The numbers provide insight into what you know already — the Cleveland Browns were a disappointment in 2021.
The football experts say that the 2021 edition of the Cleveland Browns did not play up to their potential, and those of us who are more into analytics — the study of numbers and statistical trends — are in full agreement.
This is the team that whipped up on Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals 41-16, so let’s not act like the Bengals are some kind of unbeatable juggernaut that the Browns can never beat. In fact, Burrow has never beaten the Cleveland Browns in his brief career.
That’s why it is such a farce when some fans attribute the team’s fortunes purely to the performance of the quarterback and nothing else. The best quarterbacks this year were probably Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes and they are watching the Super Bowl on TV.
The Browns had sufficient talent to win, but didn’t win. They were not the “little engine that could.” Rather, they were the big engine that self-destructed, fell apart and broke down when the going got tough. Pro Football experts — ex-players and coaches and others with playing experience — can tell you all about the Browns failings on the playing field. Analytics, or the use of statistics and trends, supports that view.
The most obvious problem is that the Browns would not admit that Baker Mayfield could not throw accurately after separating his left shoulder and being forced to wear a high-tech suit of body armor to hold his body together. It wasn’t that he couldn’t throw. He had plenty of arm strength, as evidenced by the fact that he had the longest completion ever recorded by NextGen stats, a monstrous bomb that traveled 66 yards through the air against the Arizona Cardinals. If you can throw the longest completed pass ever recorded by NextGen, arm strength is not a particular problem.
However, the numbers say that accuracy was an issue after the injury, and Mayfield was not nearly the same quarterback after the injury. Most quarterback ranking systems had him around seventh to 10th best in the NFL in 2020, although there has always been a vocal contingent of unhappy Browns fans looking for a perfect quarterback who insist that Mayfield has near-zero value as an NFL quarterback.
Andrew Berry is supposed to go to the NFL draft this offseason, you see, and select any one of several future Hall of Fame quarterbacks who are cheaply available this year, and replace Mayfield. Okay then.
But the rest of us are sticking to the narrative that Mayfield was the seventh to 10th best quarterback in 2020, and was off to a good start in 2021. But in the second week of the season, he tore up his left shoulder and had to wear a brace of sorts to play football, and that restricted his throwing motion, and he slid to about 30th in the NFL. Not good.
But we are just getting warmed up here. Mayfield’s slide does not even count as one of the five failures because it is too easy. So, to start with, let’s take a look at the numbers for wide receiver Jarvis Landry.