Baker Mayfield is on his second team in 2022, but if you asked his new head coach, his arrival as a wavier claim stands as an upgrade in Los Angeles.
It’s rare to say so for a player who was willingly released by his former team, but such is the case for the Rams, who are down to backup John Wolford and past third-stringer Bryce Perkins following Matthew Stafford’s placement on injured reserve. A healthy Mayfield — a player with plenty of starting experience and a playoff win to his name — is clearly the best option of the three, even if the former No. 1 overall pick won’t see the field immediately.
“When you have a player of his caliber come available and you look at just the circumstances and situations surrounding our quarterback room, we felt like it was the right move for us,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said on Wednesday. “It was a guy that I’ve always respected his game, like a lot of things that he brings to the table. I’ve known him a little bit, just going back to even when we rode out to the combine together; when he was training in L.A., we sat next to each other on the Southwest flight, the only direct flight from LAX to Indianapolis.
“As far as his status for tomorrow, we’re working through that kind of stuff. We just finished up. I mean, he literally just got here last night. Incredibly sharp guy. It was good to be able to be around him. Really, we feel like it upgraded our quarterback room, gives us a chance to have him in the building, and we’ll see how it goes, and we’ll take it a day at a time.”
It would be absurd to expect Mayfield to join the Rams on Tuesday night, then play in a Thursday night game, so it’s no surprise McVay wasn’t eager to commit to Mayfield participating in Week 14 against the Raiders. But the fact he didn’t completely rule out Mayfield illustrates the current state of the Rams’ quarterback situation. It’s nearly impossible to expect Mayfield to immediately digest and master McVay’s deep playbook, but in the event of an emergency, the Rams could probably find a way to meet somewhere in the middle on terminology.
“It would be unprecedented from my experiences — because of everything that a quarterback is asked to do to — bring him in such a short period of time and have him go out there, but I do think that he’d be capable of it if we asked,” McVay said. “We’ll take that really one day at a time until tomorrow.”
McVay’s tone when describing Mayfield was unusually positive for a quarterback who hasn’t shown signs of his former self for most of the last calendar year. But Mayfield’s initial rise to fame in the NFL could lead those like McVay to wonder if the quarterback just needs the right situation — coaching staff, supporting cast — to thrive once again.
As it stands right now, on paper, that situation does not exist in Los Angeles with the Rams, a team that has weathered constant change along the offensive line and watched its top two receivers (Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson) exit due to injury. But a disappointing season isn’t going to stop McVay, general manager Les Snead and the rest of the Rams brass from giving a top pick a chance when there’s nothing left to lose.
As for the battle of wits between the Rams and those in charge of the division-rival 49ers, that had nothing to do with Los Angeles claiming Mayfield — as long as you believe McVay.
“No, no, it’s really a circumstance of he ends up getting his release from the Panthers, obviously Matthew’s on IR, John’s neck is a questionable situation,” McVay said when asked if the Rams claimed Mayfield to prevent him from joining the 49ers. “We had to address it at some point. It just so happened that the timing kind of worked out in our favor. It worked out, and we feel good about it.”
McVay is correct that the Rams needed a quarterback. The production they’ve received from Wolford and Perkins has been inadequate and certainly wouldn’t preclude them from looking elsewhere. Perhaps we’ll see Mayfield make his Rams debut before long. Once again, the Rams don’t have much to lose at this point. And they just might help Mayfield prove he’s worth a shot elsewhere in 2023.
Image & Story Credit: nfl.com