February 25, 2024

Baker Mayfield and the Chip on His Shoulder


Why this particular injury is causing him to play poorly:

First things first, I have to give a disclaimer about this article. In no way am I in the camp of making excuses for poor play. That being said, as a former athlete who dealt with severe labrum issues in both shoulders, I understand how this injury effects the body and the mind.

Let’s look at this from a few different aspects. In addition to the pain of the injury, Baker is also dealing with inflammation which automatically decreases the range of motion in his arm. If he isn’t able to move his lead arm with the same motion and speed his body has become accustomed to, his body will begin to use other muscles (whether it be in his shoulder, his back, his chest, or even his core). 

The reason for this is because his body has to supplement the movement and power his shoulder was able to produce while healthy in order to sustain the velocity and angle of the ball out of his hand. The body’s natural reaction to an injury is always going to be to divert stress away from the injury in order to protect it. It is a subconscious reaction that everyone has no matter the amount of pain they feel.

Now, let’s talk about the mechanics behind throwing a football. Baker’s throwing mechanics gather a lot of force from his hips and core which allows him, as a smaller stature QB, to keep up with bigger guys who generally have stronger arms. That is good in terms of arm strength but not ideal from an injury standpoint.

When Baker Mayfield throws a football, think of his lead arm (non-throwing arm) and his hips as the trigger of a gun. As his hands separate, his lead and rear arm form a straight line (his arms form 90 degree angles with his torso) toward his target. As he begins his forward motion, his lead arm, at the elbow, and his hips set everything into motion. His hips fire as his non-throwing arm drives open his chest and his hips and core rotate to bring more power. His rear elbow (throwing elbow) leads his throwing motion and creates a whip action. And as he follows through, his release point matches where his non-throwing arm was pointing initially.

So what happens when your non-throwing shoulder isn’t in the proper position? The answer is simple. If your front arm begins high, you have to create more arm speed to find your release point. When this happens, your body has a tendency to over-rotate and the ball takes more of a downward trajectory, thus missing low on throws. In the opposite fashion, when your non-throwing arm begins low in your throwing motion, your body needs to create less arm speed to find your release point. This causes you to release too soon and the ball leaves your hand before your body has a chance to rotate properly.

In the case of Baker Mayfield, his lead arm plays a huge role in his accuracy. When his non-throwing arm and torso are unable to reach that 90-degree angle as his hands separate, his throws are going to sail high. What makes the situation even worse is the fact that Baker is playing with a brace that is intended to restrict the range of motion so the injury isn’t made worse. No matter what, he will have problems with his throwing mechanics until he is able to find some semblance of comfort and acclimation with the brace and/or pain and swelling.

I don’t claim to be a doctor or an expert by any means but these are the things I learned in a past life as an athlete with chronic shoulder issues. I sympathize with Baker when he has to deal with something like this because the average fan doesn’t truly understand how many different things can go wrong from what may seem like a minor injury.

As we head into this Week 5 game we need to try and keep things in perspective. The Browns are playing the worst-rated run defense in the entire NFL. The keys to winning this game are Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Baker has limitations in the passing game but that might not even be a factor. So please, before we get too hasty with our takes, just remember that the Browns are tied for first place in the AFC North and Baker will find a way to work through his mechanical issues while he gets healthy. Give 6 time to adjust and he will take us all to the promised land.

Thanks so much for reading. If you’re looking for more Cleveland Sports Information, check out my weekly podcast

“Cleveland: Don’t Messett Up”

You can find us anywhere you get your podcasts!

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