The Cleveland Browns’ worrisome 1-2 start has sparked several headlines entering Week 4 of the NFL season and with good reason: The team couldn’t eclipse 13 points in brutal losses to the Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Rams, with its only win coming against the winless New York Jets.

It has been a source of schadenfreude for those who didn’t believe in the Browns despite massive hype during the preseason. While discussing their early struggles on ESPN this week, former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan took several shots at the Browns, namely toward second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield.

“I don’t get it. I’d love to be an offensive coordinator here,” Ryan said Monday on “Get Up.” “If I have Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and there’s Baker Mayfield — yeah, I know he’s overrated as hell …”

Ryan was immediately cut off by host Mike Greenberg, who appeared shocked at his statement: “You think Baker Mayfield is overrated?” Greenberg asked.

“Absolutely. I bought into the dang hype,” Ryan added. “… What’s he doing right? Here’s a guy who’s a one-read guy, then he’s going to improvise. He’s got to realize, you’re one of the slowest guys on that field when you take off with it.”

Ryan also criticized Mayfield’s accuracy and overall ability to read the defense.

“The other thing, the ball’s not coming out in rhythm,” he added. “You’re staring down guys, and you’re not that accurate down the field.”

Mayfield fired back at Ryan on Wednesday, telling reporters he’s trying to ignore the outside noise.

“It’s whatever. In the wise words of [Browns Coach] Freddie Kitchens, if you don’t wear orange and brown, you don’t matter,” Mayfield said. “And Ryan doesn’t have any colors right now for a reason, so it’s okay.”

Ryan, for his part, had a rocky career as a head coach. Previously a successful defensive coordinator, Ryan boasted winning seasons in his first two years with the Jets, reaching the AFC championship game both years, but missed the playoffs for six consecutive years after that. Ryan was fired in 2016 after an unceremonious two-year stint with the Bills, two years after the Jets also cut ties with him.

His track record with quarterbacks isn’t much better. Mark Sanchez struggled mightily after his first two seasons under Ryan on the Jets, ranking 28th and 30th in completion percentage among quarterbacks in 2011 and 2012 respectively. The Jets ranked near the bottom of the league in total offense both of those seasons, and were buried in the bottom half of the league in offensive DVOA from 2011 to 2014, per Football Outsiders.

Things got so bad for Jets quarterbacks that in 2013 that rookie Geno Smith threw nearly twice as many interceptions than he did touchdowns. Smith improved that ratio in his second season, but went just 3-10 as a starter.

And while Ryan had better success at the position with the Bills in 2015 thanks to his faith in starter Tyrod Taylor, he and his staff did not develop Taylor into a winner and the team failed to produce a winning record in either season with Ryan at the helm.

Still, Ryan’s concerns about Mayfield are not completely unfounded. After breaking the rookie touchdown pass record in 2018, Mayfield ranks 30th in completion percentage this season. He has more interceptions (five) than touchdown passes (three), and some questionable decision-making has been a cause for concern beyond just Ryan.

In defense of their quarterback, Beckham and Kitchens responded to Ryan

“I appreciate his opinion and all of that, but he’s not in our building and has no idea what we’re doing,” Kitchens said, according to Cleveland.com. “Is [Mayfield] a one-read quarterback? No, he’s not. That’s asinine to say.”

In addition to Mayfield, a lot of recent Browns-related discussion has been focused on Kitchens, who has been intensely scrutinized for Cleveland’s problems with penalties and play-calling, especially an unsuccessful draw play on fourth and nine against the Rams. The “Get Up” crew noted that was the first time such a play was called since at least 2007.

Some opposing fans and even other players rolled their eyes in the offseason when pundits called the Browns, who haven’t had a winning record since 2007 and two seasons ago were 0-16, a Super Bowl contender thanks to what was perceived as a bolstered offense. Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas on Wednesday said he and his teammates were among those who lamented the puffery surrounding Cleveland, which visits M & T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

“The media was talking about OBJ and that tandem and Baker Mayfield, the next savior,” Thomas told ESPN on Wednesday. “Then, to add on to that, Coach [John Harbaugh] talked about it a couple of times in meetings. So guys kind of got tired about it.”

If the Browns don’t right the ship this Sunday, they will only provide more ammunition for critics who assert they are unworthy of the praise they’ve received.

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