Believing In Baker Mayfield

June 3rd, 2023


(Columnist Ira Kaufman is The Sage of Tampa Bay Sports. He started covering the NFL full-time in 1979 and arrived in Tampa to cover the Bucs in 1985. Ira is about to enter his eighth year with and remains Tampa Bay’s lone Pro Football Hall of Fame selector. His work is presented by “The Giant,” Bill Currie Ford, 5815 N Dale Mabry Hwy in Tampa, where GM Sean Sullivan happily will give you the Ira Kaufman discount.)

It’s official. This is open season on Baker Mayfield.

It seems like every national pundit feels compelled to take a potshot at a veteran quarterback trying to resurrect a once-promising career. Perhaps part of the reason is Mayfield’s refusal to play nice with the media on occasion.

He’s feisty and confident, which can come off as cocky. Buc fans won’t care one lick about his personality traits if Mayfield beats out Kyle Trask and pumps life into a plodding attack.

Betting against the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft is a dangerous game. Besides being only 28,  Mayfield is healthy and hungry to prove his many skeptics wrong.

It should shock no one if Mayfield flourishes under new offensive coordinator Dave Canales, who just brought out the best in Geno Smith. You don’t have to go back very far to find a time and place when Mayfield looked like a young quarterback on the rise.

He had a very good regular season for the 2020 Browns, who went 11-5 before going into Pittsburgh as an underdog and hanging 48 points on a proud Steelers defense.

The following week was almost as impressive.

The Browns trailed 19-3 at the half in Kansas City before scaring the mustache off Andy Reid. Mayfield kept converting third downs and fourth downs before Cleveland grudgingly fell short 22-17.

Even in defeat, Mayfield endeared himself to Browns Nation for leading Cleveland to its first winning season since 2007. This was a young, driven team that had seemingly found its franchise quarterback.

The start of the 2021 season hardly changed the narrative. Opening at Arrowhead, the Browns led 29-20 in the fourth quarter before dropping a 33-29 decision as Mayfield completed 21-of-28 passes for 321 yards.

Cleveland then strung together three wins before a 47-42 setback against the Chargers. It marked the first time in NFL history a losing team scored at least 40 points and didn’t commit a turnover.

Mayfield was at the top of his game.

But in Week 6, Mayfield aggravated a shoulder injury. He couldn’t play the following week, ending a streak of 51 consecutive starts. Mayfield and the Browns were never the same the rest of the way en route to an 8-9 finish. Before Mayfield was hurt, the Browns were averaging 28 points per game. After Week 5, Cleveland averaged only 17 points.

We’re not talking ancient history here — this was only two years ago. And while there’s no guarantee Mayfield can regain his past form, there’s no reason to close the book on a talented quarterback eager to write a new chapter at One Buc Place,

Mayfield’s running skills fall far short of Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, but he can move. Compared to Tom Brady’s mobility, he’s Lamar Jackson.

Canales has no intention of confining Mayfield to the confines of the pocket.

Mayfield has proven to be effective on rollouts to either side, exerting pressure on defenses with his ability to find targets while on the run. Speaking of targets, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are eager to stretch the field this fall instead of catching 8-yard passes.

We’re not talking about a Tim Couch, another quarterback the Browns once selected with the top overall draft pick (1999). Couch did little as a pro while Mayfield has twice been chosen as one of the league’s Top 100 players in voting by his peers.

Here’s his chance to prove the naysayers wrong. This is already his fourth NFL stop. Mayfield’s revival as a starter may be dead ahead.

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22 Responses to “Believing In Baker Mayfield”

  1. realistic-optimistic Says:

    I’ll believe in what I see on the field. If Mayfield wins and shines, I’ll root for him. Same goes for Trask.

  2. Go Bucs Says:

    Protecting him is the key! I think we addressed that in the draft? Hopefully we did? Fingers crossed….

  3. AtlBuc Says:

    Nice article Ira. You didn’t do like Mayfield-Joe and write as if Mayfield has already been selected as the starting quarterback. I want Trask to win the job because I want more than the level of play I have seen from Mayfield. More so, I want great play from the quarterback position. If Mayfield wins the job, I will root for him. If Brock Purdy and Geno Smith can do what they did last year, there’s no reason Trask and Mayfield can’t perform at a high level.

