The OBJ experiment hasn’t gone particularly well for the Browns, with one of the best receivers in the NFL not getting the ball as much as he’d like — and with the Browns not winning nearly as many games as everyone had expected.
While the far bigger concern is the latter, quarterback Baker Mayfield has an idea for addressing the former.
“I think people have this picture perfect thing where it was going to be sunshine and rainbows and he was going to have a whole lot of one on ones,” Mayfield told reporters on Wednesday. “It is Odell Beckham. He is going to have double coverage, and we have to find ways to format things to get him the ball and force feed him early on to where he can make an impact before we can have the perfect look to have a shot play. That is something we have learned the hard way, but I think as the weeks have gone on, we are continuing to improve on how to get the ball to him.”
Mayfield said his chemistry with Beckham is “continuing to improve,” and he acknowledged that they discussed the key fourth-and-four play from last Sunday, when Mayfield threw to a double-covered Jarvis Landry at a time when Beckham had broken free and thrown his hand in the air, Randy Moss-style.
“Yeah, we talked about it,” Mayfield said, “but I am looking at other stuff at that point so I did not see it.”
Regardless of the reasons given, and irrespective of whether they constitute explanations or excuses, the idea of forcing the ball to Beckham at any point of the game isn’t a great one. Unless Mayfield is deliberately engaged in a misdirection, he’s letting defenses know that they need to be particularly cognizant of Beckham early in games, because that’s when the force feeding will happen. So if a defense can disrupt the plan to get Beckham into the flow of the game early, the offense’s overall strategy can be derailed.
That’s why ideas like this are usually a mistake. Remember the Randy Ratio? Former Vikings coach Mike Tice realized that, if/when Moss gets the ball at least 40 percent of the time, the Vikings win. So Tice decided to focus less on letting nature take its course and more on ensuring that Moss got the ball at least 40 percent of the time.
The Browns simply need to run their offense. Yes, they need to design plays that give Beckham a chance to get sufficiently open (and, to date, they’ve failed at that). But Mayfield also needs, as coach Freddie Kitchens has repeatedly said, to make his reads and throw the ball to the open man.