Comparing Baker Mayfield, Deshaun Watson, Jacoby Brissett by the numbers

May 25, 2022; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) and linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. (5) and quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) walk off the field during organized team activities at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
May 25, 2022; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) and linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. (5) and quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) walk off the field during organized team activities at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Comparing stats from three experienced Cleveland Browns quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson’s numbers stand out, but Jacoby Brissett’s stats are not that different from those of Baker Mayfield.

The Cleveland Browns have three quarterbacks with significant starting experience in Deshaun Watson (53 starts, 3,532 snaps), Baker Mayfield (59 starts, 3,863 snaps), and Jacoby Brissett (37 starts, 2,533 snaps). To compare their lifetime records on a level playing field, it makes sense to compare on a per-snap basis.

In 2021, Joe Burrow was 15th overall in the NFL with 1,007 offensive snaps. Hence 1,000 snaps seem like a good round number to approximate a 17-game season. On that basis, then here are the totals for the three quarterbacks, per 1,000 snaps; i.e., multiplying each quarterback’s career totals by 1000 and dividing by their career total snaps:

  • PLAYER        ATT  COMP   PCT     YARDS   TD      TD%   INT    INT%   1D  YD/ATT YD/INT

  • Watson          495   336    67.8%   4,116    29.4   5.9%  10.2  2.1%   202   8.32     403.9

  • Mayfield        498   307    61.6%   3,656    23.8   4.8%  14.5  2.9%   176   7.34     242.2

  • Brissett          477   287   60.2%    3,056    14.2   3.0%    6.7  1.4%   149   6.41     455.4

All stats are courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

In addition to the usual stats, a derived stat, Yards per INT, is also included, which is the average number of yards between interceptions. Thus, Mayfield has thrown a pick once every 242.2 passing yards on the average, though most of those came early in his career, especially in the Freddie Kitchens era.

Surprisingly, Jacoby Brissett just has not thrown very many interceptions in his career. That could be a useful attribute for a team that wants to use the running game and control the ball on offense.

This is still an apples-to-oranges-to-kumquats comparison because the situations of the Texans, Browns, and Colts are not the same. In particular, we should ask whether the supporting cast for Brissett’s Colts was at all comparable to Watson’s Texans or Mayfield’s Browns.

Watson has had an excellent offensive coach in Bill O’Brien, though O’Brien’s skill as a general manager is lacking. Nevertheless, O’Brien surrounded Watson with receiving talent including DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks, and Randall Cobb.

They were never without a 1,000-yard receiver. They also had talented pass-catching running backs, including ex-Browns Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson. Oddly enough, those two backs were catching passes from Baker Mayfield in 2018 for a while. Jordan Akins has been their main guy at tight end, but they also received help from the Browns (Darren Fells and Pharaoh Brown).  The Texans’ tight end room has racked up close to 1,000 yards every year in the Watson era.

Mayfield had the opportunity to play behind Pro Bowl-caliber linemen in Joel Bitonio, J.C. Tretter (who was never named to the team but should have been, in this fan’s opinion) Wyatt Teller, and Jack Conklin. They had Pro Bowl talents at wide receiver in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckkham, Jr., and acquired a Pro Bowl tight end in Austin Hooper.

The careers of these receivers all deteriorated while working with Mayfield. Any number of supporters of Mayfield can attempt to explain why it was not Mayfield’s fault. Yet Beckham earned a Super Bowl ring with the LA Rams, but the Dawg Pound tends to still have serious doubts about his ability.

Cleveland also had Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt at the running back position, making nine Pro Bowl-caliber players on offense. At some point, the Dawg Pound is going to have to come to terms with the fact that Mayfield cannot blame his problems on his supporting cast.

Even so, possibly we could give the edge to Watson. In addition, it is worth considering that Mayfield played in the AFC North, where they actually know how to play defense. The AFC South, on the other hand, has been much more lackadaisical on defense over the years, so let’s give advantage there to Mr. Watson as well.

When Brissett had his best season in 2019, his best receiver was T.Y. Hilton, who was only on the field for 478 snaps. He had a torn calf muscle that season, which was reaggravated and caused him to miss additional games and may never have been right the rest of the year.

Hence, Zach Pascal became the man. No offense to Pascal, but he has never broken the 700-yard level for his career. Essentially no one outside of his immediate family would regard him on a par with Beckham, Landry, Hopkins, Stills, Fuller, or Cooks. It simply isn’t realistic to expect quarterback performance on the same level as Mayfield or Watson.

After that, Indy had the chance to trade for Philip Rivers and they did it. That’s hard to argue with because Rivers was a great talent. Some may argue that Brissett is defined for all time by his 7-8 record in 2019, or his lifetime mark of 14-23 and that he can never improve upon that.

However, there’s no law of physics that says that quarterbacks can never improve, and quite a bit of empirical evidence states that it does happen from time to time, especially when the quarterback is surrounded by talented teammates.

Incidentally, another takeaway is that Brissett has a lower tendency to throw interceptions than the other two, with only 6.7 INTs per 1,000 snaps. That’s substantially fewer than Watson (10.2) or Mayfield (14.5). Another way to express it is — total passing yards divided by INTs, which can be thought of as the mean number of passing yards between interceptions.

Watson creates more yardage, so on this basis, the comparison is closer but Brissett still wins, 455.4 yards/INT to 403.9 yards/INT. This could be important if the Browns were ever to become serious about running the football and playing ball-control, rather than just talking about it.

Comparing just Mayfield’s 2021 season to Brissett’s 2019 season, Mayfield threw 17 TDs versus 13 INTs. last season. Yet, a case could be made that this level of performance could have gotten the Browns into the playoffs with better playcalling versus the Steelers and the Green Bay Packers For the 2019 Colts, Brissett threw 18 TDs versus 6 INTs; i.e., essentially the same level of performance with seven fewer INTs.

  • YEAR  PLAYER        ATT  COMP   PCT    YARDS  TD   TD%   INT    INT%   1D  YD/ATT YD/INT

  • 2021 Mayfield        418   253    60.5%   3010    17    4.1%  13    3.1%   143    5.95      231.5

  • 2019 Brissett          477   272   60.9%    2942    18   4.0%    6     1.3%   143    6.17      490.0

The major difference is that Mayfield threw twice as many interceptions, a difference that has existed throughout their careers. Do you suppose cutting the interceptions in half would have helped the Browns even just a bit, especially considering that Mayfield had a much more talented team to work with?

10 Reasons Jacoby Brissett can win it all. dark. Next

If Watson is the most overrated and overpaid quarterback in the NFL, Brissett might be the most underrated and underpaid quarterback in the NFL. This writer is not predicting how many games the Browns are going to win, but it is not time to give up before the season starts, either.