The Cleveland Browns are having their best season since 2014, with many improvements made since their 1-31 stanzas during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. One of those substantial improvements has been how the team is performing essentially night and day better following the firing of their head coach Hue Jackson. Jackson was 3-36-1 in his tenure with the Browns.
Since Jackson’s firing, the Browns possess a 2-1 record, with their lone loss coming against one of the NFL’s hottest teams: the Kansas City Chiefs. Cleveland’s two wins have come against the 2016 NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons and the division-rival Cincinnati Bengals on the road — the first time the Browns have won a road game in 25 consecutive weeks.
Two players have lit the NFL on fire after igniting a flame-filled performance in the last three weeks since Jackson’s termination. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield and rookie running back Nick Chubb have played outstanding in their last three games for the Browns.
Mayfield and Chubb both faced similar obstacles in the first six months of their rookie careers during Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s tenures leading the Browns offense. Mayfield, the team’s first overall pick, did not receive a rep with the first-team offense until late September of 2018, following his emergence against the New York Jets when he leads the Browns to their first win since Christmas Eve of 2016. Chubb, despite averaging seven yards per carry in his first two career games and running for 105 rushing yards on three attempts for two touchdowns against the Raiders, did not receive more than three carries in a game until October, 21 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If Jackson was competent enough to realize he had the best rookie quarterback and second-best rookie running back in the NFL, maybe the Browns would hold the second wildcard spot in the AFC, instead of fighting for it. However, that is a different conversation for a different day.
Instead of rolling with Mayfield and Chubb, Jackson chose to go the veteran route and roll with Tyrod Taylor and Carlos Hyde. That was alright until their performances screamed “Same Ole Browns.” Taylor was 41-of-84 in his three starts for the Browns, passing for 462 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. On the other hand, Hyde led the NFL in carries to start the season but had a league-worst rushing yard per attempt. Credit to Browns general manager John Dorsey for flipping Hyde for a fifth-round pick. Taylor, however, is an entire mess in itself.
After watching Mayfield and Chubb play at a high level over the last nine weeks, one comparison sticks out that is actually accurate: Mayfield and Chubb are the Browns’ 2016 Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott for the Dallas Cowboys. Stay with me here…
Under the leadership of Prescott and Elliott in their rookie season’s, the Cowboys had the hottest quarterback/running back duo in football, as they led Dallas to a 13-3 record and an NFC East Division Championship.
Because Jackson did not have the smarts nor decency to play Mayfield and Chubb early on in the season, we will have to work with statistics among the respective duos first nine-or-so games.
In his nine starts as the Cowboys starting quarterback, Prescott led Dallas to an 8-1 record (including a 35-10 win over the Browns). Prescott was 187-of-280 (66.8%) on his passes for 2,339 yards, 14 touchdowns, and two interceptions. Mayfield has completed 195-of-311 (62.7%) of his passes for 2,242 yards for 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Mayfield has the advantage over Prescott with three more touchdowns.
Elliott, in his first 137 rushing attempts, ran for 703 yards and five touchdowns. In addition, he caught 11 passes for 98 yards; he also fumbled the ball twice. Chubb has rushed the ball 122 times for six touchdowns on 663 yards rushing, adding nine receptions for 92 yards and two receiving touchdowns; Chubb has never fumbled.
In three games under offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, Mayfield has completed 65-of-88 (73.9%) passes for 771 yards, nine touchdowns, one interception, and an average passer rating of 130 (only Drew Brees’ passer rating over the last three weeks is better). Chubb has rushed for 347 yards on 70 carries for three touchdowns and has caught six passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
Current Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens has been a pleasant surprise — and quite frankly one no Browns fan saw coming. The success of the Browns 0ffense with Kitchens has been outstanding, and the numbers back it up.
At this rate, if Mayfield and Chubb played under Kitchens for the entirety of the season, the numbers would be incredible:
Mayfield: 4,112 yards, 48 passing touchdowns, and five interceptions.
Chubb: 1,850 rushing yards, 415 receiving yards, 16 rushing touchdowns, and 10 receiving touchdowns.
Yes, the Browns played a Chiefs (30th), Falcons (28th), and Bengals (32nd) that are ranked among the worst defensive teams in the NFL during those three games. The point still stands, the Browns have seen vast encouraging improvements from their franchise quarterback and the bruiser at running back.
In 16 games for the Cowboys, Prescott threw for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns, and four interceptions, and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. In 15 games for the Cowboys, Elliott rushed for 1,631 rushing yards, 363 receiving yards, 15 rushing touchdowns, and one receiving touchdown, and Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards in 2016.
Not only did the numbers between Mayfield and Chubb matchup with Prescott and Elliott, but they were also better. At this rate, the Browns would pose a 12-4 season and much like the 2016 Cowboys, would be the hottest team in the NFL.
The Offensive Rookie Player of the Week awards will continue to role in, and Mayfield is the leader for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Also, worth noting, Denzel Ward is the leader for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Not bad, Mr. Dorsey.
Just imagine, if Cleveland would have fired Jackson after a 1-31 record and started the season without him — the position the Browns could be it would be much different. Shuda, coulda, woulda.
The Browns are one of the most exciting teams in football and have lots of potential heading into next season. Heck, let’s see what Mayfield and Chubb have to offer for the remainder of this season. At this rate, it will be special.