Baker Mayfield was kicked to the curb by the Cleveland Browns last year in favor of Deshaun Watson, who they lavished with a record-breaking $230,000,000. The consensus in the Cleveland sports media was that Baker was dogshit, and all of his accomplishments in his career were a mirage. Reporters savaged Baker about how “nobody wanted him” and how he was destined to become a mere back-up, if that. It was an orgy of hate, as Cleveland drooled over their calendars, awaiting rescue by Football Jesus himself, Deshaun Watson.
But, in a twist of fate, Cleveland took a hard punch right to the balls as it was Deshaun Watson who played like dogshit during his first game as a Brown. Watson threw ball after ball at the feet of his targets, as if he were spiking the ball to stop the clock. Watson was 12 of 22, with no TDs, and one interception. Browns fans were shocked.
A few days later, Baker parachuted into Los Angeles while speed-reading the Rams playbook, and led the injury-crippled Lambs to victory the next day. The L.A. sports media was ecstatic, calling Baker’s final game-winning drive the most amazing feat of quarterbacking in history.
Baker Mania broke out in L.A. and Baker went on to play well for the rest of the season. During his 5 games with the Rams, Baker completed 82 of 129 for 63.6% with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. His passer rating was 86.4, and he averaged 6.59 yards per attempt.
Meanwhile, Watson improved a little bit, but didn’t even come close to living up to the hype. Watson completed 99 of 170 for 58.2% with 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. His passer rating was 79.1, and he averaged 6.48 yards per attempt.
Both QBs played for poor teams. The Rams were crippled by injuries to their top players: Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald.
And what was the Browns’ excuse? How did the Browns’ once-stellar defense turn into Swiss cheese against the run? You would think that with Myles Garret and Jadeveon Clowney, the Browns would at least be respectable.
But it turns out that the Browns deliberately weakened their defensive tackle position. Why would they do something so ridiculous? Well the “logic” was that since the NFL was a passing league, and there were so many fabulous passing teams out there, that it would behoove the Browns to trick them into running the ball for 3 yards or so, instead for passing for 30.
And that’s exactly what happened. Teams ran the ball up the middle, out of the reach of Garrett and Clowney. In other words, the Browns deliberately made their d-line into a punching bag.
One of the classic adages of NFL football is that “the game is won in the trenches.” Everybody knows this. It’s football 101. And it remains as true today as it ever was. So, what kind of maniac would deliberately turn that hallowed adage on its head?
I don’t know, but it absolutely stinks of analytics. If it was a Paul DePodesta idea, then the Browns may have fired the wrong guy. The now former defensive coordinator, Joe Woods also lost all of his linebackers to injury. To me, he looks like the fall-guy for an idiotic decision made higher up in the organization.
Here’s an idea for the NFL:
Nobody likes tie games. Ideally, you would just let the teams play a series of overtime periods until one wins. But the player’s union thinks that exposes players to injury. However, the players sitting on the bench are nice and fresh. So, why not play overtime with your second team? Any player who has played say, 20 snaps or less would be eligible. Or, you could have the practice squads of each team face off. Maybe you would need to expand their size a bit. Or you could have your back-ups play a seven-on-seven match.
This is not as crazy as it sounds. What with all of the injuries in the NFL, we already see games which are practically second-team vs second-team. I say, put those bench-warmers to work.
This may be my last blog on football. In the future, if I continue blogging, it will likely be on different subjects. I haven’t decided yet.