It hasn’t been the greatest of years for quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Browns. The team is 6-9 with a single game remaining this Sunday in Cincinnati against the 1-15 Bengals. Cleveland has no chance to make the playoffs after a loss against the Ravens last contest, 31-15.
The second-year man out of Oklahoma has thrown 19 touchdowns compared to 18 interceptions and has struggled to connect with Odell Beckham Jr., his new star receiver this year. With a 53.0 QBR (20th in the league), there is clearly a need for improvement.
What would be the benefits of benching Baker for the final game?
Firstly, the fact that Mayfield couldn’t get hurt if he was on the bench for the game. Secondly, that a loss would actually improve the draft spot for the team. Lastly, it would send a message to Baker about the fact that the organization is disappointed with his play for this season, a “slap-on-the-wrist” of sorts. It would be motivation for him to work extremely hard this offseason to get back on the good side of the Cleveland Browns and the fans.
Garrett Gilbert, age 28, would start instead of Baker, which would be interesting. Gilbert has only thrown six passes in his NFL career and three of those were this year with the Browns.
A lot of peoples’ attitudes with Mayfield are, “Enough with the commercials and let’s win some games!” Obviously, those are prerecorded, but they do play during Browns games and fans watch them. That’s the point many are trying to get across.
The opposing argument is that it would be great to finish the season on a positive note, even if the playoffs are not possible anymore. It would also be a feel-good win for Baker and Co heading into next season. Then, the obvious of no tension with benching the guy that is supposed to be our star quarterback and eventually lead us to the Super Bowl.
Now, the reason why I feel this wouldn’t actually happen is that head coach Freddie Kitchens has to be aware that he is on the “hot seat” currently and isn’t going to subsequently lose a game intentionally to send a message to the quarterback or improve draft position.
Let’s, for a moment, imagine Baker takes a cheap-shot hit from a disheveled Bengals defender. His head hits the ground and he sustains a very serious injury to the head/neck area.
Question: What is the first thing fans will say?
Answer: Why was Baker even playing in a game that meant absolutely nothing to the team?
And, there you go.