No, the Browns are not Embarking on a Speed Overhaul

Browns announcer, Nathan Zegura, continues to claim that the Browns are looking to acquire faster players. This is odd because Coach Stefanski told him that they were doing no such thing. During the January 20, 2012 episode of the “Cleveland Browns Daily” podcast Stefanski said:

“We’re looking for skill-sets at specific positions…”

And that is basic common sense. Stefanski made a few more comments along the lines that, “speed is good” talking about how players on the perimeter (WR & CB) need to be fast, but he is not looking to replace any players because they aren’t fast enough.

So, why does Zegura persist? Because he is an Odell Beckham, Jr. fanboi, and doesn’t care about OBJ’s documented and disastrous effect on Baker Mayfield. In the next podcast (on January 21st) Zegura implied that the Browns top three receivers for 2021 would be OBJ, Landry, and DPJ. Zegura hoped that Rashard Higgins could “fit in” and that the team could “work that out.”

Of course, the real lineup should be Landry, Higgins, and DPJ with OBJ traded. And you could make a strong case for Hig being the #1 receiver. Not only was he #8 in the league in yards-per-catch, but he came in at #3 for DVOA.

Furthermore, future Hall-of-Fame QB, Aaron Rodgers, has a passer rating of 120.7. But when Baker targets Hig, he has a 126.1 rating. That is Super-Bowl caliber. Meanwhile, the Baker-to-OBJ duo is literally, statistically dogshit. And Hig works cheap; he gets a fraction of what Landry and OBJ get.

Besides, if you were going to order your receivers by speed, OBJ wouldn’t even be playing. Marvin Hall, Taywan Taylor, JoJo Natson, KhaDarel Hodge, and Ja’Marcus Bradley are all faster than OBJ. And Donovan Peoples-Jones is only 5/100ths of second behind OBJ in the 40-yard dash. At the wide receiver position, the Browns are overloaded with speed. See my speed page here.

Note: I can’t verify Hig’s DVOA rank myself since I don’t have a Football Outsiders account. However, I’ve heard a couple of people on podcasts cite it, so it’s probably true.

The Long Knives are out for Baker Mayfield

Everybody knows that Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham, Jr. have failed to achieve chemistry. That is not in dispute. The war that broke out immediately after the Browns playoff-loss to the Chiefs is over what is to be done. And Baker Mayfield is the one with the red laser dot on his forehead as Browns employees and OBJ thralls in the media open fire.

This is completely insane, and I can hardly believe it is happening. Only moments after OBJ left the scene did we see, right before our eyes Baker Mayfield rise like a phoenix from the ashes and play at an elite level, just like he did in 2018 before he had the bad fortune of being teamed-up with OBJ.

In the first off-season episode of the “Orange and Brown Talk” podcast, Dan Labbe said that Baker’s ascension was an illusion caused by weather & weak opposing defenses. Mary Kay Cabot said that Baker didn’t deserve a raise because he only had “one good half-season.” Cabot also said that the Browns wouldn’t have made the playoffs if OBJ hadn’t single-handedly won the Dallas game. Perhaps, but the Browns probably could have made the playoffs in 2019 if OBJ weren’t there to discombobulate Baker. Getting in was much easier that season with the Titans getting a wild-card spot with a mere 9-7 record.

We know that OBJ is a super-talent, but we also know that he is bad at his job. And trying to build a team around him instead of Baker is the kind of crazy talk that should land a person in a padded cell. I’ve posted these two quotes before, but they bear repeating because analytically, this is an open-and-shut case. From this ESPN story:

“Mayfield’s completion percentage targeting other receivers this season is 78.6%…Mayfield’s completion rate to Beckham, meanwhile, was just 59.9%.”

…and…

“Over the last two seasons, Mayfield and Beckham have the worst completion success rate (55.6%) of any duo in the NFL (with at least 100 attempts).”

The. Worst. In. The. League.

Like Chris Rock said to Howard Stern when he announced that he was re-marrying: “You’re going back to Shawshank???”

Another pro-OBJ sign came from the very first off-season episode of the “Cleveland Browns Daily” podcast on January 18. Nathan Zegura said that the Chiefs receivers were able to get more separation than the Browns receivers because they were faster. And:

“Perhaps that is something that the Browns need to look to improve is their overall speed.”

First, my impression was that the Chiefs were holding our receivers until the refs started flagging them. Then Baker lit them up. So, it wasn’t even about speed.

Second, “speed” is nonsense. Last year, the New York Football Giants improved their team speed, and were very proud of their accomplishment. Here is a story:

In 11 Personnel, There is no Team Faster than the Giants.

The Giants finished at 6-10; hardly a ringing endorsement of “speed.”

I believe that “speed” is a code-word for bringing OBJ back, and making Higg a “healthy scratch” again. Something that will wreck our newly-found playoff Browns. Besides, we already have a promising young burner. Donovan-Peoples Jones only had 14 receptions, but he averaged 21.7 yards apiece; way higher than OBJ’s 13.9. Higgy & Hodgy also outdid OBJ with 16.2 & 16.4 respectively. Higg’s numbers won him the #8 spot in the league! That is not something that needs to be fixed!!! And people think he’s slow! Absurd!

The Browns offense wasn’t broke at the end of the 2018 season, but the team “fixed” it anyway and dropped from 7-8-1 to 6-10-0 in 2019. The offense isn’t broke now, and I pray that the only fix is trading OBJ.

P.S. Rashard Higgins is the #8 receiver in the league when measuring by yards-per-catch. How could he have accomplished that if Baker’s resurrection was an “illusion?” Answer: it was no illusion. After OBJ got hurt, Baker threw laser beam after laser beam to Higg for the rest of the season just like I told you he would back on November 17th when I wrote: “the Baker-Higgins duo is lightening in a bottle.”

Baker “Magic” Mayfield

Two weeks ago, after the loss to the Jets, I criticized Baker Mayfield for fumbling, and holding the ball too long on pass plays. What happened next? In the following two games versus the Steelers, Baker had zero fumbles. In the wild-card playoff game, he got the ball out in 2.34 seconds versus his usual snail’s pace of 3.05 seconds. The legendary “Blitzburgh” pass rush couldn’t lay a finger on him – even going against the Browns’ alarmingly depleted o-line.

