Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: In Prime of Career, Has OBJ Become Irrelevant?

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterNovember 6, 2019

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 3:  Odell Beckham #13 of the Cleveland Browns shows emotion on the sideline as the Cleveland Browns trail the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter of a game at Empower Field at Mile High on November 3, 2019 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Browns' struggles are threatening to sink Odell Beckham Jr.'s career, the Ravens offense is making history, and sizing up the MVP race heading into Week 10. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.


1. OBJ needs help, and fast

Perhaps no player has been a bigger disappointment this season than Odell Beckham Jr., but the reason why has nothing to do with him.

Yes, he remains one of the most electric, talented and deadly receivers the game has ever seen. But his head coach is overmatched, his quarterback is inaccurate, and he plays for one of the worst franchises in football. And it has raised the very real possibility that Beckham may end up as one of the greatest examples in football history of wasted talent.

So now, the question is, what happens with Beckham? What's his future in the NFL?

It seems silly to even ask. He's just 27 years old, and the Browns only recently acquired him. Cleveland could make a head coaching change, hire Urban Meyer (it's a hypothetical—relax), and Beckham could have a long and productive career with the Browns.

But these are the Browns, and if this season has taught us anything about the franchise, it is to not assume they will do the right thing.

That's why there are some teams that believe if the Browns continue to struggle this year, and those problems stretch into early next season, Beckham could get traded again.

It wouldn't be easy. The Browns acquired Beckham in March from the Giants for safety Jabrill Peppers as well as first- and third-round picks, and they would be on the hook for more than $19 million in dead cap space if they traded him this season. But Beckham could be traded after the 2020 season with no salary-cap damage.

Two NFC team officials said they don't see Beckham getting traded this offseason, but one of them said, "The vultures will be circling if the Browns keep sucking."

In other words, teams are expecting Beckham to want out since odds are the Browns will keep sucking in the near future.

That's mostly a joke (mostly), but Beckham's fit in Cleveland does face some structural hurdles. Some can be attributed to coach Freddie Kitchens, but Baker Mayfield's accuracy issues this season have greatly disturbed the Browns, as well, and his lack of accuracy can't be blamed solely on the offensive line.

According to NFL Research, Mayfield has the lowest passer rating in the NFL when not under pressure. He's the only quarterback with more interceptions than touchdown passes when not under pressure. If that doesn't change and the Browns keep doing what they do best, Beckham may just get tired of losing and want out, and if that were the case, he'd have a line of suitors waiting for him.

The odds of any of this happening are slim, but it's also true that Beckham isn't the type of player who will wait patiently for the Browns to stop hiring awful head coaches and get their act together. Thus far, Beckham has been professional in Cleveland, but he's starting to get (understandably) frustrated. After one play Sunday against the Broncos, Beckham walked off the field and could be heard saying, according to CBS' Jay Feely: "I can't get the ball to save my life."

After making the deal for him, the Browns, who haven't exactly been a draw for stars, undoubtedly will do whatever it takes to keep Beckham and make him happy. They know he is a unique talent.

But a player who had spent much of the previous five years being one of the dominant forces in the sport is now mostly an afterthought.

They had better get him the ball, and a real head coach, or Beckham's future might include another team.


2. Beckham's options are many

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

So who might come knocking on Cleveland general manager John Dorsey's door should Beckham and the Browns decide to part ways? The short answer is just about anyone. There are 400 NFL teams that would want him, which is impressive since there are only 32.

However, to me, there are four main candidates:

Patriots: They get everyone. Hey, life isn't fair.

Packers: Aaron Rodgers and Beckham would be, um, remarkable.

Ravens: Beckham would make an already dangerous Lamar Jackson even more so.

49ers: That offense would be as formidable as that defense.


3. Destined to fail

Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

When the Jets fired Todd Bowles after last season and hired Adam Gase, the former head coach of the Dolphins, one of the biggest reasons why was so Gase, who had developed a reputation as a quarterback whisperer after his work with Peyton Manning in Denver years before, could develop quarterback Sam Darnold from a promising rookie to a star.

But that hasn't happened. Darnold has regressed dramatically this season, throwing eight interceptions in the past three games, including this flying saucer against the Dolphins. It's one of the worst decisions a quarterback has made all year.

Darnold's megaregression has only been topped by Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield's. Browns coach Freddie Kitchens was hired, in large part, to work with Mayfield in the way Gase was with Darnold. Instead, Mayfield has taken numerous steps back this year, throwing seven touchdowns to 12 interceptions. He looks like Rex Grossman.

It wasn't supposed to be like this for these two franchises this year. There was supposed to be promise and optimism. Instead, they are a combined 3-13. Both coaching moves, for two of the most important franchises in the NFL, have been disasters.

The increasing belief of some team officials is that Kitchens could be fired before the end of the season. If he does make it that far, two NFC front-office sources stated, he'll be dismissed at the end of the season.

Gase won't be fired this year, but he is getting absolutely shredded by some people in the league as horribly inept.

So what happened? How did these two get hired in the first place?

"This is what happens," one NFC team executive said, "when you don't do your homework on a coaching candidate."

And this is the moral of the story.

Many teams believed Gase wasn't a good coach. Most also thought Kitchens would be overwhelmed.

Both were hired anyway, and the results have been nothing short of disastrous.


4. Unbreakable

Halfway through the season, the Ravens are on the verge of making history. As ESPN Stats and Info noted:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Through 8 games, the Ravens are averaging 222.1 passing yds per game and 204.9 rush yds per game. No team in NFL history has averaged 200+ Pass YPG and 200+ Rush YPG for an entire season. https://t.co/RV1gRSk24y

If those seem like staggering numbers, well, they are.

