The Cleveland Browns may be the league's most disappointing team in 2021. A passionate fan base was rewarded with a dream campaign in 2020 that saw the Browns qualify for the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2002. But success leads to newfound expectations, which inevitably leads to disappointment. The faithful Dawg Pound has ridden this rollercoaster throughout the first 12 weeks of the season.
Cleveland's latest letdown occurred under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football. A contest against their AFC North division rival Baltimore Ravens ended in a 16-10 defeat that largely lacked excitement, sending the Browns to a subpar record of 6-6. Cleveland's offense continues to struggle, having scored 10 or fewer points in three of their last five contests.
Starting quarterback Baker Mayfield has been at the center of Cleveland's recent offensive woes. The former No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft has completed just 50.5% of his passes for 496 yards in his last three starts. Mayfield has thrown for three touchdowns and three interceptions in that same timeframe, while also losing a fumble. Cleveland suffered a blowout 45-7 loss to the New England Patriots back in Week 10 and won a three-point snoozefest over the winless Detroit Lions leading up to Sunday's defeat to the Ravens. Mayfield continues to play through shoulder, foot, and groin injuries and is clearly not himself. We commend him for playing through a plethora of nagging ailments, but it's time for the Browns to replace him with backup signal-caller Case Keenum until he gets healthy.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski doesn't appear to agree. When asked about the possibility of starting Keenum following the Week 13 bye, Stefanski replied to ESPN's Tony Grossi in a rather standoffish fashion.
Stefanski said, “Let me ask you a question. Why would we bench Baker Mayfield?”
Stefanski continues to possess an unwavering amount of confidence in his banged-up quarterback. It's a shame because there is little doubt that Keenum would serve as a better choice to lead this hurting offense forward while Mayfield continues to be hampered by a number of recurring injuries. Keenum, who has mastered Stefanski's offensive scheme due to their time spent in Minnesota together, possesses the ability to rightfully step into the starting role. We last saw a healthy dosage of Keenum in Cleveland's late October victory over the Denver Broncos. Keenum received his lone start of the season in that contest and completed 63.6% of his passing attempts for 199 yards, one touchdown, and zero turnovers.
Keenum is capable of leading Stefanski's offense to success. We witnessed their aptness together in Minnesota, and we've seen it in spurts with the Browns as well. Cleveland's season, which started at 3-1, is now dangerously close to being wasted away. Sunday's defeat dropped them to the lowly 12th seed in the AFC's competitive and jumbled wild-card playoff picture. Cleveland is entering a much-needed bye, but a rematch with the Ravens looms large in Week 14. Until Mayfield's health drastically improves, Keenum gives the offense the best chance to salvage what once appeared to be a promising campaign.
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