With the loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns’ playoff chances have gone waaaay down to a paltry 17%. They are currently seeded 12th when only seven make the playoffs. That being said, it appears a post-season Hail Mary will be the only way Cleveland can get back to the dance this year.
Basically, the Browns will have to run the table to undergo any better odds. That is easier said than done as they play the Ravens again with their conference best record of 8-3-0, Las Vegas Raiders (6-5-0), Green Bay Packers (9-3-0), plus rebound games against the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1) and Cincinnati Bengals (7-4-0). These club’s combined records are 35-20-1.
Currently at 6-6-0 and nestled in third place in the AFC North division, Cleveland will need an 11-6-0 record in order to capture the sixth or seventh seed in the AFC.
Which is entirely possible if the Browns’ roster which defeated the Bengals 41-16 will dress out. The inconsistency is killing this club. So most likely, a full season-ending run is improbable.
Maybe it is just time to sit Baker Mayfield for the remainder of the year. Yes? No?
The essence of such a thought is based on several things. Front and center is his injury situation which has lingered for most of this season.
In mid-September, he suffered a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder in the Browns’ Sept. 19 win over the Texans. The prognosis ultimately was that he would continue to play through the ailment - and has. October 17th Mayfield re-injured his left shoulder during the Week 6 loss to the Cardinals. He was sidelined for one game in Week 7 against the Denver Broncos.
In Week 10 against the New England Patriots in a 45-7 beat down, he sustained a Grade 1 knee strain and was forced out of the game but started the following week against Detroit. He has also experienced a groin issue.
Injuries are not new for Baker. Since the 2013 college season he has had another Grade 1 knee strain, two concussions, plus sustained a rib injury during Week 5’s win over the Indianapolis Colts last year.
Mayfield obviously isn’t himself. The continuing saga of the shoulder injury really is an injury that needs some attention for it to properly heal.
What is a partially torn labrum? Let’s go to Johns Hopkins Medicine for their explanation:
The labrum is a piece of fibrocartilage (rubbery tissue) attached to the rim of the shoulder socket that helps keep the ball of the joint in place. When this cartilage is torn, it is called a labral tear. Labral tears may result from injury, or sometimes as part of the aging process.
The most common symptoms of a torn shoulder labrum are: shoulder pain, instability and, in some cases, a feeling of grinding, locking or catching while moving the shoulder. These symptoms may vary depending on the type of labral tear a player has.
Yes, sounds - and is - painful. The fact that Mayfield suits up each week and plays is an amazing tribute to his pain threshold.
How does this injury heal?
The labrum can heal with rest and physical therapy, depending on the severity of the tear. Well, obviously in Mayfield’s case, that ain’t happening. Surgery may be required if the tear gets worse or does not improve after physical therapy.
In Baker’s case, the improvement will begin once he has completed this season. And with the Browns standing at a 17% of making the playoffs, maybe the time to begin the healing process is sooner than later.
The question has already been asked: Sit Baker?
After last week’s messy game against the Ravens in which the defense had four interceptions yet the offense did not score a single point off turnovers, Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski was asked in the post-game presser if he is considering sitting Mayfield and a quarterback change may be in order when their bye week has concluded.
“No. Let me ask you a question: Why would we do that? We’re not doing that.”
Basically, Mayfield has been playing hurt for two months now. Against the Ravens Sunday night he wasn’t completely healthy. His performance proved that as he only threw for 247 yards with a single touchdown and only completed 48 percent of his passes. How many of this throws were either too high or thrown wildly wide? Yes, there were some critical drops. While scrambling from the pocket you could tell he was sluggish and had no zip.
This came off the heels of one of the worst games of his career in that 13-10 home victory over the worst team in the league, the Detroit Lions.
Casey Keenum has 63 NFL starts in his 10-year career. When Mayfield was sidelined for the Broncos game in Week 7, Keenum played good game manager and the Browns won 17-14. He is experienced. Every game he is ready to play. More importantly, he is healthy.
So, according to Stefanski, it is better to continue each game with a partially disabled signalcaller than to use a completely healthy one?
Against the Broncos, Keenum was 21-33 for 199 yards with a touchdown and completed just under 64% of his passes. The Browns led by 10 points twice and never trailed. Cleveland amounted 23 first downs for 376 yards of total offense and had zero turnovers.
