The opening seven weeks of the 2019 NFL season have been a rocky one for the Cleveland Browns.
Nowhere has that been more evident than in the on-field connection between quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Acquired in an offseason trade with the New York Giants, Beckham was touted as the missing piece that would elevate the Browns offense to among the league’s elite.
That has yet to materialize as Cleveland heads into Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos ranked at No. 20 in passing yards (219.9 per game) and at No. 25 in scoring (19 points per game). Beckham has mirrored those overall struggles as he has just 34 receptions and a lone touchdown on the year.
That lack of on-field success has not soured the relationship between Beckham and Mayfield, however, which was highlighted on Thursday.
A day after Mayfield came under fire for cutting his media session short, Beckham came out in defense of his quarterback. Beckham pointed out that Mayfield should not be carrying all the blame for the offense’s struggles and stated that he has Mayfield’s back, according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter:
“You can’t sit here and say it’s all on him. You have to take a look at everything going on around him. Obviously, he has to play better. I have to player better. ... We all need to do better. Can’t sit back and be like, ‘It’s Baker’s fault.’ I feel like that’s the easiest thing for us to do. I’ve been in situations where one person is getting the blame, and the rest of the people are quiet to kind of stay out of the fire.
”I’m going to jump in the fire with him. I’ll be the first one. Some of these losses are on me. I need to be in the right place at the right time. I’m going to do better. And that’s what I plan to do the rest for the rest of the season.”
Beckham is no stranger to being the focus of the media, and said that he will share those experiences with Mayfield:
“Nobody likes to feel like you’re being poked at or prodded at, especially not a guy like that. I’ve been through that journey already, I’ve been through this fire. That’s a part of me that’s able to help him in a way. This is a kid who cares about football, cares about winning. Whatever people make him out to be just because of his personality -- if we were winning and he was still doing it, we’d all be here laughing. Because we’re losing, we want to kind of poke at him a little.
“I’m going to be the first one here to defend him every single time. I’ve always got his back. I know what it’s like. I’ve been there. ... I understand how we’re looking for the negative. But he wants to win. He’s upset he’s not winning, or he hasn’t done to the best of his ability, that’s upsetting. Just upsetting. We want to be great.”
Beckham’s comments are a positive sign that while the Browns may be feeling the pressure of the 2-5 start to the season, they are not breaking internally from that pressure. And he hit on one universal theme that is true of any sport: win and nothing else matters.