  4. Steven007 Says:

    Best case scenario is that Trask makes it interesting so that we at least know we have a solid backup quarterback if it happens to be him. The downside of this kind of competition is that neither quarterback is getting a full slate of reps. The often vilified Rick Stroud pointed this out recently. Of course, this also happened last year in Seattle and we know how that went with Geno Smith winning the job and having a fine season. So there’s that. But he also knew the offense better than Drew Lock since he’d been in it for quite a while. Here there’s a brand new offense and both quarterbacks new to the system are getting 50% of the reps apparently. I suppose we’ll see how it all shakes out.

  5. Crickett Baker Says:

    I really enjoyed that unbiased and research-based article, Joe.
    I am rooting for both–and the third guy (Wolford?) doesn’t look too bad, either from the little I have seen.

  6. Mr. Man Says:

    Relatively short…check
    Drafted high…check
    Started well in NFL…check
    Lots of talent…check
    Injured early…check
    Cast aside…check

    Why can’t Baker become OUR Drew Brees ?

  7. Smashsquatch Says:

    Couldn’t have said it any better Ira. Feeling a comeback too.

  8. K_bassuka Says:

    I can’t root for this hot garbage Maybefield whether he does well or not, I will roof for the Bucs either way but not Maybefield. He is not that good and gets far too much credit for things he didn’t do like almost beating KC with an injured Mahomes.

    Maybefield is less talented than Jamies and a bust just like him.

  9. PSL Bob Says:

    At last. Thanks Ira for injecting a bit of optimism into the Mayfield spectacle. I have to admit, I’ve been rooting for Trask. But you’ve demonstrated the potential Mayfield has. If he and Canales can get him back to his original form, particularly with the players he has around him, the Bucs should be just fine.

  10. Tony Says:

    It’s Brett Favre time. He’s getting a call next.

  11. Infomeplease Says:

    Ira, you make the argument for BA to be the starting qb!!!!!!!!!!! All you Trask lovers, sorry you have no argument at all!!!

  12. Infomeplease Says:

    Typo sorry I meant for BM!! Lol lol

  13. Tony Says:


    Hey you never know Arians could very well win the starting job if he tried.😀

  14. Just Leave Trask Alone Says:

    LOL that’s one heck of a sales job Ira. You’re a solid company man.

    Baker was run out of Cleveland in favor of a sex addict who hadn’t played football in two years. Then he proceeded to get cut out of Carolina and the big flash he had in LA was a 170 ypg average.

    He’s not going to beat out Trask who is free to assert himself emerging from the shadow of the goat.

    Not saying I hate Baker. What Baker is – a guy who’s “moxie” allows him to play above his level for stretches. It is impressive, but not sustainable because inevitably not playing within himself causes mistakes – at nearly a turnover per game average. It makes him an excellent backup – a guy who can come in and give your team a spark in case of injury – but not a franchise QB.

  15. Mike S Says:

    Its nice to see Ira try his hand at fictional writing. Watch out James Joyce!

    That vaunted 2020 season Mayfield had:

    62.8 3,563 26 8

    Compare that to Carson Wenz in 2021:

    62.4 3,563 27 7

    Mayfield career RTG: 86.4
    Wenz career RTG: 89.3

    Meanwhile in 2022 Baker:

    60.0 2,163 10 8

    This is the player the Bucs signed and everyone is convinced he’s going to be the guy.

    Its totally undeserved and unwarranted if not delusional.

    How many times do we need to pull this conversation back to reality?

    Why are we not demanding better? Personally as a Bucs fan I’m sick and tired of having smoke blown up my rear about what’s in the building. Decades now. We got the GOAT for 3 years – and for that 3 years ( really 2) I knew how it felt to have a team with a modern offense that imposed their will and put teams on their heels. Please don’t tell me about how we’re going to be an 18 PPG team that runs the ball and relies on defense. What is this a high school team? Come one man. Teams that play like that have losing records. Why can’t we have higher expectations? Why can’t we have an offense that threatens 30 every Sunday?

