Baker Mayfield Comeback Year?
Baker Mayfield, the Buccaneer’s potential starting quarterback. I’m about to break down 4 unequivocal reasons that you should be cheering on Baker this off-season and into 2023. Before I do that though, I first need to take you on a trip down memory lane.
It’s 2018, Week 3. The Cleveland Browns are down 14 – 0 to the New York Jets. Avery Williamson slips past the line and gets his second sack of the day on Tyrod Taylor, causing an injury, taking them out of field goal range, and forcing a punt. As the broadcast pans a camera shot of the crowd, Joe Buck points out that “the Baker chants from the crowd are getting a little louder”. With 1:41 left on the clock in the second quarter, Baker Mayfield takes his first snap for the Browns and throws a dart in between two defenders to hit Jarvis Landry for 14 yards. The crowd loses their collective minds. After an 0 – 16 2017 campaign and an eternity in quarterback purgatory, they had finally found their man. The Browns would go on to win that game, and Tyrod Taylor would not start another game for Cleveland.
Flash forward, now it’s 2020, and Baker is in his third year as a starter, and the first for head coach Kevin Stefanski. It’s the wild card round, the first Browns playoff game since 2002 (a league-high playoff drought record). With 1.08 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Stephen Carlson catches an onside kick and seals the fate of the Steelers. The Browns would win that game too, and have their first playoff victory since 1994.
At that moment, Baker Mayfield was the franchise quarterback of the Browns. He was the savior of an entire city drowning in mediocrity, after 2 abysmal seasons and over a decade of irrelevance before that. Despite being drafted into a situation that felt doomed, Baker stepped up and delivered the way any good player should. What did he get in return? Blindsided by the largest guaranteed contract of all time, to someone who hadn’t played for over a year due to a writhing scandal for which he still has taken zero accountability. I know the NFL is a business, but even by corporate standards that is a rough hand to be dealt.
So here we are, it’s now 2023, Baker Mayfield is in a quarterback competition for the starting role with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and here is why you should be praying to the football gods that he wins that competition:
The Underdog Story
Face it, we all love an underdog. Baker came into Cleveland and captured the nation by being the biggest underdog in recent memory. Now with his back against the wall, experts pointing to his lack of vision and accuracy, and Twitter videos putting a show on of 1 missed throw in super slow-mo. It’s hard not to stray into believing the Buccaneers should have traded up for a QB. But this, my friends, is where Mr Mayfield thrives. The chip on his shoulder, the experts guffawing, just imagine a 2023 season where the Buccaneers are fun to watch, the NFC South is there for the taking, and if Baker could get them to the playoffs (or beyond), you can’t deny it would be an amazing story. It’s a made-for-TV movie waiting to happen, and I will absolutely be sitting on my couch Sundays cheering this man on to prove the so-called “experts” (myself included) wrong.
Look, I am a firm believer in the entire innocent until proven guilty concept. But like anything it has exceptions. Deshaun Watson may not have been found guilty – but if you take the time to read the allegations and testimonials, and look at the evidence, you cannot deny that something unbecoming went down. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed, but there is no world in which he was 100% innocent. Now, Deshaun Watson is a young man in the prime of his life, and he is going to make mistakes. It’s a tale as old as time, and unfortunately for him, he has to deal with those mistakes on the world stage because of his occupation. But part of dealing with those mistakes is acknowledging them, owning the wrongdoing, and putting in place a plan to get better. Since day 1, Deshaun Watson is yet to even imply that he has impacted these women in a negative way.
If this was a movie, Deshaun is the villain. This is the man that the Cleveland Browns paid an ungodly amount of guaranteed money. Not just paid, but also structured in a way that his suspension in 2022 would have virtually no impact on his financials.
This man walks into 2023 on top of the world, with a potentially bright future ahead of him and with no justice for his victims. Save for one last opportunity, as the league’s 30th-best quarterback last year the Browns are desperately hoping Deshaun Watson can improve to his former football production. So now rather than memory lane, let us take a visit down hypothetical future alleyway. The Browns, with a fairly brutal opening schedule, go into their week 8 clash with the Cardinals still chasing their first win. Deshaun Watson’s pff grade of 55.3 looks like a fever dream compared to his performance to open the season. It’s official, this trade will go down in history as the worst trade of all time. Sure the knife is in, but how does it get twisted? Baker Mayfield, back to his former glory, with a significantly easier opening schedule is 5 – 2 and the confirmed starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I’m not sure about you folks, but that is a scenario I would pay cold hard currency to witness.
The NFC South makes up 1/8 of the football world. If you read the NFC Win Totals breakdown, you know that the South is full of question marks. But there are also a number of key factors that make watching this division intriguing. Baker Mayfield playing to his potential is just one factor that could make these games exciting to watch. Impactful, relevant, and a number of other adjectives that we used to describe watching the Buccaneers no more than 2 years ago. They could all come roaring back if Baker Mayfield can make use of what is an exciting cast of characters. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are fun players to watch, and even as a fan of an NFC team, I enjoyed watching Brady sling it their way in a Superbowl campaign that defied the odds. Rachaad White may not have had an amazing season last year, but he can make Tampa Bay’s run game relevant again, only if teams have to account for the passing game.
So if you like good football, and you enjoy watching good players be good. Then cheering for one less quarterback who invokes the same excitement as plain rice pudding is the path you should be taking.
One very large cog in the NFL machine is corporate sponsorship. Advertisements will always be a part of the game like it or not. It’s a painful reality, made less painful by quirky, funny, or interesting advertisements that are actually fun to watch. Progressive Insurance, in my humble opinion, is the master of this realm. Dr. Rick teaching new homeowners how to act, as they become their parents always held my attention and garnered a laugh or two along the way. Their other masterpiece? At Home with Baker Mayfield. A great series of advertisements, and I actually looked forward to seeing the new commercials.
So if you don’t want to spend entire commercial breaks watching people cheerfully interact to delightful music, whilst the narrator lists the objectively horrible side effects of the advertised medication they are trying to peddle. Then you should be wanting Baker Mayfield to become a household name again, just imagine the commercials that go hand in hand with “Moving Homes, with Baker Mayfield”. Here’s one free of charge for you Progressive, Tom Brady shows up at the door looking for something he left in the backyard when he moved out. Baker, unconvinced he used to live there closes the door in his face and casually says to his wife Emily, “That crazy old guy showed up again”. Brady turns around muttering about how he can’t wait to be in the announcing booth for Baker’s next game. You’re welcome.
Ok, that last reason was a stretch, but at my core, I’m a salesman, and I’m selling the Baker Mayfield proposition from every angle. This guy deserves another chance to fulfill the superstar trajectory he was on before being given 4 head coaches in 4 years. So come week 1 of the 2023 season, I do hope you will be cheering for Baker Mayfield, I certainly will be.
Adrian was born, raised, and lives across the other side of the planet in Australia – but that hasn’t stopped him from being a lifelong Packers fan and sports betting enthusiast. A podcast host, writer, and all-round attention-seeking NFL analyst, Adrian is always looking to bring deep-dive analysis to the fantasy world. This soon-to-be father is looking to make his mark in the world of NFL media so that he has the connections to eventually force the sport onto his son willingly or otherwise (we wish he were kidding about this)