Myth No. 3: Baker Mayfield is inaccurate and throws too many interceptions.
The interceptions stat was a real problem in 2019, but as a team the Browns appear to have that one under control. The last eight games of 2020 resulted in only one interception. That couldn’t have happened without a real change occurring. In 2019, the Browns had 21 INTs in 539 attempts. That is, the statistical rate was 3.89%.
In the last eight games of 2020 plus two playoff games, the number of interceptions was only two in 334 attempts. If you are going to say that the true interception rate was established by the Air Freddie offense, the expectation value was 0.0389 x 334 = 13 INTs.
It’s possible that he threw only two just be dumb luck, but that a statistician would refer to that as a three-sigma event, meaning that there is a 99.7% chance against the interception-prone quarterback we knew from the Kitchens era only throwing two INTs in 334 attempts just by being lucky. The numbers say, therefore, that something happened there in addition to random luck.
Moreover, if you look at the Browns receiving corps last season, especially in the second half, it wasn’t that fantastic. Their best receivers were running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt out of the backfield. David Njoku and Austin Hooper were reliable tight ends, but they did not have outstanding receiving seasons, judging by the rankings of Pro Football Focus.
The most reliable wide receiver was bargain basement Rashard Higgins, with Jarvis Landry banged up due to cracked ribs and not at his normal level. Rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones started to do some very good things as well. Their number one receiver, Odell Beckham, Jr. was out for the year.
Many Browns fans enjoy complaining about OBJ because he played hurt all of 2019 in the Freddie Kitchens offense and only gained 1000 yards receiving instead of 2000 yards or whatever it was they expected of him. However, regardless of fan expectations, what cannot be denied is that he usually drew the attention of the other team’s top cornerback.
Instead, in the second half of 2020, that top cover corner was available to cover Higgins or Landry. Hence if Mayfield did not complete enough passes or throw for enough yards, he actually did rather well based on the situation.
OBJ and Mayfield are likely headed to much better statistical years if they manage to stay healthy. Having had a few thousand practice reps together will make all the difference.
Based on Mayfield’s statistical improvement, it is likely he will continue to hold his INTs down to single digits this season.