The next question that should be answered: Is a healthy Keenum better than an injured Mayfield?
To say that this year’s offense has been stagnant is an understatement. Against the Ravens, they were just bad.
Mayfield at times just seems to hesitate on throwing the ball. After the Ravens lost, Kareem Hunt’s father went on Facebook and posted:
Which makes a lot of sense. If an injured Baker is stinking up the place and is probably the best he is going to be, why continue to use him?
Not only are the Browns’ playoff hopes about over, but part of the reason for that is because of Stefanski played an injured quarterback. Doesn’t that make sense? What if Keenum had started and played all those games? Is it possible that Cleveland may have a better record at this point?
Sit Baker and let him heal from all the injuries? Anyone?
Before the season began, Cleveland was projected as the team to watch and should be the most improved on paper. Now we know that this roster isn’t as good as anybody imagined. How can a team win one week 41-16 convincingly and the following week get destroyed 45-7?
In the last seven games, the Browns are averaging just 16 points a game. That includes the 41-point outburst against the Bengals. You cannot win many ballgames in today’s NFL scoring that low in each contest. Take out the Cincinnati win, it drops to 11 points a game.
How many head coaches will knowingly start a guy who is at the helm of an offense that is only averaging scoring 11 points a game?
Take the last game. Down by six with only 1:10 left to play, no time outs, 75-yards to score the game winning touchdown and pull out a miraculous division winning victory. Instead, Mayfield and Company only gained eight yards.
We as Browns fans all want to see Baker Mayfield succeed.
But this team just can’t continue to let him as an injured player continue to play poorly week-after-week and not be able to move the offense. When your defense gives you four interceptions and your offense scores zero points off those turnovers, everyone please raise your hand if you think there needs to be a change made.
Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over-and-over again and expecting a different result?
Mayfield this year
Let’s dig into some stats for 2021.
In the 11 games he has started, he has attempted 312 passes with 194 completions for 2,414 yards, 11 touchdowns with six interceptions, an average 89.2 QB rating, zero game-winning drives, and a completion percentage of 62.2.
Of the league’s starting quarterbacks, he is ranked 24th. Mayfield is the fifth most sacked QB with 29. His six fumbles lost are listed as tied for third most. His completion percentage is ranked 31st.
The Browns are 14th in total scoring with 254 points scored (21.16 average) and only one club below them has a winning record. Cleveland is 17th in total touchdowns scored: 27th in passing TDs and tied for second in rushing scores.
During this same seven game stretch, his numbers are 120 receptions on 199 attempts for 1,478 yards, nine touchdowns with four INTs, an average QB rating of 90.3, and an average completion ratio of 60.5%.
Let’s dissect this season down even further with the last three games. 10 points scored against the Ravens, 13 versus the Lions, and just seven in the Patriots loss. The offense’s total yards gained: Ravens 262, Lions 245 and Patriots 217.
In these last three games Baker’s QB rating has been 79.4, 53.2 and 56.3. His completion ratio is a dismal 48.65%, 51.72% and 52.38%.
Let’s do an experiment
This Cleveland Browns offense is built to run the football. We all know this.
But what is the problem with the offense? Is it Baker? Is the offensive line a one-trick pony and can only run block whereas they are sub-par at pass protection? Has the wide receiver group regressed? Are the tight ends not getting the ball enough? Is it the play calling?
Okay, so let’s do something different.
With the offense, give Case Keenum a chance to run this offense. This year, he is 1-0. Who can forget that gutsy lunge on the two-yard line against Denver where Keenum basically bullied his way for that needed first down?
If a healthy Keenum puts up similar type numbers and the offense flounders just like it does with an injured Mayfield, then we will know it is not the quarterback position. If they average low digit scoring numbers, then we know there are matters elsewhere and bigger issues.
However, if Keenum can move the ball and score points, then isn’t that being fair to the players on this offense to put them in a place to succeed?
And yes, that may be a slap to the face of the player Baker Mayfield. But realistically, if he wasn’t injured this year, would this even be a topic of conversation? He is hurt. He continues to be hurt. His injuries are limiting his effectiveness.
Perhaps it is time to let Baker sit, get well, maybe have surgery, and start dreaming about next year.
What say you? What should the Browns do with Mayfield?
This poll is closed
Sit him for one game and see
Sit him the remainder of the season and let him heal
If he says he can play, then let him play