Baker Mayfield’s career as an NFL starting quarterback is on life support now and there may be one remaining Hail Mary that can save it. And, as Hail Marys go, this one is improbable and a long shot.
Mayfield to the San Francisco 49ers?
That’s apparently the last chance Mayfield has to breathe life into what has been a terrible year.
The Carolina Panthers, by the way, cut Mayfield on Monday. The club announced the move just before noon.
Reasons Baker Mayfield Cut
The reason Mayfield was released includes equal parts dissatisfaction between the Panthers and Mayfield about how this season has transpired. Mayfield, a source said, has not been happy with the team’s on-again, off-again commitment to letting him play.
And the Panthers have not been happy with Mayfield’s inconsistent performances.
So the sides — team and Mayfield’s representatives — agreed to break ties. Carolina was intending to demote Mayfield to third string this week, behind Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker, so an outright release was best.
This ends a marriage that happened when Mayfield was traded to the Panthers from the Cleveland Browns for what will be a fifth-round pick.
So what’s next?
Mayfield must go through waivers. And the Houston Texans get a first crack at Mayfield if they want to claim him. Any team claiming him on waivers would have to assume the remaining $1,349,444 of Mayfield’s guaranteed contract.
That might dissuade some teams with little cap space from claiming Mayfield.
But if he passes waivers, Mayfield’s free to sign with whatever team wants him.
And that’s where the 49ers seem to make sense.
The 49ers on Sunday lost starter Jimmy Garoppolo to a broken foot for the remainder of the season. The team beat the Dolphins with rookie seventh-round pick Brock Purdy completing 25 of 37 passes for 210 yards with 2 TDs and 1 interception.
And the 49ers intend to stick with Purdy as their starter — for now.
But adding Mayfield would give them options. No, Mayfield wouldn’t travel cross-country and start in an entirely new offense immediately. It would take Mayfield time to learn coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
But Carolina teammate Christian McCaffrey did it earlier this year when he was traded from Carolina to San Francisco. McCaffrey actually played the very week he arrived in the Bay Area.
Playing quarterback is obviously a totally different situation, but with five games left in the regular season, there’s no reason Mayfield wouldn’t be up to speed on the offense within that time.
And this is where forethought would make the move plausible: The 49ers could see Mayfield as insurance because they’ve already lost two starting quarterbacks this season. If Purdy goes down, their next man up is newly acquired Josh Johnson.
The 49ers lead the NFC West and have designs on a deep playoff run. So having a quarterback with playoff experience might be smart.
This is obviously a rental and a tryout for Mayfield wherever he lands. No one is going to offer Mayfield a multi-year deal. He is unsigned for 2023.
So his next spot is an opportunity to lease rather than buy.
But if the 49ers have interest, it makes sense for Mayfield to be on a team with more talent than any other he’s been on in a while.
Shanahan also has a great reputation for running a quarterback-friendly offense that could help Mayfield resurrect what has been a disappointing career.
There’s potential benefit for everyone.
Ryan, Saturday Future Uncertain In Indy
The Indianapolis Colts are crawling to the finish line this season and there are repercussions that will come with that which will become apparent by season’s end.
Firstly, there will absolutely be a coaching search because interim coach Jeff Saturday has not done enough to earn the job outright — with Sunday night’s nightmarish 54-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys serving as example the thing is obviously not fixed.
Secondly, a source familiar with quarterback Matt Ryan’s thinking said he is expected to take some time after the season to decide whether he wants to come back for his 16th NFL season — either with Indy or elsewhere — or retire.
Start with the coaching position. Saturday brought to the Colts an infusion his first couple of games but the energy, urgency and even execution levels have returned to what it was before. And Sunday’s fourth quarter, in which the Colts were outscored 33-0 (not a misprint) because of multiple turnovers, was evidence.
Afterward, Saturday was basically asked if he got himself in too deep with what is a rougher situation than even he expected?
“No,” he said. “Listen, I knew what I was signing up for. You’re not changing coaches in the middle of the season if it’s not bad. I knew what I was signing up for. Again, like I told those guys in there, effort, the energy, enthusiasm these guys are playing with. They are battling. I told the defense, they block an extra point. I don’t even know how many we were down.
“It’s that type of effort that brings me back. I love that. You talk about a gut check. You talk about ‘We don’t quit.’ I appreciate those things. We’re going to find it; we’re going to fix it. And it’s not going to be quick. Like I told them, ‘There’s no Band-Aid to fix this. We’ve got to soul search and get better. We’ve got a four-game season and we need to see who we are.”
That’s the only approach the Colts can have but, honestly, they would have to win all four of their remaining games — including the Vikings, Chargers and Giants — to finish at .500.
And .500 isn’t going to get anyone in the playoffs in the AFC.
Ryan, meanwhile, is already hearing calls for his benching again. Saturday took multiple questions whether he considered switching to Nick Foles. The coach also fielded questions about why he wouldn’t do that during a game Ryan had three interceptions and lost a fumble.
So the QB is in the crosshairs.
Ryan intended to play to the end of his contract and age 38 when he signed his five-year, $150 million contract extension in 2018.
He was performing at a high level and believed himself expert in recovering from the rigors of NFL games so that his body could remain healthy and his level of play could remain consistent.
That obviously has changed behind a leaky offensive line. And with a new coach coming in, Ryan is going to be deliberate in what he decides to do next.
Joe Burrow outduels Patrick Mahomes
No one can ever deny Patrick Mahomes is a premier quarterback and perhaps the best of this generation. But right now there’s also no denying Joe Burrow has his proverbial number.
Burrow on Sunday outplayed Mahomes and, predictably, that led to a Cincinnati Bengals 27-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
And that makes Burrow the only quarterback to face and beat Mahomes in three consecutive head-to-head matchups. Burrow and the Bengals have done this in the span of one calendar year.
“First off, they have a great quarterback, and a guy who’s won a lot of football games, even if that was in college, and now he’s won a lot of football games in the NFL,” Mahomes said, explaining why the Bengals have beaten his team so often.
“He’s someone that competes to the very end, too. They’ve got playmakers all over there, they’re well-coached, have a good defense. At the end of the day, they’ve executed at a higher level in the critical situations.”
Now all the hype about Mahomes being the leading candidate to win the MVP will be shifting and Burrow, because after his 3-TD performance (2 passing, 1 rushing), will enter the conversation.
“Absolutely. Absolutely,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “He’s playing at the level we need for him to lead us to be confident that we can go win every game we play. Whatever those conversations are like, there’s no doubt as I’ve said before; I wouldn’t trade him for anyone in the world.”
Burrow outplayed Mahomes by every measurable — passing yards, touchdown passes, rushing yards. And that with the Bengals suffering at least one dropped TD pass.
Burrow spent much of his press conference praising his offensive line. And his receivers. And his coaches.
He downplayed his record against Mahomes and deflected when asked about the MVP talk.
“I don’t play the game for those kinds of accolades,” he said. “I play the game for those guys in the locker room. Whatever it takes from me every Sunday, that’s what I’ll do. If I have to hand the ball off 72 times and come out with a win, I’ll be happy.”
That’s QB talk by an adult, right there.
So is this: Burrow joins Tom Brady as the only quarterback ever to win three games against Mahomes.