Baker Mayfield is a Jedi Knight. That is the only explanation for plays executed like the 51-yard touchdown pass he threw to Jarvis Landry. That guy has such a feel for the how and when on passing that it almost comes across like instinct to the common onlooker. I mean if we all found out tomorrow he’s using some mystic ability that binds the universe together in order to land those passes in his receivers’ hands, well, I wouldn’t be surprised. Still, between his uncanny skill at the position and the Sooners’ Kyler Murray winning the Heisman yesterday, there must be something special in that Oklahoma water.
Once again that accuracy has become the focal point of post-game discussions as Baker went 18 for 22, accumulating 238 yards with one thread-the-needle touchdown and no interceptions. The comparisons will continue between both he and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, too. They’re both young. They’re both John Dorsey picks. They’re both über talented. However, they play very different styles of football. Mahomes will fight the war of attrition. Today was a perfect example with his 53 pass attempts, more than double Baker’s who has gone the route of quality over quantity. Which method is better? That’s a trick question since the answer is whichever gets more wins. Right now, both of those styles are effective.
The accuracy Cleveland’s #6 brings to the table, though, is a thing of beauty. When that ball got launched behind the Browns’ line of scrimmage in recent years, my body tensed up in pure turnover fear. This season, that anxiety has relaxed rather significantly. How he does it is something you can’t teach, you can only fine-tune. It’s like singing. You’re either born with it or you’re not. If you were, there are ways to make you even better at it. If you’re like me, then it’s hopeless and you’re relegated to containing your vocals to solo car rides, or in the case of quarterbacking, backyard lobs with friends who don’t expect a spiral to be a regularly occurring thing.
With Baker, if football were archery he’d be Robin Hood.
With every good comes the bad and the Browns toyed with the fate of losing today with penalties once again. It wasn’t anything abhorrent like the Bengals’ 13 yellow flags two weeks ago. Nevertheless, the seven Cleveland penalties today came at occasionally dire times. For example, Joel Bitonio is not one to operate undisciplined. In fact, his overzealous misplacement today of being an ineligible man downfield may never happen again. The problem is it brought back a much needed first down pass.
With that being said, seven penalties, although nothing to brag about, certainly shows a team more in line than they were under Hue Jackson’s tenure. Need a comparison? I’m glad you asked. Below is a look at a sampling of 2018 games and how many penalties the Browns had in that game:
- Week 1 vs. Steelers – 11
- Week 2 vs. Saints – 4
- Week 3 vs. Jets – 5
- Week 4 vs. Raiders – 8
- Week 5 vs. Ravens – 10
That’s a total of 38 penalties in the first five games of the season, all under head coach Hue Jackson. Now let’s take a look at the number of penalties accrued under Gregg Williams’ first five games as head coach:
- Week 9 vs. Chiefs – 4
- Week 10 vs. Falcons – 7
- Week 12 vs. Bengals – 7
- Week 13 vs. Texans – 6
- Week 14 vs. Panthers – 7
Add them up and you’ll find the Browns totaled 31 penalties during those contests. It may not be a drastic drop, but it’s a drop nonetheless. To author a new culture in a little over a month isn’t necessarily going to happen. This is a work in progress and to borrow an old phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Still, it is a reassuring notion to see progress taking place on several fronts, including reducing penalties.
Even in the bad, there is good to be found, so don’t park the car just yet. There are three games left and I want to see what else this thing can do.