Rams head coach Sean McVay and QB Baker Mayfield after last night’s comeback win. Image: AP
Welcome to the Sport Take Workshop, where opinions are half-hearted because there isn’t enough evidence to fully support the condiment. Today, Baker Mayfield is the focus. The Los Angeles Rams’ new QB was cut by Carolina on Monday, called on waivers by the Rams Tuesday and came off the bench to lead LA to a comeback win on Thursday.
Who knows how much of Sean McVay’s scheme Mayfield memorized, or if he used muscle memory on the 98-yard drive that ended the second-half comeback and sent the Las Vegas Raiders back into a death spiral, but the Raiders had a 96.7 percent chance of winning as LA brought the field down six minutes with the ball and less than two minutes left.
Eighty of his 230 passing yards and his only touchdown throw came on that last drive, with the rest of Vegas’ yards coming on penalties. Derek Carr, who has been the Raider quarterback for nearly a decade, finished with 137 yards in the air and two interceptions.
My opinion is not who is better: Carr or Mayfield? Do we definitely know that Baker is a crappy QB? His greatest success came in college when he played for Lincoln Riley. However, he didn’t exactly set the Big 12 on fire in his first season at Texas Tech under Kliff Kingsbury.
Ditto for his stops in Cleveland and Carolina since he was drafted No. 1 overall. His coaches at those two stations were Hue Jackson, Freddie Kitchens, Kevin Stefanski, Matt Rhule and Steve Wilks. Three of those coaches were fired, one is an interim coach, and the other is Stefanski, whose 2020 season with the Browns had the best scoring when they finished 14th in points per game.
Before this injury season from hell, Sean McVay’s teams were ranked first, second, 11th, 22nd and seventh on offense with the likes of Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford at center. He has shown he can get the best out of seriously flawed signal callers.
I know it was just a game, and Stafford is in the first year of a four-year, $160 million deal. All I’m saying is that Riley is one of, if not the, best coach in college football when it comes to developing quarterbacks. Caleb Williams would be his third Heisman winner in the last five QBs he’s coached, and he also made Jalen Hurts a second-round pick. So if he could turn Mayfield from a walk-on into a Heisman winner, couldn’t McVay do something similar with a quarterback who’s shown blitzes at the pro level?
With the right guidance, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that Mayfield could still be a successful NFL player. He had above-average seasons in two of his four years at Cleveland, and the Browns are literally the worst team in quarterback development in the last two decades.
We know that playing the position is as much about vision and confidence as it is about arm strength. Mayfield came off the street and basically won a game by instinct and I don’t think a manager like McVay will lose that.
With Stafford likely done for the season and the team 4-9, the next four games are essentially an audition for Mayfield. He’s only 27 and still has a lot of football in him. Put him in the right situation with the right coach and who knows. Not sure if this currently depleted Rams list is ideal for any QB, but maybe he and these progressive ads can make a comeback with a little McVay makeover.