Data says Baker Mayfield historically bad in ‘crunch time’

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Fans of the Cleveland Browns look at the title of this piece with some version of “thanks Captain Obvious” running through their heads. QB Baker Mayfield has struggled in some of the most important times of games during his career. While all of the blame, and credit to be clear, should never be placed on one player’s shoulders, Mayfield has been consistent in his struggles.

It is also important to try to take things into context. Many Browns fans only watch their team play and maybe some of the primetime games. It can be easy to see Mayfield fail and feel like “every other good quarterback doesn’t.”

That is why data is so important, it helps cut through any anecdotal references, sampling biases and opinions while trying to put things into context. Using data, Baker Mayfield hasn’t just been bad in the most important times but historically so:

First, as it is explained in the lower part of the graph, %OE is a data point looking at how successful drives were compared to expectations. For example, if a team starts with the ball on the 5-yard line (95 yards to go) with under a minute left, not much is expected of that team.

Second, we understand that this is not a measure of overall quarterback play. Trent Green and Nick Foles are not top 10 quarterbacks since 1999 and Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers and Kyler Murray are not bottom 50 players.

Third, it is important to note that the data goes all the way back to 1999. This isn’t just recent data but looking at a wide variety of quarterbacks over the last 20 plus years. Cleveland quarterbacks Jason Campbell, Tim Couch and Robert Griffin III are found above Mayfield on this list.

Finally, it does help put Mayfield’s struggles into context. Within two scores with 10 minutes or less left in the game, the Browns starting quarterback has historically struggled to have successful drives resulting in points. It has been clear that he hasn’t been able to lead his team to come back or late-game wins but successful drives are even historically difficult for the former top overall pick.

There is often little explanation as to why some players are so good in crunch time, like Foles, but struggle to be consistent otherwise. There is often little explanation for why some players are good to great most of the time but struggle to be “clutch,” like Ryan or Rivers.

Mayfield has been good at times during games but has clearly struggled to bring his teams back when needed most. He’s got two games left in 2021 to change that narrative if the team needs to come back, but it will take some time and many drives before the data changes.