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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dave Canales: Baker Mayfield Knows the 'Weight' of His Opportunity

In the competition to win the Bucs' starting quarterback gig, Baker Mayfield got into a groove starting with the preseason opener against Pittsburgh and has stayed in it ever since


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held a mano a mano competition in August between Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask for their starting quarterback job, and there's little doubt that analysts considered Mayfield the betting favorite due to his superior level of NFL experience. However, that did not mean the competition was just for show or the outcome was a foregone conclusion. In fact, according to Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales there was a point during training camp when it briefly seemed to be going in the other direction.

As Canales described it, Trask showed early in camp that he was the "real deal," putting the heat on Mayfield, who then had a couple of shaky practices. But Mayfield responded exactly the way the Buccaneers hoped he would and, beginning with a smooth outing in the preseason opener against Pittsburgh, began to take command of the position.

"He turned it around, had a fantastic first preseason game with a couple drives – took us down, had a touchdown, the communication was smooth," said Canales. "Then he just kind of settled right in for that following week leading up to the Jets, showing up in that practice and [it was] just really like a good feeling like, 'We're settled here with this guy.' Everything felt like it was running smoothly."

Still, Trask didn't make the decision easy, turning in a strong performance of his own against the Jets in the second preseason game. The Bucs chose not to play Mayfield at all in that contest, potentially a hint that they were leaning towards giving him the starting nod, but even if that was the case Trask's performance was uplifting for the team as a whole.

"Kyle played fantastic in the game, so it really made it challenging," said Canales. "We're fortunate, going into this thing, that we didn't just name a starter going into it without giving Kyle a chance to show what he can do, because I think he earned a lot of respect in the locker room, on the coaching staff, in the fanbase for Bucs fans out there to see Kyle is real – he is the real deal. I couldn't feel any better about our quarterback situation going into Week One."

Canales said that Mayfield and Trask have continued to work well together since Todd Bowles announced his decision on Tuesday. He also said that while he doesn't care if there is skepticism regarding Mayfield outside the building he does understand it, simply because the 28-year-old passer went from the first-overall pick in 2019 to a player who has bounced around the league a bit the last two seasons. Canales also thinks that recent journey has contributed to how Mayfield is approaching this latest opportunity to start in the NFL.

"I can feel how serious Baker is taking this opportunity, this chance with this team," said Canales. "It's an exciting time for us and I can feel that he knows the weight of it. That's good, as long as he can put it in his rightful place, handle that pressure, carry it well and then just keep everything else really simple with it. Then, that's okay. He doesn't have to act like the pressure isn't there or that the situations aren't real. It's about looking at it, dealing with it, and continuing to perform at a basic level."

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