Predicting Baker Mayfield's Future
NFL Offseason - Any NFL columnist can speculate about Baker Mayfield's future. Only Walkthrough has the power to peer into that future and report back.
Friday, July 22, 2022: Cleveland Browns release Baker Mayfield
With training camp days away, the Browns announce Mayfield's release late on Friday afternoon. Mayfield, the 2018 PFWA Rookie of the Year, was absent for all of OTAs, but he would be required to attend training camp or else lose an accrued season of NFL service, according to the collective bargaining agreement. The Browns don't want him creating intrigue in training camp. Mayfield does not want to be someplace he is no longer wanted.
The Browns tried throughout the late spring and summer to swing a trade with the Carolina Panthers, but no one was interested. Not the Panthers, whose ownership wasn't about to toss drowning head coach Matt Rhule a fraying, expensive lifeline. Not Mayfield or his agent, who knew the Panthers were a no-win situation and did nothing (opening up talks for a team-friendly contract extension, for example) to lubricate the trade talks. Not other would-be suitors, who knew they could swipe Mayfield off the discount rack at their own terms after a release. Not even the Browns, who realized they might have to package a draft pick with Mayfield and his $18.8-million salary, Brock Osweiler-style, to get a deal done. Better to leave Mayfield by the curb in a Friday afternoon news dump and hope the story boils over than give up a much-needed future draft pick and get roasted by the national media.
Mayfield's release leads all the talk shows. Every regional media outlet runs a variation on the same story: Should [Insert Local Team Here] Sign Baker Mayfield? It's big news. A starting-caliber quarterback, a former first overall pick, is sitting on the open market. Where will Mayfield's journey lead him next?
Monday, August 8, 2022: Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign Baker Mayfield
"Is Baker Mayfield the Heir Apparent to Tom Brady?" the headlines read. Maybe. Or maybe Jason Licht sees the opportunity to kick the tires on a player that everyone once coveted, and Todd Bowles feels shaky at backup quarterback after watching Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask toss the ball around training camp for two weeks. Mayfield signs a reported two-year contract, but the second year includes a non-guaranteed bonus proration.
Another set of soundbites and talking points makes the rounds. "Byron Leftwich can UNLOCK Baker Mayfield's potential. Here's how." "Like Jameis Winston before him, Baker Mayfield seeks a second chance behind a living legend." The Brady-Mayfield pairing is the biggest story of the doldrums of the middle of training camp, when all the other news involves depressing ACL tears and dreary battles for the starting right tackle position.
Mayfield delivers a humble, low-key press conference about how blessed he is to work with Brady. "There were some other offers," he says. "But this is my opportunity to work with a legend and compete for a Super Bowl." Brady makes soothing sounds about welcoming his new protege.
Then Mayfield disappears into backup quarterback oblivion as Trask and Ryan Griffin take most of the snaps in Tampa's preseason games.
Tuesday, February 21, 2023: Buccaneers decline second-year option on Baker Mayfield's contract
"Baker did a lot of great things for us," Jason Licht says at his scouting combine media availability. "He was great in the quarterback room and the locker room. But with Brady back in 2023, we think it's best for Baker if he gets an opportunity elsewhere."
Insiders report that Mayfield "matured" during his time on the Buccaneers bench, though the sources and motivation for those reports are unclear. Mayfield himself sounds upbeat later that week on The Pat McAfee Show. "What happened in Cleveland is behind me. I control my own destiny now. I'll finally get to pick the right opportunity for myself, then make the most of it."
March 13, 2023: Adam Schefter reports that the New York Giants plan to sign Baker Mayfield
The Giants hold the second pick in the 2023 NFL draft. Most mock drafts have them selecting C.J. Bryce Young-Stroud, the quarterback from Ohiobama State. (Football Outsiders ain't getting in a spitting contest with college fans on this one.) But with Daniel Jones signing a one-year deal to back up Russell Wilson in Denver, the Giants need a better bridge quarterback than Tyrod Taylor.
