Browns: Don't look back; they may be gaining on you
As of this writing, the Browns have completed 29.4% of their season, so you know what that means, right?
Outside of my liking to do simple math, it means nothing, really.
All kidding aside, it’s time we looked at some of the concerns I have with the Browns after the first five games of the season (because this was written before they played game 6), in order of importance:
1. Defense (?): Alas, there was none. In the game against the Chargers, I’m not sure what Kevin Stefanski trotted out in the second half against L.A., but it was not an NFL defense. Until game 5, I had never witnessed a second-year quarterback do a “hot-knife-through-warm-butter” beat-down like the one that Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert laid on the Browns.
Yes, there were defensive injuries, but that’s part of the game. For a team that’s supposed to be deeper in virtually every part of the roster, it’s more than a little disconcerting. When a team scores 42 points in a game, it should win. Period. End of conversation. (And please, please don’t even attempt the argument that the defense was dominant against the Bears and Vikings. Those teams have very questionable offenses. A competent 8th-grade junior varsity squad could hold those teams under 20 points).
2. Clock management: Much like the defense, clock management was nowhere to be found in the 4th quarter vs. the Chargers. I have to say I’m very disappointed in the apparent total absence of a plan in the Browns' final possession against the Chargers. Three dinky completions for something like a dozen yards when the Browns needed to go 80 yards for a score? Those three completions would have been better had they been intentionally dropped as incompletions.
Stefanski’s deer-in-the-headlights clock mismanagement brought back memories of Hue Jackson’s glory days. In fact, I’ll venture to guess that after seeing that fiasco, Huey had a pretty good laugh.
3. Healthy Baker vs. injured Baker: When Baker Mayfield is not healthy, it’s usually painfully (pun intended) obvious. He was clearly not right against the Vikings, then went polar opposite against the Chargers. Mayfield is a gamer and wants to play whether he’s effective or not. Stefanski must know if his quarterback is a help or hindrance and then move accordingly. His refusal to yank Mayfield from the Vikings game nearly cost the Browns a victory.
4. Odell Beckham: In football, it is usually obvious when a quarterback and his receiver have that special chemistry necessary to be successful with each other. Baker has had it with Jarvis Landry for some time; the same can now be said now with Donovan Peoples-Jones. It’s like they know each other so well they can anticipate what the other is going to do with uncanny regularity.
That has never been the case with Odell Beckham, unfortunately. Their plays always look forced, awkward, and most importantly, ineffective. It’s time to move on before the seemingly endless stubbornness to "make it work" between the two costs the Browns a crucial victory. Mayfield and Beckham are both very talented athletes, just not with each other. Stop the foolishness now.
Speaking of Mayfield, he’s a good quarterback, but one who needs help from others to be successful. It’s not a knock, because he is very good. But the reality is, he’s not a Joe Burrow, or any of the other big young quarterbacks in the NFL. Baker is not big; therefore, he’s more fragile than the Joe Burrows in the league.
He can get them to the Super Bowl, but not on his shoulders alone.
Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!