04 October, 2023
Even more so than the NFL entering its Taylor Swift Era, the most unexpected event in the whole league four weeks into the season is that on Sunday, Baker Mayfield was admonishing his Tampa Bay colleagues to watch out for… overconfidence.
The post-Tom Brady Bucs, that’s right. Yes, Mayfield, the disqualified former Cleveland Brown who nobody even thought would have a chance to compete with Kyle Trask for the starting position.
Yes, Tampa Bay, who won convincingly at New Orleans by a score of 26-9 to move to 3-1 heading into a bye week.
“Right now, the narrative is going to flip,” Mayfield declared. “Even more so, we must maintain that [focused] attitude. Whether people are complimenting you or talking negatively about you, you cannot change that.
Mayfield is aware of both without a doubt. At Oklahoma, he earned a Heisman. He was selected first overall by the Browns and was hailed as the franchise’s salvation for his fiery, outstanding play. He became such a household name that, at least in highly-watched national television advertising, he and his wife Emily resided at the stadium.
After that, Mayfield’s performance declined, the Browns resumed playing like the Browns, and Deshaun Watson took his spot.
Cleveland was so certain that Mayfield wasn’t the right fit that it ignored Watson’s off-field problems and put up valuable trade assets as well as a potentially crippling guaranteed contract to get him. Browns are 2-2 overall.
Mayfield spent part of 2022 in Carolina after being traded out of town for a fifth-round pick, before being released and signing on late as a stopgap for the Los Angeles Rams, a team that had been decimated by injuries. He just had a 2-8 record last year as a starter.
To the few who even noticed, his one-year contract with Tampa Bay in the winter was considered as a gamble by a Bucs team in rebuild mode after Brady. The worst that could have happened to Tampa Bay was a bad season that led to a high draft pick in a quarterback-rich draft.
The fact is, no one has ever denied Mayfield’s competitiveness despite his difficulties and setbacks. So maybe he was the ideal candidate for this team. Tampa was predicted by Las Vegas to win 6.5–7.5 games this season. In the NFC South, the Buccaneers were a sizable underdog (+325). Brady’s contribution to the Bay’s fame has faded.
However, here we are.
We have known what we have in this building all along, Mayfield remarked. Since the offseason, we have been saying that. All we need to do is keep becoming better. After a 25-for-32 throwing performance for 246 yards and three touchdowns against the Saints, Mayfield was speaking. He gained 31 yards on the ground and demonstrated great fortitude and leadership by rising after many back-breaking blows.
The player isn’t only there to collect a paycheck and stay in the league. He comes to win.
Todd Bowles, the head coach, said: “Bake is difficult. He is at home here. He is extremely aware of the crime. He works for us, and the lads adore playing for him.
Mayfield is on pace to surpass his career-best figures after throwing seven touchdowns and only two interceptions. His completion rate of 69.9% and QBR of 101.5 are significantly higher than the 62.8 and 95.9 he recorded in 2020. Even better, for the first time in his career, he’s avoided being sack.He is a member of a Bucs squad that will benefit on Sunday from the services of every player, including the defense.
Of all, it’s still early—”Only the first quarter of the season,” Bowles said. The coach said, “3-1 is better than 1-3,” nevertheless. If nothing else, a season that was thought to be lost is anything but.
It’s a fantastic team, Mayfield declared. “Everyone is in agreement. Everyone is performing their duties. When playing against a strong squad, it all comes down to the little things.
When Mayfield is questioned, he might perform at his best. After all, he was once a walk-on at Texas Tech. His strategy frequently relies on feeling. He will undoubtedly be an effective NFL quarterback if he can turn it into a fundamentally sound play.
He might have been cautioning everyone against the flattery and platitudes that come with starting 3-1 for this reason. Nobody is afraid of the NFC South, and if anything, New Orleans is the hardest place to win in the division.
We have a group of males who are “very, very strong-minded,” according to Mayfield. “I guess all it demonstrates is the accountability in our building. Knowing to focus on your work and ignore distractions from the outside world.
Dismissive talk permeated the offseason. There is a new change now.
Perhaps Mayfield anticipated this. If so, he is a rare individual. In any case, the former first-round draft pick is making plays and winning games on his fourth team in six seasons, which could be considered Act 3. Baker may not have been in the NFL anymore, but he most definitely was.