Wednesday, September 28, 2022

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Browns could struggle against top QBs, take alternative route

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The simplest way to win in the NFL is to have a dynamic quarterback, a good head coach and a great offensive play-caller. Often, defense and a run game are optional.

That isn’t to say they don’t matter but the AFC playoff game on Sunday gave us a glimpse of the power of those three things. Unlike Saturday’s game, where Jimmy Garoppolo and Ryan Tannehill were similar but had different outcomes, Sunday’s game showed two amazing quarterbacks.

To be fair, Saturday did have Joe Burrow throwing for over 300 yards but that was an appetizer to the main course and dessert of Sunday.

Sunday, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen put on a clinic of offensive football in today’s NFL. Not only did the two quarterbacks throw for over 700 yards and seven touchdowns combined but they did so while throwing zero interceptions and leading their teams in rushing as well.

The Cleveland Browns don’t have the components necessary to keep up with that kind of scoring prowess. Baker Mayfield’s best season, 2020, had two games with more than three touchdowns with only one of them including zero interceptions. Mayfield’s 2020 only had two games with over 300 yards passing as well.

The Browns offense under Kevin Stefanski is not set up to be high-scoring through the passing game. Instead, the run game is expected to lead the way with the quarterback taking advantage of openings made by the rushing attack.

Whether Mayfield is a good quarterback, as seen in 2020, or a bad one, as seen in 2021, Stefanski’s system (similar to ones run successfully by Kyle Shanahan, Matt LaFleur and others) is at its best when the quarterback is part of the success, not the focal point of it.

In 2022, if Cleveland wants to compete with the Mahomes and Allens of the world, they need to zig to their opponents’ zag. They must lean into the ball-control offense and hope for their defense to make enough big plays to slow down Mahomes and Allen.

Even if the Browns acquire a top-level quarterback, a system adjustment (along with significant upgrades at wide receiver and, likely, tight end) will be required to try to score with the best in the AFC. Instead, Cleveland must take the alternative route, the path less chosen these days, if they are to compete in 2022 and beyond.

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