The Cleveland Browns will turn to another backwards hat quarterback tonight as Case Keenum will start under center while Baker Mayfield deals with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. It is merely the latest of multiple key losses for Cleveland coming at a brutal time; the Browns are 3-3 and desperately need a win against the Denver Broncos to keep pace in the AFC North.
Not all is lost, though. Keenum is a journeyman and a backup for a reason but the last time he orchestrated a Kevin Stefanski offense he took the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship Game. The Broncos are not a particularly intimidating opponent, but they did start the season undefeated and Cleveland is missing at least seven starters across the roster heading into tonight. The fate of this victory is up to Keenum.
Bart Scott came flying in with support for Keenum on Get Up this morning. Not in the way Kay Adams thinks Keenum is a good option, but in a way that disparaged Mayfield. Scott explained why Mayfield isn't actually that much better than Keenum to his colleagues, and it was quite a scene.
Let us dig into the stats, shall we?
In Keenum's season with Stefanski in Minnesota, he threw for 3,547 yards and 22 TDs with seven interceptions in 15 games. He won 11 of those games, completing 67 percent of his passes with an average of 7.4 yards per attempt. Pretty good!
Last year was Mayfield's first in Stefanski's system. The former No. 1 overall pick threw for 3,563 yards and 26 TDs with eight interceptions. He also won 11 games and completed 62 percent of his passes with an average of 7.3 yards per attempt.
Those are very similar stats, so you can see where Scott is coming from. Both had the same quality of weapons around them (more or less), albeit at different positions; Keenum was throwing to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, while Mayfield had the best running back duo in the league to lean on.
This is where the eye test comes in handy, though. The two quarterbacks posted basically the same statlines, yet watching them execute the offense, Mayfield is clearly better. As far as how much better he is, I'd think of it like this: that 2017 season will no doubt go down as the best of Keenum's career. Mayfield's 2020 season will probably be one of many just like it, and there are greater heights he can reach.
So maybe Scott isn't outright wrong in this scenario. But the degree to which Mayfield is better than Keenum is larger than he suggests.