Mayfield's reported two-year, $16-million deal ($8 million guaranteed) is one of the first major news stories of the legal tampering period. It's a great opportunity for the former first-round pick: keep Young-Stroud on the bench for a year, lead the rebuilding Giants to respectability, restore his somewhat-tarnished reputation, then shop his services to teams in need of a quarterback in 2024 like the Colts or Commanders. And hey, maybe Brian Daboll can UNLOCK Mayfield and turn him into Josh Allen.
Tuesday, October 17, 2023: New York Giants announce C.J. Bryce Young-Stroud as their new starting QB
Mayfield led the Giants to a 1-3 record before the bye, averaging 187 passing yards per game, with three touchdowns and three interceptions. The rookie took over during a second-half Sunday night blowout at the hands of the Cowboys and led a pair of scoring drives.
"Baker has done a heck of a job for us," Brian Daboll says during his first midweek press conference after the bye. "But Young-Stroud has been earning this opportunity since the first day of rookie camp."
The new Giants quarterback goes on to a typical rookie season. Mayfield is next seen mopping up a blowout loss in Week 17, completing 6-of-8 passes for 48 yards against a prevent defense in a meaningless fourth-quarter drive.
Monday, January 8, 2024: New York Giants release Baker Mayfield
"The move was expected, as the second year of Mayfield's contract was not guaranteed," ProFootballTalk writes. "Releasing Mayfield now will allow him to latch on with another team without waiting for the start of free agency."
A few regional outlets publish Should [Insert Local Team Here] Sign Baker Mayfield? stories. But the playoffs have started for many teams, while others are in the heat of a head coaching search. The fate of a quarterback who has barely played in two years, even a famous one, doesn't generate much engagement.
March 27, 2024: Los Angeles Chargers sign Baker Mayfield to a one-year contract
The news is an afterthought in the wake of Justin Herbert's five-year, $300-million contract extension. The defending AFC champions need a capable, affordable backup quarterback, and new Chargers offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, taking over for Joe Lombardi (now the Titans head coach), recruited Mayfield at Texas Tech. Kingsbury gives an interview suggesting that he could UNLOCK Mayfield's potential if necessary.
August 30, 2024: Los Angeles Chargers release Baker Mayfield
"The move was expected, as journeyman backup Trace McSorley outperformed Mayfield in training camp and appears to be a better fit in both the Chargers system and their culture," ProFootballTalk writes. "Releasing Mayfield now will allow him to latch on with another team before the start of the season."
Mayfield goes unsigned as the season begins.
February 4, 2025: Baker Mayfield tells Sirius XM Radio he wants to play in 2025
"I've been working out in Bradenton," Mayfield tells Alex Marvez while making the rounds on Super Bowl Radio Row. "I'm in the best shape of my life." Mayfield says he has started throwing to rookie receivers preparing for the 2025 draft at a performance facility. He also says he has had conversations with teams but is not ready to make any decisions. "It has to be the proper fit," he says. Mayfield scoffs at suggestions about the USFL or XFL. "I'm sure I have a lot of N-F-L football in me," he emphasizes.
Free Agency, 2025: Silence
No Schefter reports. No ProFootballTalk posts. No regional blogger musings. No Twitter rumors of substance.
Mayfield cannot function as a journeyman backup. There's too much baggage. Oh sure, some of that baggage is just lingering NFL insider gossip-mongering about his "maturity." But some of it is the sheer weight of having once been the Heisman Trophy winner, the first overall pick, a budding star with homeowners insurance commercials. Anyway, the NFL insider gossip-mongers are the ones making the decisions, so their predispositions are the only thing that really matters.
A top quarterback prospect who flops is less valuable to the NFL than some no-name who never succeeds. The NFL holds a quarterback's unfulfilled potential against him, even if Hue Jackson, Todd Haley, Freddie Kitchens, Jimmy Haslam, and shoulder injuries should bear a percentage of the blame for that unfulfillment. You can argue that Mayfield hasn't "flopped," of course, but the Browns just traded a kidney to move on from him, and quarterback-needy teams opted for guys like Carson Wentz such as Drew Lock instead of him. That's a "flop," folks.
