Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield has had a wild ride over the past few years. After bringing the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs in 2020, Mayfield struggled through a shoulder injury in 2021 and was traded to the Carolina Panthers in 2022. Now healthy, Mayfield was supposed to be, at the very least, a starting-caliber quarterback for a Panthers organization that desperately needed an answer under center.
Instead, Mayfield had the worst statistical season of his career. Starting in six games, the quarterback completed just 57.8% of his passes for 1,313 yards, six touchdowns, and six interceptions. Baker Mayfield didn’t even last the season, as the team released him in December.
Since leaving Carolina, however, Baker Mayfield has looked like a completely different quarterback. He showed signs of life with the Los Angeles Rams at the tail end of 2022 and guided the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a playoff win in 2023. Recently, the quarterback talked about his career resurgence and indirectly hinted at the “top-down” mess that is the Carolina Panthers.
Baker Mayfield: Tampa Bay “Refreshing” Compared to Panthers
Recently appearing on First Things First, co-host Chris Broussard asked Baker Mayfield about how he went from being released to making the Pro Bowl in just over 12 months. The quarterback was quick to answer and indirectly threw some shade on the Panthers organization.
“I mean, it starts top-down,” Mayfield said. “How they run the organization and everybody being on the same page and just, how do you win games? When you have a lot of voices going on behind the scenes, you’re making distractions for your players. You’re not putting them in a good position to have success and play free. So for me, getting to Tampa – it was refreshing.”
Now, it’s worth noting that Baker Mayfield doesn’t directly disrespect the Panthers here. The majority of his quote is about how good Tampa Bay is, rather than how bad Carolina and (presumably) Cleveland were. However, it’s impossible to ignore the subtext here, and it’s probably deserved. David Tepper has developed a reputation as one of the most meddling owners in the league, and Mayfield’s implied description of the Panthers will not help that sentiment. Mayfield isn’t the only player to say something like this, as tight end Hayden Hurst blamed Bryce Young’s struggles on having “too many voices” in his ear.
Can New Leadership Change the Franchise?
Bryce Young is going to have another year to prove himself, and the man responsible for saving his career is the same one who helped save Baker Mayfield. Dave Canales had a great year leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense, and hopefully, he can bring that same magic to Carolina.
However, the old saying goes that players win games and coaches lose them, so Canales can’t fix this team all by himself. Carolina is going to have to get more playmakers if they want to have a functional offense in 2024. Perhaps Canales can get old friend Mike Evans to follow him to the Panthers, assuming Baker Mayfield can’t bring him back to Tampa Bay. Even if Evans stays with the Buccaneers, players like Calvin Ridley, Odell Beckham, and Marquise Brown should reach free agency.
Even with more playmakers, the most important thing is that ownership doesn’t interfere with the football business. Baker Mayfield and Hayden Hurst both said that the organization’s dysfunction made it difficult to play quarterback in Carolina, and Mayfield is living proof that environment matters for quarterback play.
Main Photo: Jim Dedmon – USA Today Sports