Cleveland Browns: Is Baker Mayfield ready for Belichick?

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns looks on against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns looks on against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns will face the defending Superbowl Champions, the New England Patriots, after returning from their bye week. This will be Baker Mayfield’s first opportunity to go up against one of the greatest defensive minds of all-time. Will Mayfield be ready to face ‘The Hoodie’?

With the Cleveland Browns heading to Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Patriots, Baker Mayfield will have his first opportunity to solve the enigma that is Bill Belichick. Will the second-year gunslinger be ready to face the defensive mastermind? Does Mayfield have what it takes to complete the most arduous task of his young career?

While we won’t definitively know the answers to those questions until about 4:15 PM next Sunday afternoon, let’s have a look at what we do know heading into this week eight matchup.

First, let’s examine the known commodity that is Bill Belichick. It must be noted that Belichick isn’t just the head coach of the Patriots, but he is also the general manager of the team. That fact plays heavy into who the Patriots are and how the team is constructed, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

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While the players over the years have changed, the Patriots’ defense under Belichick has remained a constant factor in the team’s success. Their philosophy, or more importantly Belichick’s philosophy, is as simple as it is effective. The Patriots systematically take away the opposing team’s best attribute, and they dare you to beat them with your plan B.

How does Belichick manage to keep the same defensive game plan intact over the span of 19 years with a constantly revolving cast of players? First and foremost, he gets to select his players, or as his mentor, Bill Parcells would say ‘he gets to shop for the groceries’. That factor enables his defenses to have the flexibility to fit whatever that week’s game plan entails.

Then Belichick applies the bread and butter of his Patriots teams: Discipline. That ‘discipline’ is so entrenched throughout the Patriots’ franchise that the phrase ‘Do Your Job’ is synonymous with Belichick.

Now, on to how all of the above applies to the matchup with Mayfield and the Browns. Belichick is going to put his first wave of focus into stopping running back Nick Chubb. The intention will be to make the Browns one dimensional and dare Mayfield to beat them through the air. At times this season, the Browns have employed this exact same tactic on themselves through inept game plans and poor play calling. The results have been nothing short of disastrous and have caused the Browns’ offense to look anemic.

How can the Browns counter Belichick’s game plan? Well first, they can’t go away from running the ball with Chubb even if it’s not working. They also need to stay away from emptying the backfield to present the threat of running, even if they have no intention of doing so. Showing their hand against Belichick and his defense would inevitably lead to failure.

The Browns do have the luxury of coming off a bye week in which they have been afforded additional days to concoct a strategy. How much of an advantage that could be is unknown at this time, but it isn’t uncommon to hold wrinkles of your offense back until mid-season. If the Browns have any tricks up their sleeve, this would be the time to unleash them.

Unfortunately for them, Belichick has seen it all over the past 44 years coaching in the NFL. Furthermore, if the 2018 draft day rumors are true, Belichick had designs of drafting Mayfield to be the successor to Tom Brady. If that’s the case, it would be asinine to assume he didn’t do his due diligence in scouting Mayfield and would know what he does well and what his weaknesses are.

The X-factor to this equation is; which Baker Mayfield will show up? Will it be the turnover-prone quarterback that to this point this season hasn’t been comfortable in the pocket and has had trouble deciphering defenses? Or will it be the ‘no lights are too bright, and the no stage is too big’ quarterback that captivated the hearts and minds of Cleveland?

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If it’s not the latter, the Cleveland Browns and Baker Mayfield are going to be in for a long afternoon. But, if Mayfield is up to the challenge, then this could be the game that defines the season.