Squabble over Mayfield, Trask begins

by Gary Shelton on June 2, 2023

in general

As near as I can tell, there is one major argument in favor of the Bucs starting Baker Mayfield at quarterback this season: Kyle Trask.

And, meanwhile, there is one major point in arguing for Trask: It's Mayfield.

In other words, both of them look their best when being compared to the other.

Which translates into the eternal debate between a bad argument and none and at all.

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Yet, here we are, still months away from the start of the NFL season, and already, sides are being taken. There are those, most of them fans who remember him from Florida, who think of Trask as a sleeping star, that once he huddles up with the starting unit, he'll blossom into a player. Likewise, there are those who remember Mayfield's early days in Cleveland (and his own impressive college days), who think there is something there that can be rebuilt.

Right now, though , we are talking about a riddle vs. an enigma. Both players have tons to prove. Both players have doubts to dispel.

No, neither of them are Tom Brady. As it stands now, neither of them are Bruce Gradkowski.

I wish I could tell you that I was convinced this job should belong to Mayfield, that he was destined to be an impact player. Or I wish I could back Trask, who has been buried on the Bucs' roster.

But without ripping, the fairest thing to say is that both Mayfield and Trask are only fair. The key is here is low expectations -- it will be most pleasing if either surprises you. Mayfield may start 10 games this fall; Trask may start seven. Neither one of them are likely to start a playoff game. And neither is likely to have a grip on the future.

Let's repeat. Mayfield won two games last year. He's been with four teams in two years. Trask has thrown nine passes as a pro, and he's completed three of them. That won’t start many parades. And whoever is behind center will have a rebuilt line, a last-place running game and a new offensive coordinator.


So get a grip. It figures to be to be a bumpy ride.

This week, there were articles in the Bleacher Report, Fancied and Sports Illustrated's online edition that all made fun of how badly the Bucs' quarterbacks were throwing the ball. That says a lot about expectations. There were no such articles about Jordan Love or C.J Stroud or Bryce Young, because the expectations are that they're just getting started. The Bucs are an easy target. I get it. Who remembers any pass any quarterback has thrown in any May practice?

But the unvarnished truth is that both of these guys have tons to prove. That's not being negative. It's simply stating facts. Mayfield bombed in Carolina last year. Trask? No one lit his fuse at all. One of the more incriminating facts on Trask is that he was never able to wrest the No. 2 job from Blaine Gabbert, a quarterback who will be quickly forgotten. Spare me the rhetoric that Tom Brady depended on Gabbert to be his sounding board; he could have done that in street clothes.

Is this a play by the Bucs to get a high draft pick? No, it doesn't feel that way. The Bucs are spending about as much as they're allowed to spend. They haven’t put any of their stars on the trading block. They seem confident that they'll surprise some people.

Maybe. But it isn't a situation where I'd feel comfortable betting on either horse in the race. I think Mayfield starts, and Trask becomes the most popular guy in town. Then Trask will get some starts, and people will want to see a little more of Mayfield.

Brady? He'll be sitting in the owner's box in Las Vegas.

Look, I like Brady, and the argument over the best quarterback of all time isn't even close. (You judge by titles, people. Everything else is statistics.)

But are you really looking forward to seeing Brady own? Are you going to watch Raiders games to get that obligatory shot of him in the owner's booth? Are you going to be where he goes first for the string or the wings?

Meanwhile, I expect that Mayfield will have some moments...but not enough of them. I think Trask will make some highlights...but too few. And soon, the argument will turn toward who the next guy will be.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Mayfield rekindles his career. Rich Gannon did. Kurt Warner did. Geno Smith.

Maybe the line is indeed better. Maybe the Bucs discover a running game. Maybe a pass rush, too.

From here, however, it seems as if there are too many questions.

From here, it seems as if there isn't an answer.

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