Baker Mayfield is competing to replace Tom Brady as the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season, but he’s not quite finished talking about his short stint with the Los Angeles Rams. Following a shocking five-game stint with the Rams last season, Mayfield bypassed any opportunities to accept a backup job and instead signed with the Bucs to be the next starter for head coach Todd Bowles, but says that his time with Sean McVay was “fun”.
Mayfield told the New York Post in June that playing for L.A. reminded him what it was like to have success again, despite going 1-3 as the starter, not counting the Las Vegas game that he came in as the backup.
“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. It was the first time I had fun playing football in a few years,” Mayfield said of his time with the Rams during a media call prior to the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship.
“It brought that feeling of having that success and really remembering what it was all about, Kind of hit the reset button for me.”
Now leaving Los Angeles to replace Brady in Tampa Bay, Mayfield has an opportunity to go into the season as the starting quarterback after showing he might still have what it takes. The AFC South is wide open, with no clear cut team better than the other. The Bucs have a solid offensive line with some dangerous weapons on the outside in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, along with a strong defense including Devin White, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Lavonte David.
Mayfield also credited McVay’s attention to detail as a positive and when the Rams head coach was asked about the quarterback, he echoed similar sentiments on Baker.
“He’s left a huge impression” McVay said. “Been really impressed with him. I don’t think you can minimize how quickly he’s come in, endeared himself to his teammates, got familiar with some of the vernacular, the verbiage.” He continued “Then you’re going out and playing NFL-caliber football games.”
Mayfield did not turn out to have the career with the Browns that Cleveland was hoping for when they made him the first overall pick, but he’s had a few career highs through five seasons. Enough to think there’s hope for a revival with the Bucs.
In 2020, he had his best statistical season, leading Cleveland to a 11-5 record and posting 26 touchdown passes to only eight Interceptions. It seemed as though Mayfield’s career was trending upwards but after a 2021 injury plagued season and the Browns acquisition of Deshaun Watson in the offseason after, Mayfield was traded to Carolina where he again struggled on a bad Panthers team that traded away their star running back Christian McCaffery midway through the season.
Even more impressive was him pulling out a win over the Las Vegas Raiders just 40 hours after the Panthers waived him, having so little time to learn McVay’s playbook.
THURSDAY:— NFL (@NFL) December 9, 2022
After not knowing if he'd play, Baker enters the game early in the 1st quarter.
Mayfield leads the Rams to an improbable comeback, scoring two touchdowns in the final 4:00, including a 98-yard TD drive with 1:35 left and no timeouts.
It seemed as though Mayfield was trending towards a career as a backup quarterback in the NFL when he was cut by Carolina in December of 2022 until the Rams came calling with an injured and ineffective quarterback room. Mayfield came in, learned what he could of the playbook over night, and scored a last second victory versus the Raiders, as well as a blowout win against the Denver Broncos on Christmas Day.
Mayfield made L.A. fun to watch at the end of the season when there really wasn’t many other positives to take away. Some wondered if he would return if Matthew Stafford decided to retire. He quickly became a favorite of the 2022 Los Angeles team and it seems as though the feeling was mutual. Now he’s trying to win over fans of the Bucs.
Mayfield doesn’t need to be Brady on the Buccaneers. He doesn’t need to be the savior that Cleveland needed either. If he can play distributor and keep his turnovers down, something he proved he can do in the past with the right supporting cast, there’s no reason to think he doesn’t have a real chance at winning the division title with Tampa Bay, if not facing his former coach sometime in the near future.