As I have been saying for a while now, the way to fix Baker Mayfield is to ditch Odell Beckham, Jr. And that is exactly what has happened. Read it and weep, OBJ fans:
So far this season, the Browns have played six games with OBJ on the field, and five with him off. With OBJ playing, Baker’s passer-rating was a rotten 84.3. Without OBJ, Baker’s rating is an excellent 103.3!
In other words, if OBJ were not on the team this year, Baker would be the ninth-best quarterback in the league, ahead of QBs like Josh Allen, Ben Roethlisberger, Justin Herbert, Dak Prescott, etc. See the rankings here.
Without OBJ, Baker’s completion percentage has improved from 60.6% to 62.1%, with three of those non-OBJ games played in horrendous weather. Baker’s rating also got a large boost from throwing fewer interceptions: 7 with OBJ, 0 without. Keep in mind that the theory is that OBJ distracted Baker. And without OBJ, Baker is now free to concentrate on improving other parts of his game, like reducing his interceptions. This is a big deal because it shows that Baker is improving again.
In his rookie year of 2018, Baker ranked at #19 with a 93.7 rating. Then OBJ joined the team in 2019, and Baker nose-dived to #31 with a hideous rating of 78.8. He actually ranked beneath Mason Rudolph!
Baker was poised to stink up the season again this year until OBJ’s injury. While obviously bad for OBJ, that injury will be worth millions of dollars for Bakes at contract-negotiation time.
We were all baffled by Baker’s regression in 2019. Just about everybody blamed it on coach Freddie Kitchens. However, the mystery deepened when the regression continued into 2020 under coach Stefanski. Now, the case has been solved.
But the big question is: will the Browns keep OBJ for next season? Remember, Baker’s resurrection was a happenstance. Coach Stefanski did not fix the situation. Coach Van Pelt did not pull the plug on OBJ’s reality distortion field. And Paul DePodesta didn’t figure it out with his fucking slide-rule. It was pure dumb luck, and that dumbness just might inflict OBJ on long-suffering Browns fans again in 2021.
If that happens, then the Browns need a new scheme. Baker said that if he saw OBJ with man-to-man coverage, he would throw the ball to him regardless of what play was called because it was assumed that OBJ was Football Jesus and could win the jump-ball against any cornerback. It didn’t work. Back here, I calculated some stats that showed OBJ was the worst receiver on the team, catching only 53.5% of his targets (compared to 80% for Rashard Higgins.)
So, that scheme would need to be shit-canned. In the new scheme, OBJ would be treated like any other receiver, and he should explicitly be prohibited from pouting about not getting the ball on every fucking play. Something like that might work, but probably not because Andrew Berry and coach Stefanski simply don’t have the balls to get OBJ in line.
I think the ideal home for OBJ is a team with a seasoned QB who will not let his will be bent by OBJ’s celebrity. And a coach, like Bill Belichick, who would not be a-feared to pop the thick bubble of narcissism that surrounds OBJ. Ironically, I would bet that OBJ’s numbers would improve if he became a humble cog in a well-oiled offensive scheme simply because narcissism has no place in a team sport.
Note: I calculated Baker’s passer-ratings with an Excel spreadsheet. If you would like a copy, just let me know and I will email it to you.
Note: Remember when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin yawned at OBJ last year? He was right.
Note: Baker’s longest pass this year was a 43-yard touchdown throw to OBJ in Week 2 against the Bengals. Baker tied that record with another 43-yard throw to Rashard Higgins against the Eagles. If it hadn’t been pouring rain, Baker might have gotten a slightly better touch on the ball allowing Higgins to catch it in stride for another 17 yards and a TD. But Hig had to dive for it. In any case, the point is that Baker can throw the long ball to any of his other receivers.