The Browns are going through it right now, both on and off the field.
Jarvis Landry said this week he’s still stinging from the departure of his best friend, Odell Beckham Jr. Landry’s banged-up quarterback, Baker Mayfield, is also fighting through adversity that’s more than just bruises.
“It’s been tough, but I don’t think anybody gives a damn,” Mayfield told reporters Wednesday. “So, there’s no reason to get into that. Nobody cares. Nobody wants to feel bad for us. So, it is what it is. It’s alright.”
Mayfield has been knocked around by more than just opposing defenders in 2021. The quarterback has faced sudden and sharp criticism levied against him by Beckham’s father, and OBJ’s resulting parting of ways caused some emotional pain for his teammates, with Landry at the front of that group. Mayfield, who has long been a lightning rod among talking heads and fans of the game, has also received plenty of negative attention amid his on-field struggles this season. And finally, he’s experienced plenty of physical pain brought on by his labrum tear and fracture, as well as a knee injury suffered in Cleveland’s Week 10 loss to New England.
“Pretty sore. That time of the year,” Mayfield said. “One day at a time but I’ll be good. … Probably the most beat up I’ve been. Multiple things, not just one.”
Mayfield has played through injuries for the majority of 2021, missing just one game this season. His performance has dropped, leaving a crucial evaluation of his standing within the Browns organization incomplete. It’s difficult to properly determine whether he’s the guy when he’s been just a guy in 2021 while battling multiple physical ailments.
The expectations placed on the quarterback and his teammates were the highest they’ve been in well over a decade after Mayfield and Co. led the Browns to an 11-5 finish, their first playoff appearance since 2002, and first postseason win since the 1994 season in 2020. Cleveland was seen as a legitimate contender for the AFC title, yet the Browns are just 5-5 entering this weekend, playing like two different teams depending on the week.
Mayfield hasn’t taken the step many expected in his fourth season, which was setting up to be a campaign in which he cemented himself as Cleveland’s franchise quarterback with contract negotiations around the corner. Instead, he’s 22nd in passing yards (1,990), owns a 9-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and a 95.7 passer rating.
The quarterback is good for an ugly interception just about every other week, and he’s yet to consistently produce legitimate performances that would indicate he can lead the team on a deep postseason run. One week, he’s ripping passes down the seam to Donovan Peoples-Jones for long touchdowns, and the next, he’s throwing into triple coverage for an interception.
The injuries, of course, have to play a factor in his performance. Mayfield agreed, pointing to his worries about further injuring his shoulder as a limiting factor when it comes to making a key play, though he didn’t rely on it as an excuse.
“There’s definitely a couple plays where, you know, I look back and say, ‘Maybe I would’ve used my feet here and there,'” Mayfield said. “But I have to adapt. Nobody is going to feel bad for you. It’s not an excuse, you just got to find a way to make a play.”
The Browns simply need Mayfield to make more positive plays if they want to make it out of a congested AFC North. At 5-5, the Browns are still very much in the divisional race, but their remaining schedule is daunting. Only one team — the Detroit Lions, Cleveland’s next opponent — left on the schedule is currently below .500, and in the Lions’ history, they’re 3-0 when coming off a tie.
Mayfield, who missed practice Wednesday but is expected to play this weekend, will need to dig deep to play through his physical ailments and emotional struggle in the weeks ahead. The future of both he and the Browns will depend upon it.
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