So, Baker fixed two big problems quickly. As if by magic, he transformed himself into a much better player in only a couple of weeks. This is what’s possible when Baker is not distracted by Odell Beckham, Jr. Everybody is amazed at Baker’s transformation since OBJ’s injury, but all of this progress would have occurred back in 2019 if the Browns had not traded for OBJ.

In any case, enjoy your playoff Browns while you can because as far as anybody knows, OBJ will be coming back to wreck the team again in the 2021 season.

Can the Browns beat the Chiefs? I don’t see why not. All season, Browns fans have been horrified by the team’s defense. But guess what? The Chiefs’ defense is just as bad. Almost exactly as bad. The Brown’s gave up an average of 358.4 yards per game during the regular season (yes, we have to specify that now 😊) and the Chief’s gave up 358.3.

Now, when you consider how the Browns went through the #3 defense of the Steelers like a hot knife through butter, the Browns should be able to score at will against the Chiefs. The Browns’ offense scored 5 touchdowns against the Steelers, so I’m thinking they should score about 15 against the Chiefs. 😊

Of course, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense are the class of the league, but even they stink sometimes. Just watch the first 3 minutes of the condensed version of their game versus the Dolphins. My favorite part is when Mahomes runs backward for a 30-yard sack!

But wait! There’s more! Like the Steelers, the Chiefs seemed to have peaked early. Over the last three games of the season, the Chiefs’ offense ranked at a mere #18! Which is only two rungs better than the Browns. The Chiefs’ defense has done considerably better than the Browns’ defense over the same period, but the Chiefs are, statistically, only a little bit better than the Browns at this point in time. And without the Coronavirus breakout, the Browns would probably be right there with the Chiefs.

And there’s even more! The last time the Chiefs won a game by more than 7 points was two-and-half months ago! They beat the Jets 35-9 back on November 1st. Since then, every victory has been a squeaker. And finally, the Chiefs closed the season with a loss to the Chargers.

So, at this point in time, I would concede that the Chiefs might be a slightly better team than the Browns are – on paper. But a 10-point favorite? That’s ridiculous. In fact, if I were a Chiefs fan, I would be afraid of the Browns; very afraid. I mean, look what happened on Sunday: Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan shut-out the Steelers legendary pass-rush with a pick-up truck full of guys he fetched from the Home Depot parking lot. How does that even happen?

Answer: magic.

Deal with that Kansas City!

Baker “Fumbles” Mayfield

Two weeks ago, I wrote:

“Baker has done an incredible job of reducing his interceptions, and now he has to fix his fumbling problem.”

He didn’t listen. Now look what happened.

Nevertheless, Bakes almost pulled off a victory in one of the NFL’s patented shit-shows that they insist on stocking their shelves with. Without fans in the stadiums, the NFL is a straight-up TV show. Forcing teams to play without large chunks of their starters is like tuning into Seinfeld and seeing the Jerry character played by Ricky Gervais.

Nobody wants that.

And nobody wants the ridiculous “Holy Roller” rule either. Talk about random nonsense. But kudos to Kareem Hunt for recovering the ball and getting what should have been a first down. Once again, Kareem does everything and should be on the field at all times, including special teams and defense. Maybe he could play free safety, and at this point, we should probably let him kick extra points too.

He’s. Just. That. Good.

Last year, Baker had no confidence in his o-line and would often bail out of the pocket too early. Against the Jets on Sunday, Baker had the opposite problem: he trusted his depleted o-line too much. Hopefully, he will learn from the experience and get the ball out quicker until Jedrick and Wyatt are back.

I can’t believe these people who criticize Chubb & Hunt for failing to gain more yardage. Running backs don’t make holes; they find holes. The hard truth is that, like the loss to the Raiders, the Browns got beat in the trenches. With the Browns’ passing threat greatly diminished, the Jets were able to pin their ears back and shut down the Browns’ ground attack.

However, after the Browns finally started throwing some short passes to Chubb & Hunt, things started percolating. The Browns average 145 yards per game rushing, and if you add in those short-passing yards, Chubb & Hunt combined for 118 all-purpose yards. Not too shabby considering the circumstances. Chubb & Hunt also scored a touchdown apiece.

That wasn’t the problem.

The real problem was all the dropped passes. With more-reliable pass-catchers, the Jets would have had to back off a bit, and that would have loosened up the run game. Since the Browns were spotting the Jets four receivers, the tight-ends needed to step up their game, but they could not. David Njoku was the exception, catching all four of his targets. It’s not surprising that the Baker-Njoku duo would be the best of such a game seeing as how Njoku was the only member of the original Bake-Pack on the field. But unbelievably, Njoku was only on the field for 31 of the game’s 81 snaps.

Njoku is the Browns’ #3 tight-end, but catches more of his targets (70.8%) than Hooper (64.6%) or Bryant (63.2%). Time for a promotion.

All of the above notwithstanding, Baker did lead an impressive comeback in the second half and came very close to sending the game into overtime. Baker & the Browns don’t always win, but they never quit.

The Steelers will be resting Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday, and possibly some other banged-up players. So, we might have the Browns’ “A” team versus the Steelers “B” team. Therefore, nothing short of a dog-pounding is required for the Browns to conclude that they are the better team. Even Mason Rudolph should be able to throw a couple of touchdowns against the Browns’ secondary (if they play like they did against the Jets) so an acceptable final score would be in the neighborhood of: Browns 62 Steelers 14.

Will Baker Mayfield Stay Fixed?

Now that Baker Mayfield is finally fixed, and throwing the ball with preternatural accuracy, Browns fans are literally ecstatic. But the big question looming over Cleveland is: will Baker stay fixed?

Don’t forget. Baker was fixed in 2018, and broken for all of 2019. Not even Kevin Stefanski could fix him, and started the 2020 season by demoting Baker to a “game manager” QB. It took an Act of God to remove the thorn (Odell Beckham, Jr.) from Baker’s paw to catalyze the astonishing transformation from Bungler Mayfield into Laser Mayfield.

But nobody on the Browns wants to admit that. All the players, coaches, and management continue to sing the praises of OBJ. After all, OBJ is not a bad guy. He simply does not gel with Baker.

