No, in huge NFL news Tuesday – and just in time for the Rams nationally-broadcast game Thursday night against the Las Vegas Raiders – the Los Angeles Rams claimed quarterback Baker Mayfield off waivers by the Carolina Panthers.
Mayfield is the former No. 1 pick of the NFL Draft in 2018 out of Oklahoma. I think he’s a crossover name in the NFL because of those commercials he did, in other words, even my wife knows who Baker Mayfield is.
Mayfield spent four years in Cleveland, taking the team to the playoffs in 2020 and leading them to their first playoff win since 1994. He owned the city of Cleveland for a while.
Then in 2021, things got weird.
First, Mayfield hurt his hip, played through it, but was clearly not 100 percent on the field. Then he had a run-in with Beckham Jr. or more specifically Beckham Sr. who posted a video of all the times his son was open and Mayfield didn’t throw him the ball.
It was a grade school football tactic – mad dad complains – and a ridiculous one at that, but it worked. Beckham Jr. got out and won a Super Bowl with the Rams. Mayfield could never recapture the magic and asked for a trade.
He was dumped to Carolina for a fifth-round pick.
After six starts with the woeful Panthers, they decided to move on and release him.
But the Rams? The Rams?
Let’s look at this from different angles from the Rams perspective. Is this a fantastic move? A horrible move? Or a Who Cares move?
This Is A Great Move For The Rams
Short-term, I think the clear answer is yes. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is likely out for the season with multiple injuries. The Rams are 3-9. Rams back-up John Wolford is also hurt. The Rams were looking at using Bryce Perkins against the Raiders Thursday night.
Mayfield has won in the NFL. He’s only 27. He’s better than Wolford and Perkins.
My favorite Mayfield stat? In five years in the NFL, he has played for five different head coaches. Hue Jackson, Freddie Kitchens and Kevin Stefanski with the Browns and Matt Rhule and Steve Wilks for the Panthers. How can you ever maintain consistent play with that type of turnover?
That’s not something Mayfield will encounter with the Rams.
The Rams can roll Mayfield out for the next five weeks and see what they have. Does he fit into the offense? Can he make some plays and be a leader? Can he win? The Rams defense is still better than any defense Mayfield has ever been with.
In his heyday with the Browns Mayfield was fiery. He never threw for over 4,000 yards, but the Browns had a good running game with Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb and Mayfield was always more mobile than people thought. He’s kind of like an upper-level game manager at his best. That is what the Rams need.
This Is A Horrible Move For The Rams
Let’s play best-case, worst-case scenario. What if Mayfield comes in for the Rams and is hot. He and wide receiver Allen Robinson II develop a good connection. He provides a spark at the end of the season, the Rams win four of their last five and finish 7-10.
Then what do you do?
Do the Rams want to have a quarterback controversy heading into the 2023 season and say that it’s Stafford vs. Mayfield for the starting job?
Could it be that Stafford is actually hurt worse – a lot worse – than the Rams are letting on? I’m just putting that out there. You know NFL coaches are always lying when they talk about injuries. There may be legitimate concerns about Stafford’s long-term future.
Stafford will be 35 at the start of next season. Remember he had some arm issues in training camp. This season he’s looked like a player with a lot of miles on him, but he’s under contract until 2026.
It’s still Stafford’s team. He won the Super Bowl last year for crying out loud. Bringing in Mayfield could damage the team’s chemistry.
The whole problem with quarterback controversies is that it divides the locker room into two camps. It’s hard to get everyone on the same page when half the team wants one guy to start at QB and the other half wants the other guy.
By playing well, Mayfield could make things worse for the Rams.
Or Really, None Of It Matters
It’s impossible to truly evaluate Mayfield and his six starts with the Panthers. They lost a close opener to the Browns, of all teams, blew it against the New York Giants on a missed field goal. They beat the Saints, but then lost to the Cardinals and Niners.
Carolina didn’t have any designs on making the playoffs in 2022 anyway. For Mayfield it was just a fresh start, just a chance to get away from Cleveland, but the Panthers weren’t going to win.
Now in Los Angeles, it’s another fresh start, joining a team with a winning pedigree…except for this year. Maybe it rubs off on Mayfield and he sticks around for another year as a back-up quarterback for Stafford. I know most NFL players love to bet on themselves, just give me a chance, they say. Mayfield is only 27. He could be the Rams quarterback of the future, or this could just be a stop in the road of what becomes a journeyman career.
The Rams play the Raiders Thursday night and one thing is for sure, that game sure got a lot more interesting for my wife.