The Cleveland Browns entered the bye week at 6-6.
There were many preseason expectations that were much greater than this.
Some had the Browns winning the AFC Championship and making a trip to the Super Bowl.
While that is still a possibility, other storylines have interfered with that script.
Here are the three most surprising storylines that have been counterproductive to the Browns in 2021.
1. Baker Mayfield’s Injuries
Last season when the Browns were injured or dealing with COVID-19, quarterback Baker Mayfield was the one player who seemed to persevere without any issues.
This year, the opposite occurred.
His injuries came early and often beginning in Week 2 with the shoulder.
It was followed by foot and knee injuries.
He reluctantly sat out the Thursday night game against the Denver Broncos in Week 7.
It was clear that Mayfield was going to move heaven and earth to play, but his injury woes have continued.
We may never know how severe these injuries were, or if the Browns made the wrong decision sending him out to play each week.
Baker Mayfield: “Pretty sore. That time of the year. One day at a time but I’ll be good.” Later: “Probably the most beat up I’ve been. Multiple things, not just one.”
He was limping as he walked from the facility to the interview.
— Zac Jackson (@AkronJackson) November 17, 2021
2. Injuries Wiping Out Entire Position Groups
What if I told you
Were all injured 🤕
— JohnnyOhio (@JohnnyOhio) October 18, 2021
This has been the year of getting to know the Browns’ depth chart in totality because the players were called to action.
There were games where more wide receivers were hurt or questionable than were healthy.
This is also the year that close attention was placed on who was signed to the practice squad because they were likely to see playing time.
3. Social Media Infiltration
Injuries are part of the game so all teams must deal with them.
But what is not an issue for all teams was a big one for the 2021 Browns, it was the use of social media by family members and outsiders to poke holes into the solidarity of the Browns locker room.
It began with Odell Beckham Sr.’s 11-minute video with a detailed critique of Baker Mayfield.
That was the worst of it but not the ending.
Then, there was the sharing of a story by Emily Mayfield regarding the toughness of Mayfield’s teammates. and a post by Kareem Hunt Sr. also talking about Mayfield.
For as disciplined as Coach Kevin Stefanski appears to be, even he could not control the raging social media posts that seem to show a Browns team not as unified as it should be.
Between Odell Sr., Baker's wife, and now Hunt's dad, the braintrust of the #Browns needs to sit the entire team down and explain to them why they need to instruct their family members to stop criticizing other players on social media… and it's downright embarrassing.
— Roberto Shenanigans (@Rob_Shenanigans) November 29, 2021
The final script of the 2021 season is not yet written.
There is still a tremendous opportunity for this talented team to right the ship with the remaining five games of the season.
This team benefits from an AFC North division with teams who are equally as inconsistent as the Browns have been.
The Browns still have a chance, and all of these storylines will be minor blips on the radar if they can fight their way into the playoffs.
With three of the remaining five games against AFC North opponents, the Browns need to stop being distracted by everything that has hampered their play this year and start dominating as was predicted in the preseason.