The 2021 NFL regular season was an abject disappointment for every member of the Cleveland Browns, but things were even worse for one of the team’s top wide receivers.
Jarvis Landry has not spoken publicly since he conducted an interview during his Thanksgiving Food Drive on November 16, 2021. During that media session, a portion of which was posted online via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Landry expressed frustration with quarterback Baker Mayfield and the sometimes stagnant Browns offense. He spoke not only for himself, but for some of his other pass catching teammates, as well.
“Yeah. I mean, I haven’t been getting the ball so much, either,” Landry told media members. “But at the end of the day, I’ve been able to do with the opportunities I’m given. Yeah, I’m battling some things but on Sunday, I always give everything that I have, and that won’t ever change.”
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“We’ve had gradual conversations with numerous guys,” Landry continued. “But at the end of the day, who we are is a collection of a lot of different things, players, coaches, the staff, just trying to make sure that we’re all on the same page and trying to move forward, win one game every week.”
The contextual backdrop of the conversation was the then-recent departure of Landry’s good friend and college teammate at Louisiana State University (LSU), Odell Beckham Jr., who forced his way out of Cleveland after two and a half years struggling to get on the same page with Mayfield.
The Browns were also coming off the team’s most embarrassing loss of the year, a 45-7 drubbing at the hands of the New England Patriots, during which Mayfield was an abysmal 11 for 21 passing, amassing a mere 73 yards through the air to go along with 1 TD and 1 INT.
Browns Coach Tries to Head Off Questions About Landry’s Morale
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski was asked about Landry’s morale and general football wellbeing considering the wide receiver’s extended silence and lack of media availability over the previous seven weeks.
“He does not have a morale problem,” Stefanski contended during a press conference held on Tuesday, January 4.
The coach was then questioned directly as to why Landry became so much more reclusive down the disappointing stretch run of the Browns’ ultimately failed regular season.
“I will ask him and report back to you,” Stefanski said, “but he has been great.”
A Morale Problem for Landry Wouldn’t be Shocking Development
While there is no obvious reason to doubt Stefanski’s assessment of Landry’s contentedness in Cleveland, there are plenty of believable reasons the wide receiver might be disillusioned.
From a team perspective, the Browns had high expectations of returning to the playoffs for another postseason run in 2021. Instead, Landry and his teammates will watch from home after losing their last three games, and four of their last five, to fall to 7-9 with one meaningless home contest left to play against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.
From a personal perspective, Landry lost his best friend and longtime teammate to the Los Angeles Rams mid-season. Unlike the Browns, the Rams and Beckham will continue to play beyond this weekend and have as good of a shot as any team to make a run to the Super Bowl. Landry will also be forced to watch — and likely pine for — that situation from afar.
Finally, the 2021 campaign was by far the least productive of Landry’s career, both in terms of the statistics he produced and the attention he was paid by his quarterback. This was the wideout’s eighth season in the NFL and fourth with the Browns organization. Landry was named to the Pro-Bowl in five of his first seven years, including his first two campaigns in Cleveland.
But his production has progressively shrunk over the last two seasons, culminating in career lows across the board in 2021, including in overall targets (79), catches (46) and touchdowns (1), per Pro Football Reference. Landry also battled through injuries for much of the year, playing in just 11 games, which was also a career low.
Amid all those lows, it’s easy to imagine how it might have been difficult for Landry to keep his spirits high throughout a war of attrition in Cleveland that he and his Browns teammates ultimately lost.
Landry signed a 5-year deal worth $75 million in 2018, per Spotrac, which ends after the 2022 season. If he is unhappy, he could push for a trade during the offseason or early next year. However, with his health and production at career lows and his tenure approaching a decade in the NFL, it’s unclear what kind of return the Browns could get for the aging wide receiver or what kind of leverage Landry would ultimately have to make the demand in the first place.
If he is content to play out his contract in Cleveland, the Browns could end up making a change at quarterback that boosts Landry’s morale from whatever level at which it currently resides. Most recently, analysts have suggested the proposition of trading Mayfield to the Minnesota Vikings in return for Kirk Cousins, or shipping him off to New York Giants where quarterback Daniel Jones has struggled to stay healthy or produce at a consistently high level.
The idea of replacing Mayfield with former MVP Matt Ryan is also floating in the ether, should the Atlanta Falcons opt this offseason to exercise the four-year out built into the of the 36-year-old signal caller’s contract.