So, can Baltimore sustain this?

The answer is yes. The Ravens run a violent offense that is difficult to practice against. Besides Lamar Jackson, and the running of Mark Ingram II, the Ravens' use of three tight ends is uniquely challenging because all of them are good pass-catchers and you never know if they are going to run or block.

Of course, the unknowable part is injuries. Is Jackson more prone to get hurt because he runs more? It's possible, but Tom Brady was lost for a season to a torn ACL while in the pocket.

Players get hurt while running, jogging, jumping, eating strawberries or sitting in the tub.

Assuming good health, not only is the Baltimore offense sustainable, but it may also be unbreakable. And unstoppable.


5. Lamar Jackson's mental fortitude

Gail Burton/Associated Press

Lamar Jackson is leading the Ravens toward a historic season, and he made some of his own history Sunday night when he became the youngest quarterback in the Super Bowl era to beat a team (in this case the Patriots) that entered the game 8-0 or better, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

It takes a lot of mental toughness to do what Jackson did at just 22 years old. No, we're not crownin' him; we're just noting his game goes beyond his physical abilities. He's much smarter and tougher than some think.

Jackson also didn't defeat just any ordinary team. He beat the greatest franchise in NFL history and the best coach of all time, one who rarely loses to young quarterbacks.

Jackson is proving more and more by the week to be one of the league's toughest and strongest players, and not just physically.


6. When the pressure's on, don't call on Captain Kirk

The criticism of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has long been that in big games, and in big moments, he shrinks. This is what was said of him in Washington, and it has followed him to Minnesota.

This unbelievable statistic, from ESPN Stats and Info's Evan Kaplan, is a startling illustration of the issue:

Evan Kaplan @EpKap

Kirk Cousins when Trailing in 4th Quarter as Vikings QB Loss at Chiefs Loss at Bears Loss at Packers Loss vs Bears Loss at Seahawks Loss at Patriots Loss at Bears Loss vs Saints Loss at Rams Loss vs Bills Tie at Packers

Cousins hasn't had a single win as a Viking when trailing in the fourth quarter. That seems almost impossible, but it's true.

It's not all the fault of Cousins, and to be fair, those losses were to some good franchises. Against the Chiefs on Sunday, he was mostly missing wide receiver Adam Thielen, one of his best weapons.

None of this would be as big a problem as it has become if the Vikings had not given Cousins $84 million guaranteed so he could push them into a higher orbit. He isn't doing that.

He may never do it.


7. Media training needed

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 29: Jermaine Whitehead #35 of the Cleveland Browns warms up before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

First, there was Browns defensive back Jermaine Whitehead, who Sunday threatened critics on Twitter. The Browns cut Whitehead on Monday.

Then there was Jets cornerback Darryl Roberts, who called some Jets fans "fake ass."

The Browns and Jets are both mired in horrible, losing seasons, and frustrations understandably are running high. But these types of social media attacks (particularly in the case of Whitehead) are destructive, and over the years the league and teams have warned players to cool off before going to social media.

The reason is obvious. Football isn't just a violent sport. It's a highly emotional one, and most players can turn off those emotions after a game. It just takes time. Some players need more time than others.

After this weekend, the NFL may need to bolster that training.


8. M-V-P! M-V-P!

Scott Eklund/Associated Press

The race as it stands halfway through the season, at least according to me:

1. Russell Wilson: What he's doing is remarkable. It's one of the best stretches by a quarterback I've ever seen.

2. Christian McCaffrey: Every defense McCaffrey faces channels most of its resources to stopping him, and every week he dominates.

3. Lamar Jackson: Could easily be No. 1, and by the end of the season he might be.

4. Deshaun Watson: A human highlight reel who is carrying that team on his back.

5. Aaron Rodgers: Still in the mix.


9. Giants killer

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 04:  Quarterback Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys warms up before the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on November 04, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

When the Cowboys beat the Giants on Monday night, quarterback Dak Prescott accomplished something remarkably impressive, and few have any clue about it.

Prescott has beaten the Giants six consecutive times. That type of dominance over a team isn't unprecedented, but for a fierce rivalry like Giants-Cowboys, it is notable, and rare.

How rare? The Elias Sports Bureau says no Dallas quarterback has had a similar streak since Hall of Famer Roger Staubach in the 1970s.

Elias Sports Bureau @EliasSports

Dak Prescott won his sixth straight start against the Giants tonight. The only other @dallascowboys QB to win six consecutive starts against the Giants is Roger Staubach, who won 11 in a row in the 1970s. #DallasCowboys #DALvsNYG

Prescott's value in the league has been a matter of some debate, but what can't be argued is just how much it helps a franchise to eviscerate one of its major rivals. Before they even step on the field in subsequent matchups, the Cowboys will have an edge.


10. Is Cam done in Carolina?

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 27: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers looks on from the sidelines against the San Francisco 49ers during an NFL football game at Levi's Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Hen
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The question about Carolina quarterback Cam Newton's future is no longer about this year. It's about the next one as well.

The team put Newton on injured reserve Tuesday, and now we wait to see if he has a future with the Panthers. My belief (and I'm not alone in this) is that if Kyle Allen keeps playing well (he's 5-1 in Newton's absence), the team will release Newton.

Allen doesn't have Newton's talent, but he's solid, and he works well with Christian McCaffrey, who is one of the brightest stars in the league.

If the Panthers keep winning—though their remaining schedule is brutal with a game against the Packers, two against the Saints and one against the SeahawksAllen will continue to secure his spot as the starter.

Not just for this year but perhaps next season as well.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.