But now there is hope. Look at what Baker said in a USA Today interview after the victory over the Giants:

“We’re not trying to force the ball to anybody. We are trusting our progressions and play calls. We’re taking what is there and keeping the chains moving.”

Baker was not asked about “forcing the ball” which is a reference to how he used to play his position with OBJ on the field. He brought the subject up himself. He has mentioned this before, but the fact that he brought it up himself, I think, is significant in that he now seems to be clear on what caused him to be such a terrible quarterback in 2019: a ball-hog, prima-donna, wide receiver who caused him to play his position wrong.

Contrast the quote above to what Baker said about OBJ after the Week 1 beating from the Ravens:

“I’ve got to be better giving him a chance on some of those things, the free play late in the game (on an offside penalty), just give him a chance. He’s a great player, so I’ve got to give him a chance.”

“Give him a chance” is not game-plan, an offensive scheme, or even a professional quality play-call. It was a simple indulgence of OBJ’s giant ego. I’m still amazed that Baker was allowed to think that way, and was never corrected by his coaches.

So, it’s good that Baker knows; that knowledge might help him to survive the suck when OBJ comes back. Because the Browns organization seems eager for his return. Here is what Browns radio announcer Nathan Zegura said on the December 21, 2020 episode of the Cleveland Browns Daily podcast (10:37):

“…not only do we not have Odell Beckham, Jr., we do not have a burner on this roster. We do not have a guy who runs 4.3 on this roster. We don’t have one. This offense thrives with one. You need to have one of those guys to be really high-end.”

What’s weird about this is that the Browns offense did not thrive until after their burner suffered a season-ending injury. Baker went on fire literally minutes after OBJ left the second game against the Bengals. Baker has been elite ever since that event.

It’s this mentality that terrifies me that OBJ will be brought back, instead of being traded, and Bakes will be instructed, or convinced by OBJ, to throw the ball to him every time he has man-coverage – just like they did throughout 2019 when they were the very worst QB/receiver duo in the league. And that will be the end of Baker’s reign as Football Jesus. The Browns will win one Super Bowl this year, then OBJ will plunge the team back into mediocrity in 2021.

And the Browns do have a burner. In fact, you could say that we have three of them. In the 40-yard dash, both KhaDarel Hodge (4.39) and Taywan Taylor (4.33) are faster than OBJ (4.43). And Donovan Peoples-Jones is only half an eye-blink slower than OBJ at 4.48 and actually catches the ball: 76% of targets versus 53% for OBJ. And he works quite a bit cheaper too.

Of course, Rashard Higgins (4.64) beats-out faster corners on a regular basis, as does Jarvis Landry (4.51). And super speed is not a requirement to be selected to the Pro Bowl. Just ask Jarvis who has been selected five times.

The Browns seem to think that they cannot win with Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins as their #1 & #2 receivers – even though that is exactly what they are doing! And even though all the stats say that the Browns are a far better team without OBJ, the allegedly “analytics organization” can’t wait to get him back in uniform. Perhaps the team wants to sing his praises in order to boost his trade-value, but I don’t think so. I think they really want him back on the field, time-travelling the Browns back to 2019.

So, the answer to the question up in the title is: no, Baker will not stay fixed. While the odds for a permanent fix have improved a bit, the Browns organization remains under the control of OBJ’s Svengali-like spell.

Note: OBJ disputes his combine time of 4.43, and claims that he is a “4.3 guy.” However, if you watch his touchdown run against the Cowboys (at the end of this video) you will see OBJ being caught from behind by #54. That was Jaylon Smith who runs a 4.44. It was about a 30-yard dash but it was a pretty good foot race. So, it’s plausible that DPJ is a third Browns receiver who is faster than OBJ.

Note: there is a new narrative being used to “explain” Baker’s transformation: running up to OBJ’s injury, Coaches Stefanski and Van Pelt had been working diligently with Baker to improve his skills. And during the Bengals game, all of those improvements suddenly blossomed into the phenomenal rebirth of Baker. And OBJ’s injury was just a coincidence. And if you believe that, may I suggest that you make an appointment to have your brain popped into the MRI machine at the nearest hospital? Because you just might have a tumor sprouting in your cerebral cortex.

Note: congratulations to the New Your Giants for giving the Browns a tough fight. For a awhile there, I was worried that Dexter Lawrence would snap in two the legs of our entire o-line. And to think that he could be on the Browns if they hadn’t been suckered into trading away his draft pick in the OBJ deal.

Don’t Sleep on Freddie Kitchens

Having heard that Freddie Kitchens will be calling the plays for the New York Football Giants on Sunday, some Browns fans might be expecting an easy victory.

That would be a mistake.

The prevailing opinion is that the Browns’ “Lost Year” of 2019 was due to having an imbecile for a coach. But I believe that this historical era needs to be revised.

After the strong finish to the 2018 season with Freddie at the helm, everybody was pleased as punch. Nobody was expecting the Browns to regress in 2019. That’s why the beat-down administered by the Titans in Week 1 was so shocking.

So, how did Freddie go from being great in 2018 to stinking in 2019? Answer: he didn’t. He was the same guy. It was Baker Mayfield who dramatically regressed. And that was because he was injected with a heavy dose of Football Poison, otherwise known as Odell Beckham, Jr.

The flashes of genius that we saw in Freddie’s play-calling were washed away by the “throw it to Odell” scheme which simply did not work.

Coach Stefanski has won more games than Freddie, but he was also the recipient of a raft of top-notch talent on offense: Austin Hooper, Jedrick Wills, Jack Conklin, and an astonishingly improved Wyatt Teller.

The Browns should act like they are up against the 2018 version of Freddie Kitchens, not the 2019 version. Because the OBJ-free version of Freddie wasn’t too shabby.

Browns Defensive Player of the Week: Kareem Hunt

Kareem Hunt doesn’t play on the the Browns’ defense, but when there is a turnover, every player on the offense becomes a defensive player. And that’s what happened during the last minute of the Browns’ shellacking of the Tennessee Titans last Sunday. Baker Mayfield fumbled the ball, again, and Kareem had to save a Kenny Vaccaro scoop-and-score. See the 13:10 mark of this video.

