Baker Mayfield threw three interceptions in the first half against the Green Bay Packers. On each ensuing possession, Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass. Rodgers has four interceptions all season. Mayfield ended up with four on Saturday.
Sometimes NFL analysis is too focused on quarterbacks. It is a team game, after all. But, sometimes it's OK to boil it down to one team having a Hall of Fame quarterback and the other wondering if they have a quarterback at all.
Rodgers set the Packers' all-time record for touchdown passes on Saturday and furthered his case for a fourth MVP award in a 24-22 win over the Cleveland Browns. The Browns rallied and pulled within two points with less than five minutes left, then got the ball back with 2:05 left. A couple of misfires by Mayfield to David Njoku, a batted screen pass and Mayfield's fourth interception sealed the Packers win. Rasul Douglas picked it off on Cleveland's last possession, and the Browns unsuccessfully argued for holding on Douglas. The final interception was crushing, and those points that changed hands on the first-half interceptions were huge.
The Browns fell to 7-8 and their postseason hopes are on life support. They'll go into this offseason not knowing if they have the right quarterback, either.
Baker Mayfield throws costly INTs
Mayfield is four seasons into his rookie contract. The Browns are in a tough spot, still unsure if Mayfield is worth a second contract that is likely to be very expensive.
Teams rarely move on from competent quarterbacks. For all the criticism of Mayfield this season, he's been OK in his NFL career. There have been some good moments for the former No. 1 overall pick, and some not-so-good ones. There have been mostly bad ones this season, though Mayfield has been playing through injuries.
He had an extra layer of difficulty on Saturday. He was on the COVID-19 reserve list since last week, didn't practice with his team and hopped on a private plane to Wisconsin on Saturday morning to join the Browns. That's not ideal to say the least.
Still, Mayfield has played enough games that his three first-half interceptions shouldn't happen. One was on a deep ball with safety Darnell Savage playing over the top. He threw another with the Browns in field-goal range. He wasn't set on that one and overthrew it badly. The third one he thought he could get to Jarvis Landry, but Douglas was right there in coverage.
It's probably not a good sign when inactive Browns safety John Johnson III wasn't happy the Browns were throwing so much.
RUN THE DAMN BALL🙄
— John Johnson III (@iamjohnthethird) December 25, 2021
The final interception might have been a missed call on Douglas, but it still goes on Mayfield's ledger. It was the first four-interception game of Mayfield's career.
Simply saying the Browns should move on from Mayfield ignores how hard it is to find a quarterback in the NFL. It's easy for anyone to say what the Browns should do with Mayfield, but it's a difficult call. Mayfield isn't making it any easier.
Packers, Aaron Rodgers keep rolling
The Browns' sorry history at quarterback factors in too. They struggled for nearly a couple decades to find a quarterback even as good as Mayfield.
Teams can't all be as fortunate as the Packers. The Packers went from Brett Favre to Rodgers and have had Hall-of-Fame quarterbacking since 1992. Rodgers threw his 443rd touchdown pass in the first quarter on Saturday, passing Favre for the franchise record. Rodgers seems to be closing in on passing Favre for NFL MVP awards too. They both have three. Rodgers is the favorite to win another this season.
The Packers improved to 12-3 and are in great shape to get the No. 1 seed in the NFC. On paper, the Browns and Packers aren't that much different. The Packers' roster is better but not by as much as the records would indicate. The Browns have a lot of talent. But they're very likely to be going home while the Packers will have wild-card weekend off, awaiting their first playoff opponent.
It's not that hard to figure out why the two teams are on different levels.