An Old-School Former Coach Explains Why the Browns are Better Without Odell Beckham Jr.: ‘Are You More Happy if You Had 8 Catches and We Lost or if You Had 3 Catches and We Win?’

Some call it addition by subtraction. Podcaster Bill Simmons calls it the “Ewing Theory.” Whatever name you want to use, sometimes a team gets better by getting rid of one of its best players on paper. That’s exactly what seems to have happened when the Cleveland Browns decided to waive star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. ahead of Week 9. Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher explained why the Browns are better because of it.

Bill Cowher said the Cleveland Browns are better without Odell Beckham Jr. 

(L-R) Head Coach Bill Cowher leave the field after a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on October 16, 2005 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Odell Beckham Jr. of the Cleveland Browns walks off the field after the 37-14 loss against the Arizona Cardinals at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio.
(L-R) Bill Cowher, Odell Beckham Jr. | Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images; Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images.

Bill Cowher knows a thing or two about winning teams. The Pennsylvania native coached the Pittsburgh Steelers for 15 seasons, compiling a 149-90 regular-season record. His Steelers made the playoffs 10 times in the Cowher Era and reached two Super Bowls, winning one.

On the CBS pregame show NFL Today, the coach-turned-analyst weighed in on the current state of the Cleveland Browns, a team he played linebacker for from 1980 to 1982.

Cowher discussed why the Browns could be better off without their star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who the team plans to waive Monday following a drama-filled 2021 season.

Cowher explained to viewers and his cohosts:

When you look at [the Browns] system, they are maybe better without him because what happens is Baker Mayfield feels the onus to get his superstar the catches. As I sit there as the head coach in Kevin Stefanski, what I’m saying to myself is, ‘I’m trying to build a culture. I went to the playoffs a year ago. I want to try and do this repetitively. It’s a culture that’s based on unselfishness that calls for keeping people accountable to themselves.’ … And I would ask him this, Phil. ‘Odell, are you more happy if you had eight catches and we lost or if you had three catches and we win?’ And if you hesitated, I got my answer, and you might not be the player for me.

Bill Cowher on Odell Beckham Jr.

While it sounds like Cowher hasn’t asked Beckham his all-important question, he has an idea of what the answer would be. The former coach firmly believes it takes a locker room full of team-first guys to win in the NFL. He also seems to think that doesn’t include OBJ.

The jury is still out on whether Cowher is 100% right, but the Browns sure made him look good Sunday after he made his point.

Baker Mayfield showed up in a big way without OBJ 

The reasons Bill Cowher thinks that the Cleveland Browns are better without Baker Mayfield come down to two main points. He thinks the Browns are better with a team-first culture and a disciplined offensive system.

On Sunday, Baker Mayfield and the Browns showed off these two areas in their blowout win against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The team culture showed up in what was a true team W. The Browns outplayed their Ohio rival on offense and defense.

Cleveland opened its scoring with a 100-yard interception return by Denzel Ward, and the D never let up. The Browns sacked Joe Burrow five times, forced four fumbles (one lost), and added a second interception.

The offense was even more impressive, getting back to its running and play-action pass roots.

Nick Chubb was incredible, rushing for 137 yards on 14 carries and scoring two touchdowns, including a highlight-reel 70-yard scamper.

In the passing game, Mayfield spread the ball around, not having to worry about keeping his $15.75 million receiver happy. The QB completed passes to eight different receivers with no pass-catcher having more than three receptions. Mayfield finished the day with an ultra-efficient line of 14-of-21 for 218 yards and two touchdowns.

This is the Browns team that fans saw last year and the one many expected to win the AFC North and make a real playoff run in 2021.

The Browns are back in the AFC mix with the win over the Bengals

In addition to giving Baker Mayfield and the entire Browns team confidence again, the win over the Bengals put Cleveland right back in the thick of the AFC playoff race.

In the AFC North, the W vaulted the Browns out of last place. They are now just two games behind the division-leading Baltimore Ravens and one game back from the Pittsburgh Steelers (currently the No. 6 seed in the AFC).

Week 9 was also good for the Browns because no AFC team outside of the now-No. 1 Tennessee Titans looked great.

The Buffalo Bills and Las Vegas Raiders took indefensible losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Giants, respectively. The Los Angeles Chargers barely beat the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Ravens needed OT to beat the Minnesota Vikings. Neither of these wins was confidence-inspiring.

The Browns could gain even more ground on Monday night as the Steelers take on the Chicago Bears.

The point is, the AFC is still wide open halfway through the 2021 NFL season, and the Browns are in prime position to make a run without Odell Beckham Jr.

Week 10 is a massive game for the Browns in this regard. The team travels to New England to face the Patriots, who are currently in the final AFC Wild Card spot. A win at Foxborough would surely signal the Browns are back and better than ever after getting rid of their diva wide receiver.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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