Kareem says he practices this, and it shows. He took the perfect angle to run down Vaccaro. What I liked best is that Vaccaro didn’t even try to juke Hunt. It was almost as if he was resigned to his fate: “Oh shit, Kareem fucking Hunt is on my ass. I should probably just surrender myself.” And then Kareem unceremoniously rag-dolled Vaccaro, throwing him down without even hitting the ground himself. What a fantastic football player.

If the Browns are ever short-handed at linebacker, we know who can fill in.

Honorable mention to Donovan Peoples-Jones who had to take a wider angle than Kareem, but might have caught Vaccaro near the goal line. Andy Janovich also made a good effort, though his 4.81 speed wasn’t a match for Vaccaro.

This is Baker’s second fumble in three games. The first was against the Eagles where Baker was saved by a quick whistle. I wonder if Baker does the same fumble drill that the running-backs do. You know, the one we saw Kareem and Nick Chubb doing at the beginning of episode 9 of Building the Browns. Baker has done an incredible job of reducing his interceptions, and now he has to fix his fumbling problem.

Laser Mayfield

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?:

Higg Beats Borders

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.

Baker Mayfield Soars without OBJ Albatross

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.

With Beckham Out, the Browns Need a New Scheme

As I discussed in my previous post, the Baker/Beckham duo stank up the NFL so bad last year, Coach Stefanski had to develop a special “Baker & Beckham are Bums” scheme to reduce their roles. Instead of throwing incompletion after incompletion to Odell, Baker Mayfield’s new job was to hand the ball to Nick Chubb & Kareem Hunt, and throw short passes to his tight-ends, while Beckham’s new role was to get in the way of his cornerback as Nick Chubb steamed by.

It worked pretty well, and I congratulate Coach Stefanski on being able to work around such rotten players. But now that the OBJ “reality distortion field” is no longer warping Baker’s mind, he is free to go back to his 2018 self. We saw proof of this in the Cincinnati and Oakland games, so now it’s time for a new scheme where Baker gets to air it out a bit more. He’s earned it.

Also, now that Nick Chubb is back, I, and plenty of other fans, would love to see him and Kareem Hunt on the field at the same time. That’s just crazy exciting for fans. Commentators are raving about how wonderful it is to have Kareem “spelling” Chubb, but does Nick really get tired? Somehow, I doubt it. In fact, if you needed 25 carries a game, both Chubb & Kareem would be more than happy, and capable, of giving them to you. I don’t want to see either player doing the punishing work of a fullback, so why not have Kareem as your slot receiver?

No receiver on the Browns has more touchdown catches than Hunt (4) and he is way more reliable than OBJ ever was. Hunt has caught 72% of his targets compared to OBJ’s 53.5%. Defenses should be more afraid of Hunt than they were of OBJ. Throwing the ball to Hunt in the defensive backfield should keep defensive coordinators up at night. Hell, linebackers have trouble bringing down Hunt, let alone DBs.

One of the most eagerly anticipated developments of the preseason was how the new coach would use Chubb & Hunt. Then, when Stefanski announced that Hunt would be spelling Chubb, fans felt let down. They wanted both guns blazing, but instead were told that Chubb needs to nap between possessions. It came across as a terrible lack of creativity.

So, here’s a play: Landry is wide-out left, Higgins is wide-out right. There is one tight-end on the left. Chubb is in the backfield, Kareem is in the slot on the right. Chubb goes left, Baker fakes it to him, bootlegs right and throws a short pass to Hunt. Next play, same thing only Baker pump fakes to Kareem, and throws downfield to Landry or Higgins. Next play, same thing, only now the defense has gone to sleep on Chubb, and Baker hands it off to him. Next play, same thing only Baker stops short on his bootleg, and throws it back to the tight-end. Depending on the defense, Baker could choose any of these options.

So, there’s some ideas about how to use the team’s two super-star running backs simultaneously.

In case you were wondering, Rashard Higgins is the team’s most-reliable receiver, with OBJ being the worst. This is: “percent of targets caught”:

80.0% – Rashard Higgins
72.0% – Kareem Hunt
71.4% – Harrison Bryant
66.7% – Austin Hooper
66.0% – Jarvis Landry
61.5% – David Njoku
53.5% – Odell Beckham, Jr.

Honorable mentions:
Chubb only has 3 targets but he caught all of them.
DPJ is off to a good start, catching 3 of his 4 targets for 75%.

Who is Responsible for the Baker/Beckham Boondoggle?

Back in September, I wrote: “the way to fix Baker is to ditch Odell.” And now, thanks to ESPN Stats & Info, we have the statistical evidence to verify my prophetic statement. From this ESPN story:

“Mayfield’s completion percentage targeting other receivers this season is 78.6%…Mayfield’s completion rate to Beckham, meanwhile, was just 59.9%.”

…and…

“Over the last two seasons, Mayfield and Beckham have the worst completion success rate (55.6%) of any duo in the NFL (with at least 100 attempts).”

And, of course, the very moment Beckham was knocked out of the game against Cincinnati, Baker started balling out of control, completing a franchise record 22 passes in a row and five touchdowns. At the time, people mocked Baker’s achievement by saying it was against the lowly Bengals. But the very next week those same Bengals beat the playoff-caliber Tennessee Titans 31-20. So, maybe Baker’s achievement can’t be discounted after all, right?

After the Bengals, Baker threw very well against the Raiders, but was plagued by dropped balls. But, make no mistake; Baker is back, baby!

What I want to know now is how this debacle was allowed to continue for so long. You could blame Baker for not running the plays as-designed, and caving-in to OBJ’s demands for the ball. You could also blame the quarterback coaches for not putting a stop to something that was blatantly not working. Personally, I blame Odell Beckham, Jr. and his celebrity “reality distortion field” for blinding Baker and the coaching staff.

Ultimatelly though, the coaching staff is responsible. Freddie Kitchens’ pal, Ryan Lindley, was the QB coach for last season, and didn’t have much coaching experience, though he did play the position in the NFL. Coach Stefanski replaced Lindley with the much-more-qualified Alex Van Pelt. But Van Pelt, either didn’t try, or was not able to reign in the Baker/Beckham Axis of Evil Football-Playing.

So! Let the record show that the coaching staff didn’t have a fucking thing to do with Baker’s revival. Baker doesn’t get credit either. It’s pretty amazing that he couldn’t figure out the problem. I mean, he was a stellar QB all his life, and then he hits this brick wall and didn’t even notice! How does that even happen?

