What can Bucs fans actually expect out of their quarterback this season?
Due to the official end of Tampa Bay’s quarterback competition, Bucs fans have the opportunity to finally move forward, focus on week one and what the winner will do this season.
For the last three years Tampa Bay fans have gone from ripe to spoiled with expectations higher than the crows nest in Raymond James Stadium. Even before the days of Tampa Brady, the Bucs spent a half-decade with Jameis Winston throwing all sorts of passes. (Unironically) It was always clear and understood what Jameis Winston was going to bring to the table— whether or not it was a meal you’d want to eat, that’s a different discussion.
This year feels much more uncertain and uncertainty can breed discomfort, after all, who is Baker Mayfield?
Tampa Bay fans don’t know. They couldn’t possibly. The former number one overall pick has played in one singular preseason game for the franchise. Fans have seen just as much of him suited up, standing on the sideline, giving out high fives and butt pats to players who were actually participating in on-field activities.
The entire league’s jury is still (at least partially) out on Baker Mayfield, let alone Tampa Bay fans who just watched him win a quarterback competition, taking fewer snaps than John Wolford. That makes what’s to be expected, more of an unknown— comparable to years past.
NFL Fan #1- “Baker Mayfield isn’t good. He’s a bust and he will fail. Bucs NEED TO TANK!”
Talk to some casual NFL observers and you’ll get plenty of this. The Bucs, possibly more than any other team in the league, are expected to fail this season. The masses don’t talk about Tampa losing like it’s conjecture, they reference it as fact. Before Baker Mayfield’s arrival in Central Florida, there were fans who were pro tanking. Post his arrival, there are fans who are pro tanking.
The tanking talk is better saved for a later date. Perhaps in a future article titled: To tank or not to tank, that is the question. For now, we move forward and stay on topic.
Baker Mayfield, in his pewter state of mind, can easily be what he was in 2019, throwing 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Not good. Mayfield might be what he was last year, singing the Carolina blues with a 74.4 passer rating before getting benched by his now division rival. Yikes, even worse.
The argument against NFL Fan #1 is that Baker Mayfield has also played good football in the NFL. He has had long stretches of high-level play. On good teams, Baker’s been a good player. Do the Bucs have a good team? That remains to be seen, but the talent on the roster plays into NFL Fan #2’s hypothesis.
NFL Fan #2- “I like Baker, he got a raw deal in Cleveland and Carolina. The Bucs have good receivers. Look at what he did in LA.”
NFL Fan #2 likes his entrée with a side of optimism and because of that it becomes very easy to dismiss his point, but does he have one?
We all know Baker Mayfield has played good football in his career. He has two seasons with passer ratings above 93 and to his credit, Mayfield is the lone individual, during my lifetime, to line up at quarterback and lead the Cleveland Browns to a postseason victory.
NFL Fan #2 doesn’t want to argue the point that Baker Mayfield is going to have a MVP season and take Tampa Bay back to the Super Bowl. He just wants to have an honest discussion and not throw away a young player that’s flashed talent.
The lit wick of the candle keeping NFL Fan #2’s argument alive and burning?
In 2021, (Not all that long ago) you could not find a face on a network talking about Geno Smith. Smith was a washout in New York and then most notably went back to New York, put on blue and ended Eli Manning’s consecutive start streak. When the Seattle Seahawks decided it was time to trade Russell Wilson, nobody could understand the logic. People even believed that Drew Lock would be taking Wilson’s place. Now we’re entering 2023 and Geno Smith is coming off a season Tampa Bay fans would sell out Raymond James stadium to see— 4,282 yards, 30 touchdowns, and a ticket to the postseason.
Geno Smith’s 2022 proves athletes (with the talent to do so) can have bounce back moments in their career. In fact, Geno Smith went into 2022 with far less success to his name than Baker Mayfield will bring into this season.
NFL Fan #1 vs. NFL Fan #2 is a debate that should be sorted through relatively soon. Week one of last season, in primetime against the man he replaced, Geno Smith tossed two touchdowns and just five incomplete passes on 28 attempts.
A quarterback playing poorly is hard to miss. If Baker is the guy, it’ll show. If he isn’t, Tampa Bay fans know all too well what that looks like and they’ll spot it quickly.
Reality almost always lives somewhere in the middle. Meaning, Baker is unlikely to light the world on the fire this football season but when your sitting on your couch or standing with your face pressed up against the TV in your living room you likely won’t be watching the Tampa Bay Bucs (Led by Baker Mayfield) trudge their way to the number one overall pick in the draft.
Ultimately, the Bucs brass had to make the choice that they felt was best for the organization in the present and moving forward. Now, with that decision made, Todd Bowles and his staff need to coach and fans need to root. The chips will fall where they will fall. The Bucs starting quarterback is Baker Mayfield, he has plenty of talent in him and enough talent around him— On September 10th, we’ll see how Tampa’s decision plays out.
What do you think Baker Mayfield’s 2023 will look like?