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Mike Polk Jr.: Injured Baker Mayfield is only the start of the Cleveland Browns' problems

Can the team still turn things around?

CLEVELAND — Before I criticize the Browns and that game we saw yesterday, in the spirit of fairness I first want to acknowledge that Coach Stefanski and Baker Mayfield are the best thing to happen to my football team in a very long time.

That said, it should also be noted that it doesn’t take very much AT ALL to be the best thing to happen to our football team in a very long time.

Coach Stefanski, that just means that you’re an improvement over Freddie Kitchens and Hue Jackson. Baker, you’re a breath of fresh air after having to watch DeShone Kizer, Charlie Frye and two different McCowns.

What I’m saying is, the bar wasn’t very high to begin with.

But last year you guys smashed through those expectations. We looked competent, we looked confident, and we always looked like we at least deserved to be there. 

Boy, what a difference a year makes.

Getting called for 12 men on the field after a timeout? What was that?!

These things happen. Teams have adjusted to us. We’ve caught some bad breaks. But that’s football. It’s about how a team reacts to those setbacks that determines success. And I’ve got to tell you, we’re not reacting very well right now.

So can we stop pretending like everything’s fine, Browns? There’s obviously something fundamentally wrong with this team. And it starts with Baker.

Easy Baker Bros! Retract your cyber claws. I’m not saying your favorite non-family member isn’t good. I’m saying Baker isn’t okay physically, regardless of how badly the Browns want to pretend that he is. He’s beat up and it is limiting his effectiveness. He’s got a bum shoulder, a bad heel, a pulled groin and a knee injury, but other than that he’s in great shape.

And to be clear, we’re not mad at Baker for being injured. But stop getting defensive and trying to downplay it by acting like he’s fine. We can clearly see that he’s not, so don’t insult us. Yes, he can still walk and still has function in all of his limbs. That doesn’t mean he should be out there.

And it’s not all his fault. The receivers are dropping passes. The run game couldn’t get anything going last night and early on against the Ravens, we lost one of our best offensive linemen for the year and had to replace him, once again, with a guy named Blake.

The defense looked great and snagged 4 interceptions so Browns fans can’t blame them or defensive coordinator Joe Woods for this loss. So you’re off the hook this week Joe, but don’t get too comfortable. If the D slips again next game, we’ll totally forget about this success and go right back to complaining about you. I don’t make the rules.

So how does a team get four interceptions, some in excellent field position, and only covert that into three total points?

Easy. The Ravens simply showed no respect for Baker Mayfield and the Browns' passing game. Baltimore loaded up the line of scrimmage to shut down the run game and just dared the Browns to throw. And it sure worked great. It was almost like they knew we were playing an injured quarterback with a bum shoulder and limited mobility and took advantage of that.

Baker shouldn’t have played last week against the terrible Lions. He should have rested and healed up for that Baltimore game. And that’s not hindsight, that’s what many of us openly hoped would happen prior to the game.

But he started anyway instead of our highly compensated, highly competent, if unremarkable, backup quarterback who had already won one game this year against a team better than the Lions. The Browns squeaked out a win, Baker took some more physical abuse, and here we are.

And now we have about two weeks to dwell on this loss and hope that the Browns remember how to be the team that they were last year -- and also that our quarterback somehow heals like The Wolverine before we have to face these insufferable rat-birds yet again, this time at home.

And for the life of me I don’t know why but I still somehow have faith that they can figure this all out and end the season on a hopeful upswing. But I’ve been to some dark places, so probably don’t go by me. As before and as always, Go Browns.    

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