It's a little weird that as the Cleveland Browns prepare for their contest against the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals, they'd have a worse overall record than the Cleveland Cavaliers. Granted, the Cavaliers, who are 5-4 heading into their Friday night tilt against the Toronto Raptors, are only one game better record-wise than the Browns. But, the Cavaliers are supposed to be in the midst of a long-term rebuild out of the shadow of LeBron James and many thought they'd be mostly winless to start their season.
The Browns, meanwhile, were viewed as legitimate Super Bowl contenders but things haven't gone their way this season. Cleveland is beyond talented – they boast a roster that is laden with stars at nearly every key position. But, instead, it more so feels like a slow death march towards mediocrity. They're also the definition as unstable and the ones killing their season are already inside the house.
By now, many have seen the video that Odell Beckham Sr., father of Browns star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., posted to Instagram on Tuesday. In the video, that's nearly 11 minutes long, there are numerous clips that show Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield not throwing to Beckham when the wide receiver was wide open on the play.
Beckham Sr. then responded with three green checkmarks in the comment section of a post that said Mayfield was "either hating on Odell or he just doesn't want him shining."
Beckham Jr. had just one catch for 6 yards during Sunday's 15-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mayfield did target Beckham again late in the game, but the receiver went up for the ball with only one arm and couldn't come down with the catch. Overall, Cleveland's passing game has struggled in recent weeks, as the Browns continue to stumble. Mayfield ranks just 26th in QBR (43.0) and has only six touchdown passes. Beckham, meanwhile, ranks 151st in the league in receptions per target and 139th in receptions per route run.
Granted, both players have played through shoulder injuries this season. But, to add insult to injury, Browns receiver Rashard Higgins also liked the video posted by his teammate's father. Higgins and Beckham's father aren't the only people commenting on the receiver. LeBron James, former Cleveland sports star and Browns fan, also tweeted about the disgruntled Browns receiver saying that the Browns should free him from his current situation.
Unfortunately for every Beckham fan, the wide receiver is still with the Browns as the team had no intention of trading him due to not getting offers they considered worthy of his talent. Instead, Beckham was excused from Wednesday's practice and according to head coach Kevin Stefanski while the team tries to regain focus on Sunday's game in Cincinnati.
“I think we work really hard in this building to concern ourselves with things that are going on in this building and concern ourselves with the Cincinnati Bengals," said Stefanski. "That is really where we get laser-focused on the task at hand.
"I would just tell you social media in general, I am not on it. I am aware of things that are on there. I just think in general, we talk about ignoring the noise in our building, and certainly, there are a lot of things on social media that we need to ignore.”
Unfortunately for Stefanski, the noise outside his building is going to get louder and louder the longer this drags on. Sure, Mayfield said all the right things, like he typically does, and made it clear that wants to work through things with Beckham and move forward as a team. But, the damage has already been done by Beckham and it's, unfortunately, more of the same from Mayfield as well.
Mayfield signal caller always says the right things when it comes to being a leader for the Browns. But when it comes to his play on the field, it's a vastly different story. The way that Beckham, or his dad, handled this situation isn't the right way to go about things. That doesn't mean he isn't exactly wrong either. Mayfield has regressed mightily since his strong bounceback season last year and the fear now is it was a fluke. Instead of having masterful control of Kevin Stefanski's offense, Mayfield is a worse overall quarterback than Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger – who had Tommy John surgery recently.
The Los Angeles Rams upgraded at the quarterback position, acquiring Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions. The Rams are 7-1 this season and in prime position to win the Super Bowl.
There's a good chance that Beckham gets cut by Cleveland, at least that's the general feeling when asking around the league. But that's just throwing a bandaid on a dam that's about to burst. The real solution is moving on from Mayfield as well, but that's not exactly tenable for a Browns team in the midst of an already frustrating season. Backup Case Keenum provides more of the same for Cleveland, just with far less velocity behind his passes.
So, what exactly do the Browns do? For now, they have to ride this issue out and hope that Mayfield bounces back throwing the ball all over the yard, like he's used to. But, if he doesn't, Cleveland needs to emulate what the Los Angeles Rams did last summer when they sent Jared Goff to Detroit, along with a boatload of picks, to acquire Matthew Stafford.
There are options out there for the Browns – like Atlanta signal-caller Matt Ryan or San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo that won't cost Cleveland a king's ransom. But, the cost of upgrading on Mayfield shouldn't deter the Browns. This Cleveland team is too talented to remain content with being mediocre and the team should do whatever it takes to get some of the bigger names likely available. Whether it's Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers or Seattle's Russell Wilson, whatever it costs the Browns should pay it.
If Cleveland does go out and get a quarterback who can actually throw the ball downfield, along with one who doesn't share racist and inaccurate statistics, then they can be a legitimate Super Bowl threat. Right now, they don't have a franchise quarterback in Mayfield and ultimately that's what's going to hold the Browns back. Granted, there's still a chance for Mayfield to bounce back and prove his doubters wrong – much like he has in the past. But, for now, it seems highly unlikely.
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