Nick Chubb is face of Cleveland Browns, not Baker Mayfield

Nov 21, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) celebrates with wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the Detroit Lions at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) celebrates with wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the Detroit Lions at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Folks, there isn’t much room for debate. The Cleveland Browns need to start running the ball early and often.

This article is the third in a series which discussses the role of the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. It’s suggested that the job of Browns quarterback ought to be to manage a run-first, natural turf, cold weather, power football team.

This generation of Browns will be built around Nick Chubb as the dominant star of the team, rather than the quarterback. The Browns may well lead the NFL in rushing yards but not passing yards.

Are egos going to be okay if that happens?

To be direct and to the point, is Baker Mayfield willing to commit long-term to a team that doesn’t plan to give him the chance to lead the NFL in passing stats? Is he willing to let Nick Chubb lead him to the Super Bowl, or will his ego prevent him from being the second banana?

Previous articles discussed the need for the Cleveland Browns having a normal policy of drafting quarterbacks in the mid and late rounds without freaking out over imaginary quarterback controversies; and also pointing out that it’s very hard to replace starting quarterbacks in the NFL, so that if that Baker Mayfield is worth re-signing even if he is “only” about the 10th best quarterback in the NFL. It is just not easy to draft and train a distinctly above average NFL quarterback.

The Browns heritage is still about Marion Motley, Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, Greg Pruitt, Earnest Byner, Kevin Mack, and now Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. It’s about shutdown defense with players like Bill Willis, Bill Glass, Walter Johnson, Jerry Sherk, Bob Golic, Lyle Alzado and Clay Matthews. It’s about tough linemen like Frank Gatski, Lou Groza, Doug Dieken, Dick Schafrath and Gene Hickerson. No offense to Gary Collins and Paul Warfield, but the big guys lead the way in Cleveland.

What the Browns ought to be doing, even today, is preparing to lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage from running backs. Jarvis Landry is capable of 1,000 receiving yards, but Nick Chubb can lead the NFL in rushing yards. At the same time, Kareem Hunt can add just as many total yards from scrimmage as Landry.

Meanwhile, D’Ernest Johnson has been with the team for three years and there he is, still averaging 5.2 yards per carry for his career. Maybe it has been a mistake to bury him on the bench. As for Demetric Felton, he has been crazy good operating as a change of pace back, and has juked a few linebackers out of their undershorts on screen passes.

Speaking of screen passes, why was Nick Chubb been targeted only 10 times this season? That’s an unbelievable stat. Don’t the Browns trust him to catch the ball? He has only 10 targets and 10 receptions for a 100% catch percentage this season.

His lifetime catch percentage is 76.9%. Kareem Hunt has been targeted 24 times. Demetric Felton and D’Ernest Johnson have each been targeted14 times. Why so adverse to screens to Nick Chubb, which might prolong the career of Baker Mayfield, who is being sacked at an alarming rate this season?

By comparison, rookie Najee Harris of the Steelers has been targeted 56 times and fullback Derek Watt has been targeted 15 times. Consequently, the Steelers, with no offensive line, have been able to limit the sacks to Ben “The Gazelle” Roethlisberger to only 18. Please digest this unpleasant fact.

The Steelers supposedly horrible offense line has given up 18 sacks to its immobile guy, while the Browns supposedly world class offensive line has let its guy get sacked 27 times. You can say Mayfield holds the ball too long, but when he is holding the ball too long, what he is not doing is throwing screens to Nick Chubb.

The Ravens, with all their injuries, have three backs with more than eight targets: Devonta Freeman (16), Ty’Son Williams (11) and even humongous Patrick Ricard (9). The Bengals also have three such backs: Joe Mixon (26), Samaje Perine (15) and Chris Evans (9).

It’s obvious that Chubb’s numbers are out of whack, probably because of the Browns wanting to be something they are not, namely, a prolific deep strike offense featuring one handed catches by Odell Beckham, Jr. That dream should be winding down by now. What they don’t need is other wide receivers emulating OBJ’s desire to change the play calling and progressions in order to suit their personal whims.

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Note that at the moment the five highest catch percentages belong to the Browns running backs: Chubb (100%), Johnny Stanton (100%), Felton, 92.9%, Hunt 83.3% and Johnson (78.6%). Gee coach, with numbers like that, why does the team want to be the team in the AFC North that has the fewest targets of its running backs, especially, Nick Chubb. 10 targets all season long? Defensive coordinators must be laughing at you!

A few more screen passes to Chubb might really slow down the pass rush, which is currently killing Baker Mayfield. That might mean fewer deep passes for wide receivers, guys. Sorry about that.

However, this whole deep strike offense thing is just not working. If Baker Mayfield is getting sacked at the rate of 50 sacks per year, the offense will break down. Mayfield will probably not finish the season.

One of the recurring themes of this season is making wide receivers happy by having the quarterback stand tall in the pocket and throw deep balls to them. However, this fan proposes they should be happy enough getting paid $14 million dollars a year.

Preserving the career as well as the health and well-being of the quarterback are higher priorities than making artistic catches for wide receivers. The Browns can win by handing the ball off, using play-action or run-pass-option if you prefer. They can grind and run the dink and dunk.

In the offseason, year-to-year, the Browns are usually going to emphasize the offensive line, running back and tight end a little more, with a little less emphasis on wide receiver, compared to other teams. The Browns can have the greatest running attack in the NFL with Chubb, Hunt, Johnson, Felton and Janovich, plus the two tight ends to clear the running lanes.

They cannot have the best passing attack in the NFL. However, they have the best number one running back in the NFL in Nick Chubb. They have the best number two guy in Kareem Hunt. They have the best number three guy in D’Ernest Johnson. It’s a bit early to call Demetric Felton the best change of pace runner in the NFL, but he’s trending up. Andy Janovich is a very capable fullback who can block for all of these players.

Hey, you reckon that maybe the Browns should try to have the best running game in the NFL?

Baker Mayfield is fine for Cleveland, though perhaps not the typical Andrew Berry quarterback. Berry would probably look for an accurate passer, first of all. He would probably take the excellent game manager over the guy with the bazooka arm; say, Mac Jones over Trevor Lawrence, or an Alex Smith type over a Kirk Cousins type, if that makes any sense. Mayfield is good enough as long as they do not overpay and give Josh Allen dollars to him.

If things absolutely break down, the Browns will sign someone who is worse than Mayfield, not better, but they will also have money to sign a free agent who will be pretty good and make up for it. Perhaps we will plug that hole in the defensive backfield.

There doesn’t seem to be a path for the Browns to have an All-Pro quarterback on the roster, but it’s very realistic that they could be stacked in running backs who can run, block and catch. Nick Chubb, on the other hand, really is the true superstar on the team.

OBJ is no longer crying for the ball. Nick Chubb isn’t crying for the ball, because he is not the complaining type, but common sense says you should put the ball in his hands. That’s your best player. Give him the ball.

Do we need Nick’s dad to put together a video detailing all the times Baker has bypassed Nick Chubb in the flat in order to play Heroball?

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If they had the top running game in the NFL (which they do) and the top defense in the NFL (which they don’t), that could be a formula to win the Super Bowl with the tenth best quarterback in the league.