The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost the best quarterback that ever graced an NFL field this offseason. Anyone stepping in to replace Tom Brady would face an uphill battle, and unfortunately for Baker Mayfield, he will bare the brunt of the backlash from the fanbase.
Baker Mayfield Enters Impossible Situation At Buccaneers Training Camp
After taking the franchise to its second Super Bowl in 2020, the Buccaneers suffered through disappointing campaigns in 2021 and 2022 — with a brief TB12 retirement sandwiched in between. Now, the Hall of Famer has officially hung his cleats up. In turn, the coaching staff will hand the keys to the former No. 1 overall pick to guide the way.
Much of the championship roster is still intact, so this group is certainly not devoid of talent. However, Father Time stops for no man, including Tampa Bay. Injuries and increased age hampered the team the past couple of seasons, and the same fate could await them again in 2023.
While it isn’t fair to heap playoff expectations on a quarterback entering his fourth locker room since the end of the 2021 season, it comes with the territory. Mayfield has one playoff run under his belt, coming with Cleveland back in 2020. He beat divisional rival Pittsburgh in the wildcard round before losing a tight battle to Kansas City.
And then the wheels fell off.
In 2021, Mayfield played through injury and witnessed a stark regression in production. He missed multiple games and nearly doubled his interception total from the previous year. The Browns eventually entered the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, effectively ending the Baker era in Cleveland.
The Oklahoma alum rightfully felt disrespected by the only organization he has ever known. Especially considering the controversy that surrounded (and still surrounds) Watson. To see the front office move Heaven and Earth for that guy caused a stir around the league — not just with Mayfield.
Browns Ditch Baker Mayfield For Deshaun Watson
In the wake of Watson’s addition to the roster, the Browns traded their former starting signal-caller to the Panthers. Hoping for a fresh start, Mayfield arrived to the franchise with renewed energy and vigor. However, thanks to the circus show by then-head coach Matt Rhule, Carolina never had a chance, nor did Baker.
Near the end of the 2022 season, following the firing of Rhule, Mayfield requested a release from the team — and general manager Scott Fitterer obliged. The Rams claimed the 28-year-old quarterback and got “good-not-great” contributions down the stretch. Mayfield completed 63 percent of his passes and led the team to victory on Christmas Day in front of a national audience.
Alas, Matthew Stafford is healthy again, so Los Angeles let Mayfield walk this offseason. The Buccaneers scooped up the now journeyman veteran, hoping that he can resuscitate his career in Tampa Bay. Things are off to a rocky start at training camp.
Mayfield has reportedly thrown “several” interceptions and even relinquished first-team reps to former second-rounder Kyle Trask on Monday morning. Many — myself included — assumed Mayfield would run away with the QB1 role in Tampa. The fact that he isn’t, with only Trask and John Wolford as competition, is rather damning.
Mayfield is caught between a rock and a hard place entering the 2023 season. Either he loses the job to two guys that few view as viable starters in the NFL. Or he wins the competition and becomes the scapegoat if the roster regresses yet again.
This is the epitome of a lose-lose situation unless Baker Mayfield shocks the world with a roster that faltered around Tom Brady last season. That is not a bet I feel comfortable making. How about you?