Does Mayfield inspire your faith?

by Gary Shelton on March 21, 2023

in general

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

Even with all of his missteps, you want to believe.

Even with the losses, with all the teams preferring to go on without him, even with the cynics and the doubters, you want to believe in Baker Mayfield.

Even now, even at the first sound of his voice as a Tampa Buc, you want to think there is something salvageable, something redeemable, something special about Mayfield. Despite all the evidence, despite all the questions, you like to think he is finally in the right place to succeed.

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That's the thing about a new quarterback. When there is so much evidence to the contrary, all you can do is believe. This is the town, after all, that believed in Vinny Testaverde and Trent Dilfer and Josh Freeman and Jameis Winston.

Maybe this time will be different. Perhaps Mayfield will turn into another Rich Gannon, another Geno Smith. Perhaps he can avoid disaster.

Mayfield, the Bucs' new and used quarterback, spoke to the media on Monday. He sounded confident. He sounded humbled. He sounded like someone who has learned from his wars.

But did he sound like the Bucs' quarterback?

"I think that goes anytime you have life experiences, you can learn and grow from those," Mayfield said. "Just talking to some of the coaches around here and some of the staff, like I said, it’s not how I drew my career up, by any means. If I were to tell you how it would go based on the plan, I wouldn’t have said that I put on three different uniforms in the year 2022 – but that’s how it happens.

"You’ve got to learn from it, roll with the punches, trust in God’s plan. I’ve grown a lot – I appreciate all the things that have happened throughout my journey and it’s helped me get here today. I want to play this [sport] as long as I can, so I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way.”

Over the years, the Bucs have had a lot of quarterbacks -- high draft picks, journeymen, long shots -- but they've rarely imported a quarter who was better here than he had been elsewhere. Brad Johnson, maybe.

So Mayfield comes in after a two-win season to compete with Kyle Trask, who has had a three-completion career.

Asked his best attribute, Mayfield pointed to his leadership.

"The thing I’ve realized the most in the last year is, ‘How can I help with what I’m best at?’ " Mayfield said. "And that’s being a good leader, being infectious, energetic – and even when I’m not playing, helping guys out. I’ve played a lot of ball, so I’ve seen a decent amount so I can help people out from being behind the scenes like I did last year quite a bit. And just enjoying the process – this is a dream I’m living – why not enjoy it? Right now, I want to compete and I want to win.”

It should help Mayfield that he has Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as receivers.

"Any time you get to play with playmakers like that, it obviously makes your job easier," Mayfield said. "They’re so experienced and they’ve seen a lot as well so I’m excited to get the opportunity to get to play with them and Russell [Gage Jr.] as well – obviously him sticking around was a big decision for him. I’m eager to get to know those guys and work together.”

Mayfield acknowledged he hasn't always played to his potential.

"I haven’t played the best I’m capable of. I’ve had flashes of that – I know that – so I’m just eager to have this next opportunity and see what it can become.

"Listen, I’m never going to be Tom Brady. There’s a reason he has won so many Super Bowls – he’s the greatest of all time, there’s no doubt about that. I’m not going to try and be Tom, I’m going to be me – that’s what’s gotten me to this point."

So, is Mayfield a guy you would buy a used legacy from? We'll see.

"I enjoy playing this game and my personality might rub people the wrong way, but I am who I am," Mayfield said. "That’s how I was raised to be. I’m not trying to play to be your friend or to impress you – I’m doing it because I love it and I’m doing it because I love my teammates. I think all my teammates would say the same. Behind closed doors, they knew who I really am and that’s what really matters between my family and trusting that. It is what it is – I’m not too worried about the outside persona.”

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