Why the Cleveland Browns QB situation is best in the AFC North

Oct 18, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) meet at mid-field after a game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 18, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) meet at mid-field after a game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cleveland Browns
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – OCTOBER 18: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns is sacked by Bud Dupree #48 and Stephon Tuitt #91 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during their NFL game at Heinz Field on October 18, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

3. AFC North QB durability

So let’s talk about which quarterback is durable.

No quarterback is injury free, but how many times have we heard that the Browns are at a disadvantage because Baker Mayfield is too short, and does not weigh enough so he poses a higher injury risk? However, this is not likely to be true.

Football is a violent game, and anyone can get hurt. Mayfield did miss games in 2013 for Texas Tech. Not counting deliberate benching (i.e., Roethlisberger was rested when the Steelers clinched the playoffs, and Burrow was not a starter at Ohio State), the historical data shows this since 2015, when Mayfield walked on at Oklahoma:

Mayfield                                          Jackson                          Burrow                          Roethlisberger

2015  13 games 0 misses     12 games 1 miss            0 games 0 misses   13 games    5 misses

2016   13 games 0 misses    13 games 0 misses       5 games  0 misses   17 games    2 misses

2017   14 games 0 misses   13 games 0 misses        5 games, 0 misses    8 games      0 misses

2018    14 games 0 misses   17 games 0 misses     13 games 0 misses   16 games    0 misses

2019    16 games 0 misses    16 games 1 miss         15 games 1 miss          2 games 14 misses

2020     18 games 0 misses    17 games 1 miss        10 games 6 misses    16 games   0 misses

First, do any you fans, even in Pittsburgh, believe Big Ben Roethlisberger, at age 39 with a rebuilt elbow, is a lower injury risk than Baker Mayfield, just because he is big?

The former Miami University Redhawk is a future Hall of Famer and can still sling it, and can still throw with multiple defenders hanging onto him trying to tackle him. That is not in question. But let’s just ask whether the size issue is enough to convince you that Mayfield is a larger injury risk than Bionic Ben. They had to send out to the elbow factory to get a rebuilt elbow for the big guy last season.

Other injuries on his medical chart include fractured ribs, a torn meniscus in his knee that required surgery, torn ligaments, a separated right shoulder, a fractured foot, and a few concussions. It defies logic to think that Mayfield has higher injury risk. The numbers would support Roethlisberger having a better than .500 chance of playing a full season again, but Mayfield would get better rates from an insurance company than Roethlisberger, for sure.

What about Lamar Jackson? I will be the first to vouch for Lamar Jackson as the toughest quarterback in the NFL. But on the other hand, he also gets hit harder than any other quarterback, too, because he takes off running 150 or more times a season. This is not a bad thing.

Concerning durability, Cam Newton has been very durable, spending 10 years in the NFL. He had some serious shoulder surgery, but that presumably had more to do with throwing footballs rather than running. Jackson seems to be just as tough as Newton, and even more dangerous as a runner.

Since his rookie year, this writer has said that Lamar Jackson is the greatest two-way threat in the NFL, and that is just the way he is going to play. Jackson won the NFL MVP by running wild on defenses while also leading the league in touchdown passes, so he must have been doing something right.

Fans sometimes complain that Baker Mayfield is not a drop-back passer like Dan Marino or Peyton Manning. Well, Baltimore fans say the same thing, and it is much more true in Jackson’s case. Both of these quarterbacks have historically been very durable.

However, while it is agreed that Jackson is as tough as they come, is his injury risk actually lower than Mayfield’s? Jackson is running for 1,000 yards a season and Mayfield runs for 150 yards per year. That doesn’t make any sense. The wear and tear on Jackson simply has to be — slightly — higher than on Mayfield. Clearly the advantage belongs to Mayfield.

That brings us to the Cincinnati Bengals and Joe Burrow. Burrow proved that he is a brilliant passer, and the Bengals were developing actual swagger on offense during the ten games he was in the lineup. However, the Bengals let Burrow get sacked 32 times in 10 games. It was not necessarily due to ineptitude on the offensive line, but they had no ground game when Joe Mixon was injured, and so Burrow put the ball in the air early and often.

Eventually they were playing a makeshift offensive line against the Washington Football Team’s mastodons and paid the price with a devastating direct hit on Burrow’s knee.

Best wishes for a full recovery for Burrow, and it is duly noted that the Bengals helped themselves by signing free agent veteran tackle Reilly Reiff from Minnesota, while drafting offensive linemen in the second, fourth and sixth round in this year’s NFL draft.

By contrast, Mayfield was sacked 26 times in 16 games. If you’ve seen the video of Burrow’s gruesome injury, it is difficult to project that he is going to be more durable than a quarterback who has never been operated on, just because he is six pounds heavier. That makes no sense.

Football is a dangerous profession, and everyone gets injured at some point in their career and misses time. It happens. At some point in his career, Mayfield will get injured also and miss time. However the numbers show that he is a lower risk than the other three.

What about arm strength? Some people say that Baker lacks arm strength. Is it true?