And before anyone draws any other false parallels: Mayfield earns three chances to try again in our timeline, not zero.
And so it comes to pass that, three years from now, Mayfield is out of the NFL while guys like Nathan Peterman are still knocking around. Maybe that's pessimistic. Maybe Mayfield gets a real second chance and makes something of it. Maybe he can overcome the NFL's skepticism and what's left of his brash temperament and reinvent himself as a journeyman for hire.
Until then, Mayfield is more valuable to my colleagues and I as a talking point than he is to any team as a quarterback. He's a figure of curiosity and speculation who inspires strong opinions and reactions among fans. Which, again, is part of his problem.
Interest fades. New quarterbacks, heroes, and personalities emerge. Cam Newton is currently getting (mostly) passed by in the news cycle. Mayfield won't stand a chance.
But that doesn't mean our story needs a sad ending.
Summer, 2025: Baker Mayfield sgns five-year, multi-million dollar contract as a CFB broadcaster for Amazon Sports
The outspoken, cantankerous, occasionally self-effacing Mayfield soon becomes the Voice of Saturday Afternoon in America.
The Well-Showered Traveler: A Walkthrough Bonus Feature
You awake in a hotel room just after the break of after dawn. It was a fitful night of sleep: unfamiliar sheets, strange noises, fatty food, and boozy nightcaps in your belly. Perhaps you're sweating and/or shivering from a thermostat permanently set to "jet engine before takeoff." Either way, you feel stale, and you desperately need a shower before a long day of meetings, seminars, interviews, etc.
It's only when you step into the tiny hotel bathroom that you realize that the shower fixtures were designed by a team of futurists trying to imagine what alien sex toys look like.
I became a rather savvy business traveler in the COVID beforetimes. But I was also a somewhat particular and (when on my own dime) extremely thrifty one. I demanded that any hotel I patronized meet strict criteria:
- Strong Wi-Fi.
- I'm serious about the strong Wi-Fi.
- A location as close to the event I was attending as possible.
- Plenty of electrical outlets. At least 25 of them, ideally.
- Relative cleanliness.
Yes, the order above matters. I can endure squalor if I can upload my articles easily and watch Civilization playthroughs during my downtime while the cockroaches colonize the baseboard. I once ended up at a motel in upstate New York where the hallways smelled of sawdust and insecticides and the bathroom door did not fully close. But the Wi-Fi cooked and I was six minutes from what I was covering, so all was well.
I have other hotel preferences, but none of them are requirements: a mini-fridge to store bottled iced coffee (no coffee shop opens early enough for me), a concierge desk to supply to toothbrush I inevitably leave at home. A "fitness center"—two stationary bikes and a bench in a broom closet, with a window opening to the lobby, making every traveler's workout a tourist destination—is a fun bonus: I can pack one set of workout gear I will end up sleeping in and then assure my wife that I did more during my business trip than work, eat, drink, sleep and watch, er, Civilization playthroughs.
Most of the amenities I seek are available to anyone with access to a credit card and Expedia. The hidden inconveniences of modern hotel travel are another matter. Paradoxically, the more posh the hotel, the more likely it is to feature:
- Light switches that require a scavenger hunt to find and are as carefully camouflaged as the hidden panels in haunted houses that make the bookcase spin around to reveal the dungeon.
- Television remote controls that look like they are designed to operate nuclear submarines. Turning the hotel television on is a chore. Navigating it past the tier of niche channels it defaults to (Angry Propaganda Network, Weird Surgery Channel, Always American Pickers Television, Angry Propaganda Network En Español, CBS) is a chore.
- A complete lack of bathroom exhaust vents. And also, no Glade at the sundries counter. I'll spare you elaboration on this matter.