Nobody gets credit! Baker’s revival was just plain, dumb, and I mean very dumb, luck!

It will be virtually impossible for the Browns to not play better over the rest of the season. But the big question is, will these idiots bring Odell back next season and let him ruin Baker again? Is that level of buffoonery even possible? Yes; yes it is. So, Browns fans, enjoy the old Baker while you have him, because 2021 just might be another year in Odell Hell.

Also, let the record show that Browns’ analytics “whiz” Paul DePodesta didn’t figure out what was wrong with Baker. How could he have missed the fact that Baker is half the player he normally is when throwing to Odell? I mean, the stats cited in the ESPN article (linked above) are mind-boggling, and DePodesta couldn’t see that gigantic statistical anomaly? What the fuck? When you combine this debacle with his persecution of Rashard Higgins and David Njoku, it’s obvious the DePodesta needs to be ousted. Without his idiotic calls, and the OBJ trade, the Browns would probably be a Super Bowl contender now.

No, No, No! Odell Beckham Jr. is NOT a Big YAC Guy

Since OBJ’s injury, a lot of Browns commentators have been saying something along these lines: now that the Browns no longer have a big yards-after-catch (YAC) guy to strike fear in the hearts of opponents, defensive-coordinators can focus on thwarting the Browns’ rushing attack. But if we look at the stats, we see that OBJ was nearly the worst pass-catcher in the league when ranked by YAC. You have to scroll all the way to the bottom of this chart to find him:

That’s right; OBJ ran for an average 2 yards after catching the ball. People probably have in mind OBJ’s 50-yard touchdown run against Dallas, but that was a rushing attempt, not a pass-reception. And that was a fluke. First, OBJ did his “running backwards” thing and was almost tackled for a big loss. Now, you might think that I’m being uncharitable by saying that, but the fact is that OBJ has never had a big running play like that. His previous best was a 13-yard run back in 2014. How many times could he have taken an end-around like that before defenses caught on? Probably not many.

Odell did better in 2019 with a 4.47 YAC, but that is still about half of what the elite guys do.

A couple of things to consider about YAC: if you catch a ball in the end-zone, your YAC is zero for the catch because there are no more yards to be gained. If you catch a toe-tapper at the sideline, your YAC will also be zero. If you have to dive, jump, twist around, etc. to catch the ball, then your YAC suffers as DBs are able to close on you. The ideal scenario is to catch the ball on the run with some separation on the DB. And that’s why YAC is computed for quarterbacks too.

In 2019, Baker Mayfield ranked at a stellar #8 in the league with an Average YAC of 5.7. See this page. However, here in 2020, with Coach Stefanski’s new “short ball” offensive scheme in place, Baker ranks near the bottom with an Average YAC of 4.0. So, OBJ is affected by that also. You could argue that this new scheme was a punishment for Baker and OBJ because they did poorly in 2019. Consequently, they were subsumed in a run-oriented scheme where Baker would be limited to short passes, and OBJ would be regulated to blocking for Nick Chub and Kereem Hunt.

Nevertheless, OBJ’s YAC for 2020 was still the worst on the team except for that of Rashard Higgins who only has one-third of OBJ’s targets. Hig also has a high proportion of TDs and toe-tappers.

YAC – Player
5.94 – Kareem Hunt
4.73 – Austin Hooper
4.42 – Jarvis Landry
4.38 – David Njoku
2.04 – OBJ
1.33 – Rashard Higgins

So, if YAC is what you want, Kareem Hunt is your man. I’m sure Chubb would do well too if he got more targets.

Methodology: I compiled this data on November 3, 2020, which was the Tuesday after NFL Week 8. OBJ played weeks 1-6 before he was injured right at the beginning of Week 7’s game versus the Bengals on October 25, 2020. In the table above, I selected the top 100 receivers by total yards. Then I sorted them by Average YAC.

UPDATE: I have posted a YAC update for 2021 here.

The Second Coming of Baker Mayfield

Note: I have been criticizing Odell Beckham, Jr. long before his tragic injury on Sunday. (See what I wrote about him back in April). And at the risk of appearing insensitive, I need to continue campaigning against OBJ because I think the Browns are better without him, and should trade him as soon as another team will have him.

At the end of the 2018 season, Baker Mayfield was Football Jesus in Cleveland. Then the Browns traded for Odell Beckham, Jr. who we later discovered to be Football Poison, and Baker was cast into Football Hell where he languished as the very worst quarterback in the NFL in 2019.

Baker wasn’t doing much better in 2020, until OBJ was removed from the scene. Then Baker completed a franchise record 22 passes in a row.

Do you think that was a coincidence? I don’t.

My theory all along has been that OBJ’s celebrity created a Steve Job’s style “reality distortion field” that clouded Baker’s mind. Just as soon as that field was switched off, his mind cleared, and Baker went back to being his true self: a Heisman Trophy caliber quarterback.

Most of Baker’s 22 passes went to 2018-vintage Bake-Packers: Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and David Njoku, all of which Baker has good chemistry with. Baker also hit rookies Harrison Bryant and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Does that mean that Baker has good chemistry with them too? Yes; yes it does.

Here’s the thing: chemistry is the rule, not the exception.

The exception is narcissistic personalities like OBJ, who regardless of talent, simply cannot gel with a team. Normal athletes will play better-and-better with each other as time goes on, more-or-less automatically.

Even worse was the fact that Baker was a young man when OBJ arrived. If he were more seasoned he might not have been as affected by OBJ’s demands for the ball, and the sports media’s amplification of those demands.

In any case, Baker is now free to re-ascend into Football Heaven where he had previously spent his entire life before OBJ came to town.

Note: There are people saying that nobody can fill Beckham’s shoes because of his crazy skills. Did these people not see the Cincinnati game? OBJ’s shoes were filled immediately. We saw spectacular catches from Njoku, Higgins, and DPJ, a great throw by Landry, and two TDs by Bryant. A few games ago, we saw Kareem Hunt make an acrobatic, one-handed catch. During the last game against the Bengals last year, we saw Nick Chubb make an unbelievable TD catch.

The Browns are just oozing with talent. With OBJ exorcised from the team other players are free to dazzle.

