Bucs Need The Adult Baker Mayfield

June 24th, 2023

Click to shop now at BillCurrieFord.com. GM Sean Sullivan is ready to help you PERSONALLY and give you the Ira Kaufman discount. Just ask! Lifetime warranty on new vehicles.


At times, he’s been his own worst enemy. Now, he needs to embrace new friends.

You would think Baker Mayfield gets it by now. The Browns weren’t convinced he was their guy. The Panthers weren’t impressed. The Rams let him move on as a free agent.

Realistically, Tampa is likely his last opportunity to win a starting job in the NFL. Guess what? He knows that.

Baker Mayfield

If Mayfield can’t beat out Kyle Trask, who has thrown all of nine passes as a pro, it will send a clear message throughout the league that the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft should be considered a backup quarterback … at best.

It’s startling how quickly things went sideways in Cleveland. In 2020, you couldn’t keep Mayfield jerseys in the store as the Browns went 11-5 and made the postseason for the first time since 2002 before winning a road playoff game against Pittsburgh. The next week, Mayfield played well in a narrow setback at Kansas City.

But the next season, Mayfield tried to gut it out with a torn labrum in his shoulder. It was a poor decision because he needed surgery and his play suffered. The frustration mounted, causing a rift with Kevin Stefanski — who was named NFL Coach of the Year in 2020 in large part because Mayfield excelled.

Following a 26-24 loss to the Steelers late in the 2021 season, Mayfield questioned Cleveland’s blocking scheme up front. He was sacked nine times and a rookie right tackle was no match for pass-rush demon T.J. Watt.

He should have shut his pie hole.

Instead, Mayfield broke the code by going public with his criticism. It was the final straw in a drink that had gone sour.

By March of 2022, the Browns were obsessed with chasing Deshaun Watson. They wanted Watson so desperately, they were willing to part with THREE first-round draft picks.

Mayfield realized he was a dead man walking. One year removed from glory, he was odd man out. The Browns wouldn’t even keep him in the loop during negotiations with the Texans.

Then came the cruelest blow of all.

It was left for ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, one of the most respected pro football reporters in the business, to reveal just how fed up the Browns were with Mayfield.

“Whereas Baker Mayfield’s passion and emotional leadership was embraced at Oklahoma and even in the beginning with the Browns, things have changed,” Mortensen said on air. “They want what they consider an adult at that position.”

So in typical Browns fashion, they identified Watson as “an adult” and signed him to the richest contract in NFL history well before he was suspended for 11 games.

Mayfield moved on to Charlotte and Los Angeles and now he’s a Buccaneer, looking for stability. Mayfield has worked with six head coaches and five offensive coordinators during his brief career and now Dave Canales has his turn at this reclamation project.

Justifiable Optimism

You can bet Canales has studied every throw Mayfield uncorked in Cleveland, knowing the Browns won only four games in the three years preceding Mayfield’s arrival, capped by an 0-16 slate in 2017.

Canales has been through this process before. As Seattle’s quarterbacks coach last season, Canales helped Geno Smith earn Comeback Player of the Year honors. Smith was 13-21 as an NFL starter before leading the Seahawks to nine wins, leading the NFL with a 69.8 percent completion rate and posting a 30-11 ratio of TD passes to interceptions.

Bucs aren’t getting punked, says Bucco Bruce Arians.

In the postseason, the Seahawks led the heavily favored 49ers 17-16 at the half before San Francisco exerted its will. Still, Smith completed 25-of-35 throws for 253 yards and two TDs against the league leader in both scoring defense and total defense.

At the age of 28, and given his dizzying football odyssey in the past 18 months, Mayfield needs to shed his occasional moments of immaturity. When I asked Bruce Arians whether Buc fans can expect a punk or a leader under center, Arians said Mayfield is merely confident in his own abilities.

Chris Simms brags about Mayfield’s arm strength and says he plays bigger than his 6-foot frame. And while there’s nothing wrong with bringing some swagger to an offense that had none in 2022, Mayfield has to earn his bragging rights in Tampa.

He has to prove himself all over again. He has to have the backs of teammates and coaches. He has to keep a lid on those bubbling emotions.

In other words, be an adult.

Ira Kaufman, The Sage of Tampa Bay Sports, has been covering the NFL since the 1970s and hopped on the Bucccaneers beat in 1985. The Pro Football Hall of Fame representative for the greater Tampa Bay region enjoys hot coffee, beet salads, tater tots, Big Storm shrimp tacos, a good bagel, quality beach chairs, a well-executed screen pass and his iconic dog Cosmo.

This weekend’s loaded Ira Kaufman Podcast!

23 Responses to “Bucs Need The Adult Baker Mayfield”

  1. Pewter Power Says:

    I’m not really sure why people think the Bucs will be a bad football team or why they think rookie quarterbacks should be ranked higher than established quarterbacks

    2022 quarterback class!!!!! I mean come on, how many dudes actually hit every year for those wanting to tank like we did for Winston!! Really short memories in tampa bay

    Malik Willis (Titans)
    Kenny Pickett (Steelers)
    Sam Howell (Commanders)
    Desmond Ridder (Falcons)
    Matt Corral (Panthers)
    Bailey Zappe (Patriots)
    Brock Purdy (49ers)
    Skylar Thompson (Dolphins)
    Chris Oladokun (Steelers)

  2. Joseph C Simmons Says:

    I think we have the talent to be a playoff team this year. But I think we had the talent to be a Super Bowl contender last year.

    It’s not just talent; you have to have good coaching. With Arians gone, I simply don’t have faith in our staff. You can’t tell me the entire team didn’t simply mail it in the second half of last year. I’m not sure they’ll be mentally tough next year.

