Sunday, February 25, 2024

The curious world of the Cleveland Browns

Just one season removed from their first playoff-win in a generation the Cleveland Browns have chosen this off-season to change tack in a massive way on offence. The addition of Deshaun Watson gives them a huge improvement at QB, but will he see the field this year, and will he split the dressing room?

With injuries wrecking their receiving room, player disharmony, and a QB carrying multiple injuries in 2021, can 2022 be the rebound to the playoffs? Or will the Watson saga immediately wipe out their 2022 season and have the Cleveland Browns, once again, planning for the future.


2021 was a season to forget for Baker Mayfield. Hot off that playoff win against the Steelers, and a decent performance agains the Chiefs in the divisional round, Mayfield entered 2022 with his fifth-year option in the bag and looking to build himself into that true franchise QB.

Things didn’t work out that way though.

With a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder suffered in week two, ironically against the Texans, Mayfield would go on to post his lowest big time throw % (4.5%), his highest turnover worthy play percentage (3.9%), his second lowest completion percentage (60.5%), his joint-lowest TD% (4.1%) and his worst interception % (5.6%).

It wasn’t just a regression, it was horrendous.

In Mayfield’s defence was the injury that would require surgery after the season, although he was bad in week 1 against the Chiefs prior to the injury. There was also that heavily depleted receiver corps: Jarvis Landry limited to 12 games, and a career-low 79 targets and Odell Beckham Jr seeing the field for only six games and 34 targets.

There were the locker-room issues where it was, apparently, Mayfield disrespecting teammates including the aforementioned Beckham Jr that led to massive discontent.

In the modern NFL the leash is much shorter for an NFL QB than it used to be. Mayfield has arguably been barely more than league-average so far in his career, and in an era where QB’s get shipped, cut, and abandoned on the bench ever-more regularly, Mayfield found himself very quickly on the downslope.

The funny thing is, the player the ClevelandBrowns have brought in to replace Mayfield is surely set to divide the locker room almost as much as he will divide the fanbase.

The wheels came off in a hurry for Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns in 2021
Oct 31, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) walks off the field after the Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports


Almost immediately as a grand jury in Texas decided not to indict Deshaun Watson, NFL front-offices began to salivate over the prospect of adding him to their rosters. With three 4,000+ yard passing seasons in his first four in the league there is no doubt that Watson is a massive upgrade in talent, and the Cleveland Browns immediately saw their opportunity.

Having attempted 121 less passes than Mayfield, Watson is ahead in nearly every statistical category:


But here’s the thing, if Baker Mayfield wasn’t a great teammate or locker room presence for the Cleveland Browns is Deshaun Watson an upgrade there? Now don’t get me wrong, most players just want to win, but if you’re upset that a teammate wouldn’t throw passes to another players son, how do you feel about a player accused of 22 sexual assaults? Or about a player who quit on his team and was refusing to play in 2021 even before these allegations surfaced?

Again, there were multiple teams involved in the hunt for Deshaun Watson so this isn’t a bashing, per se, of the Browns. The Dolphins were in for Watson all the way to the trade-deadline last season even when potential criminal charges were hanging over him.

But this isn’t Russell Wilson, or Tom Brady, or any other QB who is universally respected. This is a divisive QB who could blow up and refuse to play again at any time.

On the field Watson is a massive upgrade, but wouldn’t it just be the most Cleveland Browns thing ever to do to trade for a QB who then gets banned for two seasons for a litany of off-field incidents.

Two seasons is surely unlikely unless the NFL decides to follow MLB’s lead, who recently suspended Trevor Bauer for two seasons or 324 games. The NFL is expected to be much less punitive with an 8-game suspension most likely.

So the Browns have an upgrade at QB, but they’ve sold their 2022 season down the river as well.

Oh, and don’t forget they still have to unload Baker Mayfield who now has so little value because of that horrendous 2021 season and the fact everyone knows they have to trade him.

This is a decision that could catapult the Browns into contention for the next ten years with a franchise QB at the helm. Or it could all blow up in a hurry and leave them on the hunt for a new QB in a couple of seasons.

Welcome to the curious world of the Cleveland Browns.

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