OBJ: Was it chemistry, psychology, or phys ed?
That brings us to dear, departed Odell Beckham, Jr. With Cooper Kupp drawing double teams, OBJ has had plenty of opportunities to get open.
He was okay, just okay, during the regular season, working against the other team’s second and third-best corner. He had 27 catches for the Rams in 47 targets for 305 yards and a catch percentage of 56.3%, which is just slightly better than his Cleveland numbers. Those are rather dull numbers for a superstar, even one learning a totally new offense.
However, he has exploded in the playoffs with 19 catches in 23 targets for 82.6 catch percentage and 236 yards and a touchdown. So why couldn’t he do that in Cleveland?
Theories abound. OBJ and his dad seemed to suggest via a social media post that Baker Mayfield was averse to throwing the ball to him. There are multiple ways to look at this.
One is that OBJ did not do a good enough job in catching balls that were thrown to him, especially in the clutch. He was definitely playing hurt, with a shoulder injury of his own. He may have lacked the physical skills that he had a few years ago.
This is not to say he was a poor receiver, but it’s a legitimate topic whether he was ever at the top of his game while he was with the Browns this season. Yet, he was usually going up against the other team’s top corner.
Second, is that he was possibly too busy being fixated on throwing to Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper. This author has previously written that the Browns threw to receivers with the yards per target that were among the lowest on the team. The numbers don’t say why it happened, but they do say that there were some very non-optimal decisions made on who to throw the ball to in 2021.
Third is that he might have really been psychologically averse to throwing the ball to Odell Becham, Jr., kind of like a golfer who gets the “yips.” It does seem to this author that the Browns get into ruts in which they will not throw to certain receivers, either by the design of the game plan or by Mayfield’s decision.
It’s not always a bad idea to avoid throwing against certain NFL corners. Deion Sanders comes to mind as a cornerback who was rarely targeted when Prime Time was in his prime. In the case of the Browns, at the beginning of the season, they were not throwing to Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Perhaps this was a case of the other team having a shutdown corner and the Browns coaching staff deciding not to challenge him. But these are hypothetical excuses.
Maybe it was because the receiver and the quarterback are not well-matched (chemistry). Maybe it was poor decision-making by a quarterback with an alternate agenda (psychology), but it is probably not due to lack of ability (Phys Ed).
All of these subjects are difficult ones in college, and they are even harder in the NFL.
Also difficult will be watching players who didn’t make it with Cleveland excel and potentially win a Super Bowl ring.