After Baker Mayfield’s franchise-record 22 consecutive pass-completions against the Bengals on October 25, 2020, many analysts downplayed the achievement because the Bengals had a poor record. I had the opposite opinion and wrote: The Second Coming of Baker Mayfield. Here’s a quote:
“Baker is now free to re-ascend into Football Heaven where he had previously spent his entire life before OBJ came to town.”
And that’s exactly what has happened. Since that watershed moment when OBJ exited the scene, Baker has been throwing laser-beams to his receivers.
Having been humiliated by the Titans in the 2019 season opener, the consensus last week was that the Browns would do better, but would still lose. And then Baker lasered those smug Titans for thirty-eight points in the first half, putting on another historic display of quarterbacking prowess.
The o-line kept Baker clean, and his receivers got open, but make no mistake, Baker was the star of the show. Fans were ecstatic during what might have been the most exciting half of football ever. It just doesn’t get better than that.
Fans were also raving about Rashard Higgins, who was just doing exactly what he has also been doing for his entire life. Here’s what Josh Keatley wrote:
“Benching Higgins may have been the biggest mistake of the John Dorsey tenure.”
That’s high praise, but let the record show that Hig was also benched in 2020 and only got to play after a series of injuries suffered by other receivers.
And Hig will probably be benched again when OBJ and the other “faster” Browns receivers come back – assuming that Paul DePodesta is still wielding his slide-rule. But Hig is plenty fast. See #39 of the Titans in this photo?:
That’s Breon Borders who runs a 4.49s 40-yard time, substantially faster than Hig’s 4.64. And yet, there’s Hig burning him for a touchdown – something he has been doing his entire career. Here is a scouting report from 2016 (emphasis is mine):
“Higgins was ultra productive in college, putting up crazy numbers over the past two seasons. He is Colorado State’s all time leader in catches (230), receiving yards (3520), and touchdowns (31). He put up these eye popping numbers by being an excellent route runner and having great hands. Higgins is one of the more advanced Wide Receivers in regards to footwork and route running and route concepts. He plays the game very smart. He shows good awareness to read the defense and find the open gaps. He uses subtle movements to get defenders flat footed and off balance. After the catch, Higgins shows quick feet and good change of direction to make defenders miss. Despite his smaller than ideal frame, he shows no fear going over the middle and will fight for contested balls. He tracks the ball well and shows a good ability to high point the ball. When the ball is not in his hands, Higgins shows a willingness to become a blocker downfield.”
Every word of that is still true today.
Fans were unhappy with Coach Stefanski taking his foot off the gas in the second half and letting the Titans restore their dignity. But having Baker laser-beam the defense in the first half, then Chubb & Hunt pound them to dust in the second half is not a bad strategy for winning. You also have to allow your o-line to join in the fun with the run-blocking that they enjoy more than pass-blocking.
Who’s going to stop the Browns now? Answer: nobody. Barring serious injuries, the Browns will win the Super Bowl. Then, next season, OBJ will come back, Hig will go back to being a “healthy scratch,” Baker will be discombobulated, and the Browns will struggle to make the playoffs.
But for now, the Browns are The Greatest Football Show on Earth, so enjoy it while you can.