TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Sunday, Sept. 10, is the day Bucs fans have been eagerly awaiting – not just because the day is filled with football once again, but because a new era in Tampa Bay begins.
This afternoon, newly named QB1 Baker Mayfield will take the field at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota in a Week 1 face-off against the Vikings. The NFL veteran has been waiting, longing for this moment – to prove he belongs.
Since his college days, the former Heisman Trophy winner has been fighting for his chance to prove that he’s a strong starting quarterback. The trials and tribulations continued in Tampa when he had to battle Kyle Trask for the starting role. But after strong preseason performances, the 28-year-old has his chance to prove that with Tampa.
“I had to win the job at Texas Tech as a walk-on. When I got to Oklahoma, I sat out a year and still had to compete for the job, and then [in] Cleveland, I got drafted, and Tyrod Taylor was still the starting quarterback, so I have had to complete my whole life. This is nothing new to me,” Mayfield said during the preseason before he was announced as the starter.
Mayfield played for the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, and Los Angeles Rams before choosing Tampa Bay as his playing field and signing a one-year deal this past offseason.
The only thing nerve-wracking about Tampa is the team was previously led by Tom Brady. It was easy for Tampa to love Brady, who brought the city a Lombardi Trophy his first year here, but Mayfield chose Tampa – the question is, will Tampa choose him?
“The other thing that stands out to me about Baker Mayfield is when he was in free agency, we all knew, everyone knew wherever he went, it was gonna probably be on a one-year deal, ‘show me’ type thing,” Bucs Insider Dan Lucas said during last week’s episode of Bucs Bonus. “But he had choices, he had options, and he chose this team, with a brand new offensive coordinator who has never called a play in an NFL game – What does that tell you? His little stint in LA, he got a taste of a similar style of offense, and he loved it.”
For one thing, Mayfield has always been a good quarterback and leader on and off the field; he’s just never had weapons surrounding him that he could utilize on offense. However, now that he’s in Tampa, he has those weapons.
“I think when he weighed his options, he saw the offense, the scheme, something that would set him up for success, and then he took a look at what he has around him…Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, an offensive line that’s better than people are giving a credit, Rachaad White, who is exciting and untapped in some ways as a running back,” Lucas said.
On top of Mayfield having offensive weapons, he also has a new offensive coordinator, which is “refreshing.”
“First of all, I’ll go on the record; I think it’s going to go very well for Baker Mayfield here.” Lucas said. “There’s something different about him. People say, ‘Oh, he’s more humble,’ I see a guy who is just relieved. He spoke [last Wednesday] about Dave Canales and said it was ‘refreshing.'”
“Dave Canales’ sort of attitude and how his positive outlook is refreshing,” Insider Karen Loftus added.
In addition to the Bucs and Mayfield saying this season is refreshing, the young team has been saying they’re having a lot of fun. Dan Lucas, think it’s especially fun for Mayfield to come here after Brady because he could prove people wrong about the Bucs’ “new era.”
“This could be fun. I think he thought this could be fun to come in here and prove people wrong,” Lucas said.
“And the fun that you’ve mentioned, a lot of people have used that word in talking about this offense, and sort of the aura around this team is like ‘we’re having fun, and we’re excited to put it all out there Week 1,'” Loftus added.
Tampa has moved on from Brady, and with Mayfield stepping in, Lucas said he’s “not being asked to be a savior,” but how will he handle his success if the Bucs get to their BYE week in Week 5 and they have a winning record?
“He’s not being asked to be the savior, and if he operates within that offense, the Bucs are going to be successful. The challenge for Baker Mayfield is: How will he handle success? That’s going to be the next step. They need to go out and show us what they can do, see what happens, and if the Bucs are pretty good at that BYE Week, things are looking OK…how does Baker handle that? Because then the Bucs will be on the national radar and I’m curious to see how he would handle that,” Lucas said.
So, as the NFL 2023 regular season kicks off Sunday, will Bucs fans choose Baker Mayfield as their quarterback as he chose their beloved team? It appears the remainder of the season will be the determining factor.
“I think he’s in for a good season,” Lucas concluded.