The Cleveland Browns are on the precipice of another lost season. They're 6-5, in last place in the AFC North. Baker Mayfield is hurt and clearly struggling. The team will travel to Baltimore on Sunday to face off against the Baltimore Ravens who will presumably welcome back Lamar Jackson after the former MVP missed last week with a non-COVID illness.
A divisional loss to Baltimore will send Cleveland into a tailspin. The rest of their schedule is tough -- they have four games against possible playoff teams and one against the Las Vegas Raiders, who have slid recently but looked like one of the better teams in the NFL in September. The bye week coming after this Ravens matchup will help matters immensely, but if the Browns roll into the final stretch of their schedule at .500, their playoff outlook isn't good.
Which is why it's time to bench Mayfield.
It has nothing to do with his wife's Instagram posts or reports that he's losing the locker room. Mayfield's injuries have simply become too much for him to bear. In the last month of games, Mayfield is only averaging 173 yards per game with a 4:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The Browns have won two of those four games, with a beatdown of Cincinnati marking the most impressive win. But Mayfield has steadily gotten worse since that game. He was destroyed by New England's defense before mustering only 176 yards and one touchdown with two picks against the woeful Lions.
The counting stats are surely concerning, but the eye test is somehow significantly worse. His two picks against Detroit were just awful. He doesn't look healthy at all, which makes sense since he has a separated left shoulder, a bone bruise in his knee, and another bone bruise in his foot. None are serious enough for the team to consider an IR stint, apparently, but a quarterback needs a healthy lower body to complete throws at a winning rate. The separated shoulder is "just" pain management but when piled onto everything else doesn't make moving around all too easy for Mayfield.
There's no shame in stepping aside when your body fails you. I am on record arguing that the Browns aren't better off with Case Keenum than Mayfield, but that was before all the injuries and subsequent decline in play. The Browns have a great running game and an elite offensive line. They just need steady quarterback play and they'll be in nearly every game they play. Making a late-season push for a wild card spot is not at all out of the realm of possibility. Hell, the way the AFC North is this year, a divisional title could even be in store if things break right.
But not with Mayfield under center. Not with how these injuries have affected him. It's Keenum time.