The Browns, being Super Bowl contenders, are drawing plenty of attention, but there’s one part of the team that the team would probably like to hide away from the spotlight.
Yep, the Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. chemistry issue is making the rounds again after OBJ caught just two of seven targets during the Browns 14-7 win against the Vikings on Oct. 3.
I dubbed it Baker Theory last season after Beckham went down with a season-ending ACL injury against the Bengals early in the contest. With OBJ out, the Browns went on to win with Mayfield throwing a dart to Donovan Peoples-Jones (who made a great catch) to seal the victory.
After some ugly weather cleared up over the next few weeks, Mayfield looked more comfortable, distributing the ball as he saw fit. Cleveland went on to win their first playoff game since January of 1995. Nobody wanted to say Beckham’s larger than life presence was making Mayfield nervous, but, I don’t think you need a deep dive into analytics to tell us what’s so obvious to our eyes: Mayfield seems more comfortable with out him.
Nobody wants to admit this, of course, because just look at Beckham. Even though he’s approaching 30, he’s still physically gifted and a weapon opposing defensive coordinators have to account for week after week.
Browns star with ugly numbers
But seven catches on 16 total targets? Woof. A team’s star receiver should be grabbing 70 percent of the balls tossed his way. Sixty percent at the worst!
Mayfield admitted in Tuesday’s press conference that things need to improve and that perfecting game speed is different than practice reps. So, it turns out Instagram hype videos of guys not being guarded by anyone making one handed grabs does not replicate life in-between the lines when the games count. Huh. How ’bout that?
Here’s what Mayfield had to say about OBJ and the difference between game and practice speed:
"“…There is definitely different timing when it comes to game reps when I am having to get the ball out, guys are barreling down and he is seeing a different thing. His game speed is a little bit different, too. It is pretty quick. Yeah, there is definitely that, but we have to take advantage of our opportunities. It starts with me.”"
ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi weight in on this issue on his Daily Grossi podcast, and the long-time writer stated he wants to hear coach Kevin Stefanski admit there is a problem.
That way, the coaches can set to fix whatever the heck’s going on. Unfortunately, Grossi doesn’t believe the coaches have gotten tot he point where they think there is an issue, via TheLandonDemand.com.
"“I don’t think they’ve gotten to that point, yet…and I think it is a problem. The sooner you admit it, means the sooner you correct it,” Grossi said."
The worse this gets, the more keystrokes the issue will continue to receive.
Baker’s played two games with OBJ this season and in one, he made Anthony Schwartz look like a star in what was the Browns’ best offensive performance of the season, even it was in defeat against the Chiefs.
Against the Texans, Mayfield got hurt and Stefanski scaled back what was expected of Mayfield as far throwing downfield goes.
Ultimately, the two players have to figure this out. I don’t know if the Browns have the goods to achieve their goal of winning fo the Super Bowl if Baker and Beckham can’t click. Time provides all answers, and fortunately, Cleveland has a little window to get this figured out.