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Was Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting the season 2-0 on your Bingo card? Stick around if you answered ‘no.’
After losing the GOAT at QB, Tampa Bay’s 2023 season seemed destined for a tank job. Leading a year with Baker Mayfield at quarterback after three dominant seasons with Tom Brady seemed like a tough act to pull off.
Heading into Week 3, the Bucs are undefeated, and Mayfield is playing like a QB1 — subversive for the Mayfield haters, and there are many.
Mayfield is winning; the Bucs are well coordinated; so is this the start of a Mayfield Renaissance?
Could the former No. 1 pick find redemption in Tampa Bay after failing to spark confidence in Cleveland, Carolina or Los Angeles?
Figuring out Mayfield, and where he ranks in the NFL, is tough.
Mayfield’s ceiling is being the No. 1 pick, but his floor is competing for the Bucs’ job against the untrustworthy Kyle Trask. There’s hardly an in-between with Baker.
He may not be close to elite or reliable, but Baker is working in Tampa Bay … for now.
The glaring dilemma for the Bucs offense and Mayfield is the weak competition they’ve faced to start the year.
Tampa Bay edged the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1 (20-17) and handled everyone’s favorite Chicago Bears (27-17) in Week 2.
Still, Mayfield’s leadership of the offense has been unquestionably impressive.
Mayfield led a conservative attack against the porous Vikings defense, throwing for 173 yards (21 of 34) and two touchdowns (94.4 rating). Facing Minnesota, you’d hope for an improved passing yards total, but Mayfield got the job done.
Facing Chicago, Mayfield showed off an extra gear to his attack under Bucs OC Dave Canales. Mayfield threw for 317 yards and one touchdown. Popping most off the stat sheet was Mayfield’s completion percentage of 76. 5.
To figure out this Mayfield hype, think of Baker as the same guy from his past circumstances. He is undersized and highly accurate but unable to execute the occasional splash play to keep his offense in contests.
Mayfield’s also had tremendous help with Tampa Bay’s solid personnel. Realistically, the Bucs can end the year a game above or below .500, which exceeds Tampa’s early-season projections.
Mike Evans and Chris Godwin remain among the league’s best receiving tandems, and Tampa Bay’s defensive line can disrupt most opposing offenses.
Tampa Bay has not figured out the coaching situation centered on the defensive-minded Todd Bowles.
Bowles seemed like a man out of a job when Tom Brady retired this offseason. Even if Tampa Bay opted to keep Bowles, the confidence at Raymond James in leadership is weak.
Coaching problems have trickled in and disrupted Mayfield in the past. The Bucs are no different.
Working in Baker’s favor is the mild schedule ahead. After taking on the Eagles in Week 3, Mayfield and the Bucs will face meager NFC South teams like the Saints and Falcons, then other lowly teams like Houston.
Mayfield can win those games, but his ceiling still shows a major deficiency in keeping up with elite offenses.
Mayfield is a decent QB, akin to a high-level backup like Case Keenum. It’s more than the Bucs could have wished for this year.
For a ranking, place Baker in the 22-25 range. A hair beneath Kenny Pickett but slightly better than Sam Howell. Do you agree?