Why does Baker Mayfield play better without Odell Beckham Jr?

If you’ve been paying attention to the Browns offense over the past season and into this year, you’re probably just like me: wondering when Baker Mayfield’s long “slump” is going to end.  So far in 2o2o, he’s shown some flashes of the potential he has but has yet to put together a consistent effort from start to finish.

Until Sunday in Cinci.

After going 0-5 with an interception during the first quarter, Mayfield exploded for five touchdowns and just under 300 yards.  More importantly, he led the Browns on a game-winning drive with only 66 seconds remaining, something every young quarterback must accomplish in his development. Mayfield also tossed his highest number of touchdowns in a single game (5), while completing 22 straight passes across the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters.

The next logical question is…why?

Why did this version of Baker suddenly explode onto the scene?

What caused the switch to flip?

After all, any Browns fan would recognize the rookie year Baker we all fell in love with.  He was quick, decisive, confident in the pocket, clutch and everything that made him not only a promising QB in 2018, but a dangerous one.  A QB who could not only manage the game, but make impressive throws under duress and zip the ball into tight windows in the red zone.

One explanation for this is the absence of Odell Beckham Jr.  Despite individual moments of greatness at Dallas and sparingly last season, it’s rather obvious that the former Giants receiver is simply not a fit in Cleveland.  Once Beckham unfortunately left the game, things simplified drastically for Mayfield.

My theory is very simple: having Beckham on the field puts a huge weight on Mayfield’s shoulders.  The QB must pay attention to how many targets and catches he gets while trying to keep him involved and happy.  Without him, Mayfield no longer waits for Beckham to get open while panicking in the pocket.  None of this is Beckham’s fault.  It’s just the reality at hand.

Many people, including myself, would like to see Mayfield continue this efficient play over the next few games, even against subpar defenses.  We all know he could’ve played much better against plenty of poor teams last season.  Let’s give him a chance to prove everyone wrong.  He’s done it before.

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