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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Baker Mayfield Leads by Being "One of the Guys"

It didn't take long for QB Baker Mayfield to capture the Bucs' locker room in his first year in Tampa, and Head Coach Todd Bowles said Mayfield's leadership has been invaluable in the team's pursuit of its playoff goals


Baker Mayfield is on a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and with the team in the midst of an exciting but tenuous division-title race, no one – especially Mayfield and Head Coach Todd Bowles – wants to focus on what comes beyond 2023 right now. That being said, it's clear that the sixth-year quarterback has captured the team in his first season in Tampa.

Mayfield won the Bucs' starting job and the impossible task of being next in line after Tom Brady. Head Coach Todd Bowles knew that would put his new quarterback in a tough spot in the court of public opinion, but he also new Mayfield could handle it.

"He did what he always does – he was himself," said Bowles. "He wasn't trying to be Tom. We didn't have the same team that we had with Tom. We have completely different guys, for the most part. We have a few guys left over here and there, but we revamped our offensive system, we revamped most of our offensive people – with the exception of about five, maybe.

"He was in a lose-lose [situation] from a fan-ballot standpoint to begin with and he didn't try to win the fan ballot. He just put his head down and he worked and he won the team over, which is what was great about it. He's doing things his way and we're doing things our way. It's not as pretty as when Tom was here, but we're scrappy and we're pulling them out and we're getting things done."

Mayfield and Brady do have something in common after last Sunday's game in Green Bay: they now each own one of the three "perfect" passing games in franchise history. Mayfield completed 22 of 28 passes for 381 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, which translated to the rare maximum passer rating of 158.3. Brady also logged a 158.3 rating against the Lions late in the 2020 Super Bowl season.

That was Mayfield's best game so far as a Buccaneer, and while there have been some expected ups and downs as the team and first-year Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales work to absorb and hone his new schemes, the overall numbers 14 games in are impressive. Mayfield has completed 63.5% of his passes, has thrown 24 touchdown passes against eight interceptions and has a passer rating of 94.7. That has surely exceeded the expectations that most outside analysts and observers had when the Bucs signed Mayfield following a bit of a wayward campaign in 2022.

According to Bowles, though, Mayfield's impact on the team has gone well beyond those attractive numbers.

"He's done a lot for us this year," said Bowles. "You can't imagine the things you don't see on the field that he's done for us, from a team standpoint, from a mentality standpoint, from a bringing-guys-together and bringing-guys-along standpoint – not to mention how well he's been playing of late, especially. You can't say enough about what he's done since he's been here. That's usually hard to fathom, like you said, with a new [offensive coordinator] and a new quarterback and a new system. To come along like they're coming along has been great."

It didn't take long for Mayfield to win over the Bucs' locker room. The team waited until after its Week Five bye to vote for captains, and Mayfield was on the final list. He said he arose as a leader by not specifically trying to do so.

"For me, it's not like I'm going out of my way to do it," said Mayfield. "That's just honestly how I've always been. Be involved with the team, be one of the guys. [As a] quarterback, you get a lot of the press, but you've got to get down and dirty with the guys. You've got to understand that you're in the process with them. Everything needs to feel involved.

"Leadership is all about empowering the guys around you. I've talked about how a quarterback's job is to elevate the people around him and that's also to make them feel like everybody is a leader. Everybody has a role here. Everybody has something to put into this if we're going to move toward our goal. That's just something I've always been intrigued by. I enjoy that process. And it's been easier to do here because this is a great group."

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