Even if Baker Mayfield’s Shoulder Doesn’t Require Surgery, the Browns Would Be Wise To Let Case Keenum Take On the Broncos

Article Highlights:

  • The Clevleand Browns (3-3) don’t think Baker Mayfield‘s shoulder injury is season ended
  • Mayfield is going to push to play, but Case Keenum can get the job done
  • The Denver Broncos (3-3) are beatable weven without Mayfield

Baker Mayfield is undeniably one of the toughest football players in the NFL. That can’t be taken away from him, and it won’t be.

With that said, the Cleveland Browns would be smart to sit their star quarterback this Thursday as they take on the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football.

Mayfield will want to play, and the Browns certainly need all the help they can get because they are quite banged up. They’re also on a two-game losing streak and third in the AFC North rankings.

There’s truly a lot on the line for Cleveland, but Mayfield’s long-term health is not worth risking.

The Cleveland Browns seem to be optimistic about Baker Mayfield’s shoulder injury

Quarterback Baker Mayfield takes the field for the Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns in the tunnel before the game against the Minnesota Vikings | Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

There is good news for Cleveland regarding Mayfield’s left shoulder injury. ESPN is reporting that the Browns do not believe that the injury will be season-ending, or that it will require surgery. The caveat here is that the report also states that Mayfield is waiting on a second opinion from his personal doctor.

The Browns aren’t out of the woods yet, but good news does appear to be on the way for Cleveland. A season-ending injury to Mayfield would certainly ruin the rest of the 2021 campaign for the Browns, so the whole city of Clevland will be holding its collective breath waiting for the results of the MRI review.

Keep in mind that Mayfield has been gutting through this injury since he initially hurt the shoulder while trying to make a tackle after he threw an interception in Cleveland’s 31-21 win over the Houston Texans (1-5). Mayfield has worn a harness on his shoulder and has played through the injury, but he did re-injure himself in the Browns’ Week 6 clash with the Arizona Cardinals (6-0).

Mayfield was scrambling to his left when he was tripped up by J.J. Watt. He lost the ball on the play (Arizona recovered), and he fell on his shoulder awkwardly – clearly in pain.

The Browns’ quarterback back was down for several minutes, but he continued to play until garbage time. He was seen after the game in a shoulder sling, which brings us to today.

Case Keenum can get the job done for the Browns

While no organization wants to hand the baton off to its backup quarterback with the fate of the season potentially on the line, Case Keenum is not the average quarterback. If the Browns do turn to him on Thursday Night Football, which they should, they’d be leaning on a backup with legitimate starting experience.

Keenum had an impressive run as the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings (3-3) in 2017. He went 11-3 as a starter for Minnesota and threw for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. He was a big reason the Vikings made the NFC Championship that season. The cherry on top of this backup quarterback sundae the Browns are looking at is that Kevin Stefanski was Keenum’s quarterback coach at the time.

The two have a history. There’s a reason the Browns brought Keenum in to back up Mayfield.

Keenum knows Stefanski’s offense and he’s proven to have had success in it. No, he’s not necessarily a full-time starter at this point in his career, but Keenum can absolutely come in for some spot duty and give Mayfield time to rest his shoulder.

Even if he doesn’t need surgery on it, it’s clear that Mayfield would benefit from some time off. He won’t like it, but that’s the truth.

The Denver Broncos are beatable, even without Mayfield

Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio watches a game
Head coach Vic Fangio of the Denver Broncos looks on during an NFL preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field | Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The skinny on the Broncos is that they are beatable, even with a backup quarterback leading the way for the Browns.

Denver started the season off hot with three straight wins, but look at who they played.

The Broncos went 3-0 against the New York Giants (1-5), Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5), and New York Jets (1-4). Those three teams have a combined three wins between them in 2021.

The Broncos are now riding a three-game losing streak after games against “real” teams like the Baltimore Ravens (5-1), Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3), and Las Vegas Raiders (4-2).

Yes, Denver head coach Vic Fangio is a defensive guru who still boasts a top-five defense this season, but he’s 15-23 over three seasons with the Broncos and he’s firmly on the hot seat in the midst of this three-game losing streak.

The Browns defense isn’t at the level of Denver’s, but Myles Garrett is playing like a potential defensive player of the year with eight sacks, and his defense will be going up against a Broncos offense that’s just out of sync. Teddy Bridgewater threw three interceptions in Denver’s loss to Las Vegas, and he’s also a bit banged up himself heading into Thursday night. In Week 4, the Broncos managed just seven points in their loss to the Ravens.

This is certainly a winnable game on all fronts for the Browns, and they don’t need Mayfield in order to do it.

He’ll want to play, of course, but his long-term health will be much more important for the Browns in the grand scheme of this season.

Stats courtesy of ESPN and Pro Football Reference.

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