Odds are against Mayfield saving Bucs

by Gary Shelton on March 16, 2023

in general

Mayfield tries to defy odds with Bucs./JONATHAN KING

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Perhaps they rescue each other. Perhaps the Tampa Bay. Bucs save Baker Mayfield's career. Perhaps Mayfield saves the Bucs' relevancy.

Perhaps, this time, it works out.

Alas, it usually does not.

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There is a saying in the NFL: "Bad there, bad here." That's the way it usually works. Most players who are awful at one place are similarly awful at the next. Sometimes, a change of scenery doesn't help: Ryan Leaf continues to be Ryan Leaf, and JaMarcus Russell is always JaMarcus Russell, and Josh Freeman is doomed to be Josh Freeman. Try as they might, they cannot change it.

And so it is with only a smattering of hope that Mayfield inherits this team. The league is filled with quarterbacks who got a second chance and did nothing with it. The odds, too, are against Mayfield, who takes over a team with the league's last-place running attack and an offensive line that gets thinner by the hour.

Oh, Mayfield has shown flashes. He got the Cleveland Browns, of all teams, back to the playoffs. He set a rookie touchdown pass record.

But most of Mayfeild's time in the NFL has been defined by being the wrong guy at the wrong place. Cleveland remains a mess. Carolina started last season that way. The Rams were dreadful last year.

So is there gold in those rocks?

Look, it's been done before. Rich Gannon failed with three teams before he won league MVP with the Raiders. Drew Brees left San Diego hurt and humbled. And the Bucs themselves have a history of throwing away quarterbacks who went on to be better elsewhere -- Doug Williams, Steve Young, Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer.

The bottom line is this: Mayfield made sense for the Bucs. They had no experience at quarterback, and Mayfield gives them 69 starts (plus two playoff games). They needed a cheaper option then, say Derek Carr. They needed a project for offensive coordinator Dave Canales, one much like Geno Smith was a year ago. Mayfield gives them all that. They need to keep Kyle Trask working as if he has a shot at the job.

On the other hand, he won two games with two teams last year.

That said, Mayfield is not without talent. You watch a highlight film of his, and there are some impressive throws. But are there enough?

Look around at the NFC South. How would you rank the quarterbacks?

Oh, eventually, you have to bet on the No. 1 draft pick of the Panthers to take the No. 1 spot. But for now, I'd go with Carr at No. 1 (the market price says so). Andy Dalton, Carolina’s placeholder, won six games and had a 95.2 rating, so I'd pick him second. I'd go with Mayfield third and Atlanta's Taylor Heinicke fourth.

The thing is, all of those guys seem about a mile and a half from the Super Bowl.

Look, the best thing about the signing of Mayfield -- and the signings of Lavonte David and Anthony Nelson — is that it signals this team isn't ready to turn out the lights. If it can fix its offensive line, and if it can find a pass rush, it could be competitive next season.

The odds are still against it, however. The odds say this team ends up south of .500.

It's up to Mayfield to prove all of us wrong.

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