Note: Let the record show that the Browns passing-game worsened substantially after OBJ joined the team. In 2018, the Browns had the #13 passing offense in the league. After OBJ joined the team in 2019, the Browns dropped to #21. You can blame that on Freddie Kitchens if you want, but how does that explain that the Browns are only #18 here in 2020 after a major coaching upgrade?

Note: I wish OBJ a speedy, and full recovery, and that he gets many targets on his next team after he is hopefully traded. I think the Browns will finish strong, just like in 2018, and management will feel, at a minimum, reluctant to repeat the OBJ debacle.

Breaking-Up the Bake-Pack

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield holds the NFL record for the most passing touchdowns (27) by a rookie quarterback. That was during the 2018 season when Baker only played in 14 of the Browns 16 games. By contrast, Kyler Murray started all 16 games in his rookie season of 2019, and only threw 20 TDs. Not even close to Baker’s record.

During the final 7 games of the 2018 season, the once-lowly Browns finished with a 5-2 record. It was the Golden Age for long-suffering Browns fans. Euphoria broke out at the plausible notion that the team had found its franchise quarterback.

And then…Freddie Kitchens destroyed the team. Or did he?

But first, let’s talk about what I call the “Bake-Pack.” Exactly who did Baker throw all of those touchdowns to in 2018?

Jarvis Landry was the workhorse of the season with 81 receptions and 4 touchdowns.

David Njoku was second with 56 receptions and 4 touchdowns.

Duke Johnson was third with 47 receptions and 3 touchdowns.

Antonio Callaway was fourth with 43 receptions and 5 touchdowns.

Rashard Higgins was fifth with 39 receptions and 4 touchdowns. Hig had as many touchdowns as Landry with only half the receptions.

In 2019, Callaway self-destructed and only had 8 receptions before being released. And Duke Johnson requested a trade after the Browns signed Kareem Hunt. So, the Bake-Pack was reduced to three players. And then, unbelievably, Njoku and Higgins were benched, and the Bake-Pack was no more. Deprived of his favorite targets, Baker went from being a record-breaking phenom to one of the worst quarterbacks in the league.

Kitchens was blamed. Higgins and Njoku were said to be in Kitchens’ dog house, but nobody knew why. It was a huge mystery that fans lamented, loudly, throughout the entire 2019 season. Indeed, this issue generated a huge chunk of the hatred directed toward Kitchens.

When Kevin Stefanski was named head coach for the 2020 season, Browns fans were elated at the prospect of the Bake-Pack riding again. But, unaccountably, Stefanski continued the Kitchens policy of benching Higgins and Njoku. This made it obvious that the shots were not being called by the coaches, but rather by Coach Spreadsheet, Paul DePodesta.

And so the Golden Age Bake-Pack was put to death by a calculator-wielding analytics nerd. And the Browns regressed from going 7-8-1 in 2018 to 6-10 in 2019. Oddly, DePo gets very little criticism, or even mention, by the Browns media, like he is Voldemort or something.

After Browns “blocking receiver” (whatever the fuck that is) KhaDarel Hodge was put on the injured-reserve list on October 6, 2020, Higgins was actually permitted to put on his uniform. He then promptly caught two touchdown passes against the Colts and Steelers while Landry and Beckham caught zero.

Higgins likes to be called “Hollywood” or “Wood” but I call him “The Touchdown Man” because he has the uncanny ability to get open in the end zone, and to catch Baker’s eye. It’s almost like he lives under the end zone, and when the Browns enter the red zone, he pops up unseen like a Disney character going on duty at Disney World, and catches the TD.

During the Browns’ only two losses this year, the savage beat-downs administered by the Ravens and Steelers, the team was only able to score two touchdowns. The TD against the Ravens was caught by Njoku. The TD against the Steelers was caught by Higgins. If it weren’t for the Bake-Pack, those games might have been shutouts.

But Higgins will probably be benched when Hodge comes back, because analytics. (The Browns need Hodge on special teams, but not at receiver.)

Was the Golden Age of 2018 the apogee of Baker’s life-long quarterbacking career? It’s starting to look that way. Would Baker do better if Higgins were his #1 or #2 receiver? I think so.

Trying to shoehorn OBJ into the Browns offense hasn’t produced the hoped-for results. OBJ has put up mediocre stats this year. For example, on “big” pass-plays of 20+ yards, OBJ ranks at #54 with 3. CeeDee Lamb has 10.

Note: when Baker walked out onto the field before the Steelers game, he strutted along like he was god’s gift to football. He was comically overconfident, and a few minutes later, he hit Minkah Fitzpatrick for a touchdown. (In case you don’t know, Minkah is not on the Browns.) After being humbled, I expect Baker to play much better during the next few games. Being overconfident clouds your judgement; though it is hard to remain humble after a four game winning streak in the NFL.

Note: after the Steelers game, OBJ threw his helmet down in anger. He probably thinks that if he had gotten more targets, the Browns could have won. Not the case. Not even close. The Steelers mauled the Browns in the trenches. It had nothing to do with Odell. (Note to Odell: it’s not always about you.)

Note: Podcaster John Middlekauff has been watching the Browns more closely lately. He thinks that Baker should become a strict pocket-passer like Drew Brees because Baker is not fast & athletic enough to outrun defenders. I must say that I react the same way when Baker is scrambling: I cringe and brace for a sack or interception. On the other hand, there are people who laud Baker for his elusiveness. And indeed, Baker does seem to weasel out of a lot of precarious situations. I guess it’s a matter of taste. On Sunday, the Steelers’ plan was to keep Baker penned-up in the pocket where he can’t see downfield as well as he can while rolling out. It worked. In any case, Baker’s “Total QBR” is up nicely on the year so far:

Year – QBR – Rank
2018 – 51.2 – 25th
2019 – 52.4 – 19th
2020 – 67.9 – 18th

Even though Baker isn’t fast, he has a very graceful gait. He reminds me of Cuban sprinter Alberto Juantorena, who was a star of the 1976 Olympics. But of course, the NFL is not a beauty contest. I also think that Baker really wants to be a running quarterback. He wants to be Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray, as unrealistic as that is.

Note: Patrick Mahomes probably would have beaten Baker’s record, but he was only allowed to play one game in his rookie year. On the other hand, Mahomes was playing with a first-class team, while Baker inherited the very worst team in the league, yet still managed to make it fly.

