The play of the offense
No one looked good in this, least of all Kevin Stefanski, but I’ll get to him. There’s no doubt that Baker Mayfield looked bad, so bad that he opted to get his surgery sooner rather than later, confirming to reporters that he was not going to play the final game of the season. Likely it’ll be Case Keenum who starts, and for Stefanski’s sake, he better hope Keenum struggles. Otherwise, and maybe rightfully so, people will wonder why they didn’t go with him after Week 2 when Mayfield tore his labrum. There’s no denying that has affected his play considerably. Anyone with a clue can point out that the strong-armed gunslinger has looked anything but that this year.
I’ve made the case that he’s starting Mayfield because that’s the best option; as I’ve never been high on Keenum and can easily see someone believing that a wounded Mayfield is better than Keenum. That brings us one of two eventualities that will come to pass either 1) Keenum plays poorly is gone after this year, or 2) Keenum plays well and Stefanski will endure an offseason for questions the likes of which we’ve never seen before.
As easy as it is to dunk on the wounded Mayfield, we have to acknowledge that the Browns passing game makes little sense. The receiver routes take time to develop, yet Stefanski places a rookie tackle against the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, and what, we expected that to go well? Save your passing win rates for someone who doesn’t watch film, anyone with eyes can tell you that Jedrick Wills, James Hudson, and Blake Hance were ill-prepared for the season. Yes, Joel Bitonio, J.C. Tretter, and Wyatt Teller nearly all of their matchups inflating the win-rate stat, but Wills, Hance, and Hudson don’t. One needs only look at their PFF grades to see how ineffective they are compared to the rest of the starters (Jack Conklin included). The tackles haven’t been good all year against mediocre teams but against elite pass rushers, they’ve been absolutely butchered.
This isn’t aided by the complicated and over-developed routes that receivers run either. Now you can argue why doesn’t Mayfield check down and throw underneath. A fair question with an obvious answer, that isn’t going to get the team yards or points. He’s forcing big plays to happen for a variety of reasons. Stress, a lack of faith in his head coach, or maybe he’s unsure if anyone will step up. Either way, it’s caused some poor decisions. Who can blame him, we’ve seen these receivers fail time and time again. Heck, the NBC announcers pointed out how ghastly they played. I’ve never seen an offense where every position had blame on it. Just about every player looked bad last night.