- And of course, the topic of this essay: Shower fixtures based on Buckminster Fuller's Cinco de Mayo cocktail napkin sketches.
Last July, the folks at EdjSports hosted the Football Outsiders team for a summer conference. The boho NuLu neighborhood of Louisville is a fun-to-explore urban alcove that sells bourbon nearly everywhere. Bourbon and biscuits. Bourbon and greeting cards. Bourbon and mammograms. The temptations of great whiskey and Southern delicacies were too great for this old boomer, who awoke each morning with both a slight hangover and a dreaded case of the meatsweats. Alas, my new bosses expected me to be clean when I arrived for work each morning. So I approached the hotel shower that first morning like Archimedes slowly stumbling onto the tenets of the scientific method.
Inner concentric circle: Water on, pressure control. So far, so good.
Middle concentric circle: Distributing water from the overhead nozzle to the hand-held Waterpik thingy.
Outer concentric circle: Temperature control, with a little "C" and "H" stenciled randomly onto the tile nearby to instill a false sense of confidence.
Shower water is initially ice cold, of course, and stays that way until hot water travels through the pipes, forcing every bather to make temperature adjustments based on what we hope the results will be, not on what's coming out of the spigots. Furthermore, hotel showers have a habit of lurching suddenly between shocking extremes. I nudged the temperature control clockwise until I felt like a citizen of Pompeii in 79 CE. Then I nudged it counterclockwise: Vladivostok winter. Another nudge right: the ideal temperature to sterilize surgical equipment. Another nudge left: the recommended storage temperature for the Pfizer vaccine. Meanwhile, the overhead nozzle pressure maxes out at autumn drizzle, while the minimum pressure of the handheld Waterpik could be used by a crooked sheriff to disperse a protest.
After 10 minutes of experimenting with the shower like it was a Myst puzzle, I achieved the approximate temperature and pressure of a late-spring garden hose and figured that would be as good as it got. I used the overhead fixture for basic hygiene but the high-intensity Waterpik for trouble spots. I sounded suspiciously like Geddy Lee for at least an hour afterwards, but I was fit to encounter other humans.
As comfortable, clean, and convenient as the thoroughly modern hotel my employers generously provided for me was, I would have gladly traded that shower for separate hot and cold knobs and the reliable gurgle of something much more old fashioned, or even a corrugated tin tub, a nearby well, and a kettle. Unfortunately, when choosing non-resort hotels, there's a fine line between "rustic" and "I'm almost certain the folks next door are cops on a stakeout." Ultra-trendy fixtures are a small price to pay for knowing everything has been sanitized recently and none of your neighbors are on the lam.
I share all of this in the wake of the NFL's announcement that the scouting combine will remain in Indianapolis in 2023 and 2024. For me and many of my colleagues, that means manageable expenses, predictable schedules, and reduced travel anxieties. I have spent so many February mornings in Indy that I know the layouts of several of the downtown hotels, right down to their showers. That's not a small thing. The NFL has a habit of putting the media up in Le Chic Boutique for an event located 40 miles of clogged Interstate away, with the setting of a Borderlands video game in between. The combine was, and now still is, the one event where I know I won't need a Google map, a $30 Lyft fee, two Dramamine, and an hour of patience and grace just to fetch a sandwich from Panera.
I know I sound like Mister Sportswriter Complaining About Free Stuff, but a) the "stuff" often isn't free; and b) I don't want luxury and glamor, just comfort and convenience. Based on the NFL's decision to keep the combine in Indy, folks like Jerry Jones agree with me. Good God.
It's only healthy for even the most luxurious hotels to feel a little alien. It makes us that much more appreciative of everyday life. Even if traveling with loved ones, no ocean view or in-room jacuzzi can replace the tiny comforts of home: the sofa contoured to your body, toast from your own toaster, the familiar smell of morning on the front porch, and the cozy predictability of routine.
And boy, that first shower when you arrive home sure does feel good.