Clash of Titans: Browns vs. Colts

The Browns? Titans? You probably think that I’ve lost my mind. But when it comes to running the ball, the Browns are indeed elite; the very best in the NFL.

The Browns are averaging 204.5 rushing yards per game, which is 24.7 yards better than the second place Patriots. And they are doing it without a running quarterback. Baker Mayfield only has 15 rushing yards versus Cam Newton & Lamar Jackson contributing large chunks to the #2 & #3 ground games.

The Browns have lost the league’s #3 running back, Nick Chubb, for a few games, but since his understudy is also elite, the Browns should be fine. After all, when you pass the baton to Kareem Hunt, things don’t slow down – at all. We already have solid proof of this since Chubb limped off the field in the first quarter on Sunday, and coach Stump’s well-prepared running backs ran roughshod over the hapless Cowboys anyway.

But…the Colts have the NFL’s #1 defense, so Sunday’s game will be a true clash of Titans. If the Browns can run on the Colts, then the Steelers, with their #2 defense, need to start worrying about the Browns coming to town on the 18th. Not that we’re looking past the Colts!

On an unrelated subject…remember when I said that Odell Beckham Jr. was easy to tackle? Take a look at the 00:54 mark of this video where Cowboys linebacker Joe Thomas (#48) knocks OBJ over with one hand. Literally, a love-tap. And Thomas didn’t even bother to put his shoulder down. He was like: “it’s OBJ, where’s my feather?” Then he just knocks him over in the NFL’s most nonchalant tackle ever. OBJ catches with one hand, but also gets tackled with one hand. Kind of ironic, no? In any case, as I have said, OBJ fans should not be surprised if he is, one day, snapped in two. Nonetheless, congratulations to OBJ for his brilliant performance on Sunday – backwards running on that last end-around notwithstanding!

The Browns Are Giving Too Much Respect to the Cowboys

Browns fans seem to think that the game against Dallas on Sunday is one of Cleveland’s tougher match-ups of the season. This trepidation is undoubtedly driven by the looming shadow of the league’s leading passer, Dak Prescott, who has already thrown for 1,188 yards. That’s more than double Baker’s total of 564.

Scary, right? But what about the Cowboys’ defense? Turns out, they stink. The Cowboys have given up 277 passing yards per game, ranking at #28 in the 32-team league. Not only that, but the Browns didn’t have too much trouble defeating Cincinnati and Washington who inexplicably rank #5 & #6 in pass-defense.

Dallas isn’t so hot at ground defense either, ranking at #23. So, while Prescott will undoubtedly tear-up the Brown’s defensive backfield, Baker & Company should be able to answer each and every time.

Given the weakness of the Dallas pass defense, the Browns might want to take the opportunity to work on their passing attack. Here’s an interesting stat that I noticed today: neither of the Browns’ star receivers rank in the top 100 for “yards after catch.” The league leader is Saints running back Alvin Kamara with 283 yards. Jarvis Landry ranks at #100 with 41 yards, and Odell Beckham, Jr. is #106 with 39 yards.

This means that after they catch the ball, they are pretty much tackled immediately. TV announcers rave about OBJ’s “moves” but so far this year, you could knock him over with a feather. The rest of the Brown’s pass-catchers aren’t any better, so all of the team’s receivers, tight-ends, running backs, and full backs should use this opportunity to trample some flimsy Cowboys.

Odell Beckham Jr. Persecuted by NFL

In my previous post, I put forth a theory that the NFL was out to get Odell Beckham Jr. In the very next game, this happened:

So, we had a DB blatantly pulling on OBJ’s jersey, and a ref looking right at it, and he didn’t throw a flag.

I couldn’t ask for better evidence.

But, you might ask: OBJ scored a touchdown earlier in the game, right? Yes, he did, and he will score more. However, his job is much harder now. Not only does he need to achieve separation, but he has to achieve extra-special separation in order to stay out of grabbing range. OBJ’s touchdowns were cut in half during that game, and Baker Mayfield’s stats took a hit too.

Do all the DBs in the NFL know that they can grab OBJ at will? Maybe not. When word spreads, OBJ’s job will get even harder.

OBJ complained vociferously to the ref, to no avail. Note to Odell: there will be more frustration in your future unless you make peace with the league.

Note: Congratulations to Browns’ rookie HC Kevin Stefanski on his first victory as a head coach. True, it was against the worst team in the league, but Joe Burrow and the Bengals kept coming, and a lesser coach could have lost that game.

Note: the above incident took place during the Browns vs. Bengals Thursday Night Football game on September 17, 2002.

Why Odell Beckham Jr. is as Good as Done in the NFL

Odell Beckham Jr. has a history of butting heads with the NFL; maybe one too many times. For example, here is how OBJ responded when he was fined for wearing non-regulation pants during a game last year:

“They feel the need to fine me for some pants that cost probably six cents to make, and we’re getting fined $15,000. They’re just finding a way to pull the money back from the players.”

Everything OBJ said there was just plain stupid, but that last thing; that’s the problem. Does OBJ really think he can say things like that and not get any blow-back? Apparently, he does. But he is sadly mistaken. In fact, the NFL can easily damage his career because OBJ plays a vulnerable position.

The NFL passing game is one of precision and timing. If a defensive back can hold a receiver just a little bit, and delay his arrival at the spot where the ball is being thrown to, he can break up the play. It doesn’t take much, and if the referees, who, it turns out, work for the NFL, are instructed to give the DBs a little “latitude” to hold onto OBJ, then he is going to have a hard time running his routes with the necessary precision. I believe we saw a fresh example of this during the Browns’ game against the Ravens on Sunday (9/13/2020).

This has been going on for a while now, and was why Odell threw a punch at Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey during the game in Week 4 of 2019. Humphrey was cheating like crazy, and the refs were letting him. But this doesn’t just affect Odell’s stats, it also drags down Baker Mayfield’s numbers. In fact, the way to “fix” Baker is to ditch Odell.

Odell is damaged goods. The league has it in for him. He should be benched, traded, or cut unless he can mend fences with the NFL. What would that look like? Odell should ask for a meeting with the league, apologize for his past remarks, and pledge to be a model player going forward. He should even sip a glass of milk during the meeting to show how wholesome he will be.

