Baker Mayfield has given the Buccaneers the one thing that no one else has in the NFC South.
Sometimes things just work out. That is what has happened with Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2023, as everything has come together for both parties, who are currently eyeing a playoff berth.
Baker Mayfield’s career has been at its best with Buccaneers this season
Coming from the Cleveland Browns, the team he was drafted to in 2018, to then being traded and later cut by the Carolina Panthers seven games into last season, and finally catching a bit of a resurgence in five games with the Los Angeles Rams in the same season, Mayfield’s career has been full of ups and downs. But in 14 games with the Buccaneers, he is the clear starter, with no signs of being cut. In fact, he might earn himself an extension in Tampa.
The four games in which he started for the Rams last season, although he went 1-3, were enough for the Buccaneers to do the impossible and fill Tom Brady’s shoes after his retirement. But with three games remaining, Mayfield has the opportunity to match or better Brady’s last season record of 8-9 and win the NFC South.
Currently, the Buccaneers hold the top rank in the NFC South, although tied with the New Orleans Saints at 7-7, holding the tiebreaker over them. But without Mayfield, you could argue this team may not even be in playoff contention.
While the Buccaneers have had a sturdy defense this season, it’s been Mayfield who has continued to lead this year’s team, finding victories along the way. Though he’s definitely not Tom Brady, he’s been more than deserving of earning the starting position, having one of his best years yet. And for this NFC South division, he’s been exactly the kind of quarterback the Buccaneers need to take the crown.
The NFC South is one of the worst, if not the worst, divisions in all of football. That’s mainly due to the lack of consistent quarterback play, where the division has the likes of Derek Carr, Desmond Ridder, and rookie Bryce Young. While Mayfield has had his fair share of less-than-stellar games this season, he’s by far been the most consistent and productive. He’s also been the healthiest, something a majority of original, day 1 starting quarterbacks can’t say this season.
In his 14 games this season, he’s thrown for 3,315 yards, 24 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, completing 63.5% of his passes. He also has another 152 rushing yards and a touchdown. He leads NFC South quarterbacks in passing yards, touchdowns, and yards per game (236.8), per StatMuse.
Baker Mayfield continued to change his narrative against the Packers
But perhaps the greatest example of Mayfield’s newfound resurgence as a starting quarterback comes from his performance against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. In the Buccaneers’ 34-20 win, Mayfield posted his best—and most needed—performance of the 2023 season. It was a season-high day, where he went 22-of-28, throwing for 381 yards, averaging 13.6 per pass, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. But there was more to it than just that.
In the last three seasons, Mayfield has had to make December travel plans to Lambeau Field, in a different team uniform each time, playing with the Browns, Rams, and now Buccaneers.
It wasn’t a holly jolly Christmas in 2021 with the Browns. Just coming off the COVID list, he was sacked five times and threw four interceptions, a career high, in a 24-22 loss. Then, days before Christmas last year with the Rams in his few starts, throwing for only 111 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, he once again lost 24-12. This season, however, in Buccaneers red and pewter, he changed the narrative, playing at his best and had a season-high day to boot.
Changing the narrative has been the Baker Mayfield story in 2023. He’s not only changed his own, but in doing so has changed the Buccaneers as a team, who many had doubted entering the season. A large part of that had to do with not believing in the former Oklahoma quarterback’s abilities to lead a team. The Buccaneers are holding the 4th seed in the NFC playoff picture by being the division leaders. They now have a legitimate shot of making some noise in the postseason. But rest assured that if Tampa does want to make their fourth consecutive trip to the NFC playoffs, then Mayfield will be heavily relied upon.