Will the “Bye Week” Myth Sink Kevin Stefanski?

After Baker Mayfield’s amazing transformation became apparent in 2020, people started talking about the coaching miracle that occurred during the bye week. I don’t know who started this myth, but the hard truth is that Baker’s transformation actually began during the Bengals game in Week 7, mere minutes after Odell Beckham, Jr. was injured.

To review, we had:

Week 7 – vs. Bengals
Week 8 – vs. Raiders
Week 9 – bye

And during the Bengals game, we had:

08:33 – 1st Quarter – OBJ injured.
11:09 – 2nd Quarter – Baker hits Jarvis Landry for completion #1 of 22.

Note: Baker threw 4 incomplete passes between the OBJ injury and the Landry catch.

So, 12 minutes and 24 seconds after OBJ left the game, Baker began his franchise-record pass-completion streak, and his amazing, and lasting, transformation into an elite QB.

Now, if you believe what happened during those mere minutes was a miraculous display of coaching prowess, please tell me what Coach Stefanski told Baker there on the sideline. Something like this, perhaps:

Stefanski: Baker, you gotta complete more passes.
Baker: Sure thing coach!

No. That did not happen. Rather, what we saw was a sleeping giant awakening. Freed from his mental cage, Baker spread his wings like one of those dragons on Game of Thrones. The mental cage was the reality-distortion field generated by OBJ’s celebrity. Once that cage came down, and the pressure to feed OBJ was off, the Browns’ offense transitioned from an ego-driven, throw-it-to-OBJ scheme to a professional Kubiak-Shanahan scheme operated by an elite QB.

And it showed. Big time.

Some people claim that it was just a coincidence. Those people are not bright. According to NFL NextGen Stats, the odds against Mayfield completing 22 straight passes were 19,062 to 1.

What we saw may have been the most amazing transformation in NFL history. So, when you adhere to the Bye-Week Myth, you are desecrating that event. And covering up the truth of what actually happened. A truth that can deliver a Super Bowl to long-suffering Browns fans if it is honored.

As of now, Coaches Stefanski, O’Shea, and Van Pelt are all basking in the glory of their elite QB, and not making a peep about OBJ. But what if they bring OBJ back, and then Baker regresses again, just like in 2019? Who will get the blame?

Certainly not OBJ. Baker will get a lot of criticism. But it is more likely that people will do the logical thing: ask the coaches to administer another self-scouting exercise to Baker. After all, they fixed Baker in 2020, why don’t they just fix him again in 2021?

Do you see the problem now? If the coaches fail to fix Baker again, their heads may be on the chopping block.

Coach Stefanski is not one to hog all the credit for his players’ success. He is wisely humble. However, if he lets the Bye-Week Myth stand, then he is tacitly endorsing it.

Of course, the coaching staff may have their hands tied by an OBJ supporter higher-up the organization. If Andrew Berry, Paul DePodesta, or the Haslams insist on keeping OBJ, then there is nothing the coaching staff can do other than pray that somehow Baker and OBJ finally develop chemistry this summer. But with OBJ rehabbing, that is very unlikely.

And so, Coach Stefanski should be preparing to go back to his original strategy of featuring Nick Chubb and Wyatt Teller over Baker & OBJ. It may be his only way to survive at this bullshit franchise.

Note: you can see the sequence of events during the Bengals game with ESPN’s play-by-play feature.