    There is no Buc Ball without the circa 1998-2003 team. Its not a blue print to follow without special players. Last I checked Tampa’s defense got taken out behind the woodshed the second half of last season.

    You have to score points in the NFL to win games. Bucs drafted a prototype passing QB with real chops and groomed him behind Brady for what? So they can send him to the bench and have Mayfield run boot and the waggle? Its beyond frustrating.

  16. Bojim Says:

    Whoever. Just win.

  17. Stanglassman Says:

    I just watched the Baker lead Rams hang 50+ on the Broncos on Christmas. Mayfield looked really good. Cam Akers looked healthy for the first time in a while. Definitely worth a mid round round fantasy pick. Cam isn’t even 24 yet, still on his rookie deal.

  18. Mike S Says:

    Stanglassman Baker’s longest pass was 22 yards in that game and threw for 230 yards. He was 24 of 28 though and very efficient in the short passing game. He got the short field though 4 times on 4 INTs. Akers ran for 118 yards and 3 TDs as well.

    Credit where it is due Baker managed that game well given that is was handed to him with a strong defensive effort and a strong running game. The Broncos played sloppy.

    Did you see any of his other games?

    When he went 12 for 21 against the Packers for 111 yards and took 5 sacks?
    11 for 19 against the Chargers for 132 and took 3 sacks?
    13 for 26 against the Seahawks for 147 with 5 sacks again?

    Against the Pack they had 156 total yards of offense – just abysmal.

    Against the Chargers the running game tallied 166, but Bake couldn’t get anything done in the air despite you would think some play action opening up. 277 total yards of offense. Mayfield averaged 5 yards a completion with Higbee and Jefferson. Lost a fumble in that game. If they know you’re a check down charlie they are going to play up press which the Chargers did.

    Against the Seattle the same story but add a pick for Mayfield. 146 yards on the ground for the Rams, but Mayfield couldn’t get it done in the air and threw the pick in overtime. Just inexcusable.

    This is what you get with Mayfield. If you have a powerhouse club with weapons every where and a defense that takes the ball away – like the Browns did in 2020 – then you can let Baker “play point guard” and hit guys 5-10 yards off the line of scrimmage on crossers and rub routes – on high % throws and mix in some playaction to take some shots downfield.

    But if you have to flat out beat teams with your offense good luck. Outside that Broncos game that got away from Denver early with turnovers, the book on Mayfield got out quick. Teams played shorter tight zone cover 2 and man mixing in the blitz against genius McVey’s offense and Mayfield was contained. Rams ran the ball against the cover 2 for some yards, but defenses didn’t mind that as they weren’t worried about Mayfield pushing the ball downfield. It wasn’t that Bake was dumping off on short routes constantly, he was missing guys. 50% completion against Seattle? That’s a joke. Seattle was not a great defense last season.

    Look man – I’ve had enough of pop gun offenses in Tampa. Why are they trying to outsmart themselves? Put the 6’5″ guy in there that you drafted and have some stones to challenge downfield. The WRs are here in Tampa. You want to run a zone blocking scheme and do some pre-snap motion to create matchups – great – but the strength of this offense is the QB position being able to make use of that receiver corps. You need a QB that can throw the ball outside the hashes when necessary, hit the TE running the seam, and hit Evans and Godwin 20+ yards downfield. The TEs and backs are young and inexperienced. Hopefully Canales doesn’t get the QB killed on roll outs and designed run plays.

  19. Buccos Says:

    That was a great post! I agree wholeheartedly

  20. Mike Johnson Says:

    Show us Baker. Because over half of Buc Nation does not believe in you. Show us and we will Believe. Until then? I am a 100% doubter you will be the anchor of this team. Prove me wrong.

  21. geno711 Says:

    My point Mike S is that last year, Mayfield went to a worse offensive guy than Byron Leftwich. There were no quarterbacks that succeeded in the Carolina offense.

    You may be looking at the wrong guy when you look at Baker Mayfield. Maybe you should consider Matt Rhule as the biggest reason that all the quarterbacks for Carolina s..hit.. in the bed.

  22. garro Says:

    Good stuff Ira as always. Mayfield for the HOF?
    Hope he lights it up….For a full season and more.