  3. Beej Says:

    With a decent team, proper training camp, NO torn muscle, no reason why Mayfield won’t at least perform at Ryan Tannehill level

    (Note: Rams would have preferred to keep him, but they’re committed to Stafford as a starter)

    “He should have shut his pie hole” THIS is something he’s hopefully learned. In 20 years, you STILL won’t see Tom Brady criticize anything about the 2022 Bucs

  4. Cobraboy Says:


    Watson is an “adult.”

  5. Pickgrin Says:

    Another nicely written piece by Tampa Bay’s best sportswriter.

    Hope you are around and doing this for many more years Ira!

    The Bucs are lucky to have Baker Mayfield for $4M + incentives this year. Not 1 QB out there (that could have been had for less than $10M) has the talent and experience that Mayfield has.

    If Baker can stay healthy – and the Oline/running game are even somewhat “fixed” – Bucs will win more games than they lose in 2023 and a lot of people will be surprised at that.

  6. PSL Bob Says:

    Mayfield’s start in Cleveland is reminiscent of Josh Freeman’s early days in Tampa. Like many Cleveland fans I was suckered into buying a jersey thinking we’d finally found our QB of the future. That Freeman jersey has been collecting dust for quite some time now. I truly wish Mayfield the best as the Bucs likely QB in 2023, but I won’t be buying his jersey any time soon.

  7. Hodad Says:

    Good luck to him, and us.

  8. Vlad The Impaler Says:

    Great read!
    The only “adult” in Deshaun Watson is Adult Entertainment LOL

    With Trasks bad reviews and Mayfields tainted past it sure smells like an unwatchable, shameful tank season is coming. I hope not.

  9. AtlBuc Says:

    As much as I want Trask to be the starter, I will admit that Mayfield has shown much more maturity and humility in his comments. Someone in his camp definitely had a long talk with him after leaving Cleveland.

  10. AtlBuc Says:

    I remember on one occasion that Mayfield said, during an interview, that a player who was holding out needed to get into camp. EVERYONE knows that no player should EVER make a negative comment about another player’s money. No player has made a negative comment about Devin White’s trade request because they know it all about posturing for more money. Only some sensitive fans were hurt by that trade request.

  11. Brian Hand Says:

    I truly think Mayfield will do well in Tampa as long as the Oline does there job.

  12. AtlBuc Says:

    OMG!! Thank you Steve smith, Lashaun King and the army of talking heads that continue to disrespect our beloved Bucs. Please let the national hate continue. If you recall, the gravedigger mantra was borne and their play elevated as a result of negativity from the press. But that criticism pales in comparison to the continuous onslaught of bottom of the division predictions.
    They have provided a season’s worth of bulletin board material to motivate the Bucs to demolish every team in their path!! They will play with their hair on fire. Add to that the elite players on our team who are playing for contracts, White Winfield and Associates, and we are going to be a high energy, hard hitting, physical football team who will win no less than 11 games. Probably more.

  13. Proudbucsfan Says:

    Great article Ira as usual. I like Mayfield, his leadership and emotion are what this team needs. Last year it seemed the whole team was checked out and didn’t play with any fire.

  14. WyomingJoe Says:

    Just want to say that the vast majority of players WERE behind Baker after his departure from Cleveland, and there are a number of articles and YouTube videos confirming that. Some ex-Cleveland players admitted that the bad press was generated by Cleveland’s front office after their humiliating signing of the honorable and morally steadfast Deshaun Watson. Many Browns fans are already regretting that signing! Ira, nice article. Go Bucs.

  15. alphabetsend Says:

    ^^^Wyoming Joe is correct.

    Mayfield was perfect scapegoat to cover over arrival of the expredatorgoat….

  16. Rayjay1122 Says:

    Dave Canales is going to be the X factor in my opinion when it comes to bringing out the best version of Baker Mayfield.

  17. Mark A Swygert Says:

    Ira is right. Most casual fans are not aware that Mayfield played while injured during his tenure in Cleveland. A bad decision by him and the Browns brain trust.

  18. 1#bucsfan Says:

    I would to see Kyle as our QB. I’ve said it from the beginning that this isn’t a QB competition. It’s bakers job to lose. Bowles needs wins and he thinks that is most likely with baker than with a QB who has never taken a meaningful snap in a NFL game. I say all that to say baker I’m rooting for ya.

  19. ATLBuc Says:

    Scapegoat?? He played horribly and didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut. Why did they need a scapegoat? Cleveland was unapologetic in their quest for Watson.

  20. ATLBuc Says:

    About Trask’s lack of experience, it’s not a thing. At some point in their career there was a time when every QB in the league hadn’t taken any meaningful snaps. Roger’s played behind Farve, Steve young played behind Montana, Brady played behind Bledsoe. How many times have we faced rookies when the starting quarterback was out and lost? Too many!!

  21. Joe Sloan Says:

    Can anyone….anyone……provide a single …..one….example of Baker not being an adult? This charge comes from pathetic talking-heads that know nothing and is then parroted by the numbskulls that listen to them. It is a weak excuse for journalism…pure BS, if you ask Mayfield’s teammates…anywhere.

  22. FrontFour Says:

    The more I read and hear from different outlets the more it sounds like Baker starts the season. Let’s hope he’s settled into being a real pro. That said, pretty good chance whoever is under center will get banged up with the O line overhaul. Probably takes until after the bye for the big guys up front to gel. Getting Trask to prep now as a starter is a pretty good plan if, when he has to step in.

  23. garro Says:

    Nailed it Ira! As usual!

    I love the details that no one else seems to be interested in bringing up.
    BTW Not a fan of this guy at all. I agree that he needs to shut up and play ball.
    Confidence at QB is a great thing but arrogance is not.

    Go Bucs