What are the chances of the hyper narcissist Odell doing that?

Zero.

So, I think he is done in the NFL. He might try his luck with the CFL, get a fresh start, turn over a new leaf, etc.

Note: as I was writing this today, a burst of anti-Odell sentiment hit the Browns scene. It seems that the pass Odell dropped on third-and-two during Sunday’s game against the Ravens has infuriated many Browns fans who are now calling for his head. To that, I say: join the party. I turned against Odell back on April 28, 2020 when I published:

Rashard Higgins Mystery Solved

And in May, I wrote two more pieces:

How Beckham Broke the Browns

Odell Beckham Jr. is an Overrated Distraction

I predicted that Odell’s lack of chemistry with Baker would continue into the 2020 season, and I was proven right, emphatically, in the very first game.

Today, everybody knows that the grand Baker/Odell experiment has failed, and that change is needed. Coach Stefanski informed us last week that Kareem Hunt would be “spelling” Nick Chubb. Why not some spelling for Odell? Why not give half of his snaps to Rashard Higgins? Then Odell could indulge in a few extra IV’s. Speaking of which, nobody needs an IV. If a muscle cramps up, all you need is one of those little salt packets and your muscle will be fine in a couple of minutes.

And finally, during an interview today, Odell was asked what could be done to improve his chemistry with Baker, and he answered: more game reps. A couple minutes later he was complaining that he was being unfairly criticized for always wanting the ball – when he had just demanded more balls earlier in the same interview!

Odell isn’t a bad football player. We have seen him out in front, blocking for Chubb on many occasions, and even making the occasional catch. Even the dropped pass mentioned above was probably from Odell being too eager to make a big play, and turning his eyes up-field too early. But I just don’t think that Odell is a chemistry kind of guy. So, while all of this pressure being put on Odell & Baker this week might cause them to suddenly try harder and finally gel, I just don’t think it will happen. It would be amazing if it did, but I’m not holding my breath.

Stefanski Personality Flaws?

By all accounts, the Browns’ beefed-up management and coaching are far superior to what the organization had for the 2019 season. Browns fans should be stoked to have Andrew Berry at GM and Kevin Stefanski at head coach. I certainly am. But we also have to keep in mind that Stefanski is a rookie, just like Freddie Kitchens was last year.

Now, you are probably thinking that I am a maniac for even mentioning Kitchens in the same sentence as Stefanski, and you might be right, but hear me out.

Like Stefanski, Kitchens was seen as a rising-star when he was named head coach of the Browns. But once Kitchens had the reigns, a personality flaw reared its ugly head. Perhaps like me, you were baffled when Dontrell Hilliard scored the first touchdown of the season against the Titans:

Why didn’t Nick Chubb get the carry? Nothing against Hilliard, but Chubb is the man, no? This had me baffled for a long time – until later in the season when we saw Kitchens sidelining other fan-favorites like Rashard Higgins and David Njoku. Browns fans were also positively drooling to see Kareem Hunt in the same backfield with Chubb after Hunt came off of his suspension. But after the first few games with Hunt ready to play, fans were disappointment to see him standing on the sidelines for way too many plays.

And perhaps worst of all, when Chubb was battling with Derick Henry for the rushing title, Kitchens gave Chubb a season-low 13 carries in the final game against the Bengals allowing Henry to take the title. It’s hard to see that as anything but pure maliciousness. At the time, everybody knew Freddie was going to be fired, and none of players were sticking up for him – except Chubb. Chubb stated flat-out that he supported the coach: “I like Freddie, he’s my guy,” and that tells me that he really wanted that title, but Kitchens stabbed him, and his fans, in the back.

What was Kitchens’ thinking when he put Hilliard in for that first touchdown? Maybe something like this:

“I am the star of this team, and it makes no difference if it is Chubb or Hilliard carrying the ball. It is my genius play-calling that scores the touchdown, not a mere player.”

Who could have predicted that Kitchens would flat-out persecute the players who contributed to the magic of the second half of the 2018 season?

Nobody.

Because Kitchens was a rookie.

Hence my concern for Stefanski who has never served as a head coach – even for a Pop Warner team. Will some fatal personality flaw of Stefanski’s come into view once the season begins? I don’t think so, but head-coaching in the NFL is a rather challenging job. So, fans should be vigilant, watching the coach just as intently as Jedrick Wills trying to learn his new position. By all means, raise your voice if you see something that doesn’t seem quite right.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a minor-league system where NFL teams could train-up coaches? And a combine for coaches? And a draft?

Myles Garrett Promises More Mayhem

While talking to the press after signing his $125 million contract with the Browns, Myles Garrett said:

“I am just going to play the game how I have always played it, and that is not dirty.”

Sound familiar? That’s exactly what Garrett said after being fined $42,000 after the Jets game in Week 2 of the 2019 season:

“…just gonna play the game like it’s supposed to be played.”

And we all know what happened eight games later in the Browns’ first game against the Steelers: Garrett was suspended indefinitely. Garrett’s attitude translates into more penalties, fines, and suspensions. So, Brown’s fans, brace yourselves for another disappointing season.

Even after the second-longest suspension for on-field misconduct in NFL history, Garrett is still unrepentant. How is that even possible? I guess all the therapy and discussions with NFL officials didn’t take. And this all reflects badly on Browns’ new head-coach Kevin Stefanski, and owners, Dee & Jimmy Haslam who have failed to get Garrett to recognize the player-safety goals of the NFL.

Last week, former NFL scout, John Middlekauff said on his podcast that he would never bet on the Browns because of their bad ownership. Browns fans are ecstatic about the upgrades made to the Browns roster, coaching staff, and front office for the 2020 season. But you have to wonder; is there any amount of talent that can overcome bad ownership? Are the Browns doomed to being the most-talented mediocrity in the league?

In any case, the Browns should start thinking about using their #1 draft pick in 2021 for a defensive end; probably not what they are thinking right now. But with Garrett all but promising further suspensions, Browns management needs to be focused on a Plan B. Because last year’s Plan B was a disaster with the Browns going 2-4 in the last six games of the season, which were supposed to be the easy part of their schedule. The Browns defense just fell apart without Garrett.

Garrett is a great player. But depending upon him to be available to play is just bad management.