Whenever the health of a starter at any position dips below 100 percent, the team must ask itself when and if it makes more sense to go with a backup who has no injuries over the starter who does.
In Cleveland, given the recent performances of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who suffered a left shoulder injury in Week Two and another in Week Six, it’s fair to ask whether the team is currently better off with Case Keenum under center.
It’s one of the cold, hard realities of pro football. No one is entitled to play. No one should regard their job as a birthright. At times on Tuesday, however, Mayfield sounded like someone who views his position as beyond question, and that he regards the ultimate decision on whether to play to be his and his alone.
“I think whenever you decide to get some of these reps, get the pads on and simulate some of these game throws, if I am not able to do and be 100 percent, that is where I would be out,” Mayfield told reporters. “I have to make that decision. Only I know how my body feels. If anyone questions whether I am hindering the team and going out there injured, that is just not right. It is my decision. I get to say whether I am able to play or not, and that is just how it is.”
It is absolutely right for people to question whether Mayfield is hindering the team when playing while injured. As Charean Williams put it very bluntly on Tuesday’s #PFTPM, if Mayfield’s injury hasn’t been hindering him or the team, then the only other explanation for his recent performance is that he’s just not very good.
Either way, the Browns need to be thinking about giving Keenum a shot.
Yes, Keenum, who stepped in for Sam Bradford in Week Two of the 2017 season and took the Vikings all the way to the NFC Championship. His quarterback coach at the time was Kevin Stefanski. As in current Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski.
Mayfield’s attitude, his drive, his stubbornness, his moxie is a big part of what makes him great. It becomes an impediment in situations like this, however, where the Browns have to manage a strong personality that refuses to take “maybe you should take a seat” for an answer.
Then again, it’s those traits that got him in his jam in the first place. By deciding to try to make a tackle after throwing an interception, Mayfield injured himself. He violated the basic concept of living to play another day, a critical factor for all starting quarterbacks.
With the 3-3 Browns at an important crossroads as they deal with a rash of key injuries, Mayfield is the last one who should be deciding whether he plays while injured. He’s wired to not stand down. Someone who is wired to think only in the best interests of the team should be deciding whether Mayfield keeps playing despite the ongoing issue with his left shoulder.