Todd Bowles wants to be very clear that the Bucs didn’t sign Baker Mayfield to be coddled, nor did he sign him to be a replacement for Tom Brady.
When Tom Brady walked away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in February, it meant finally facing a reality the team has known was coming for three years.
Nobody expected the Brady Era was going to be a long one, and the Bucs might have gotten more out of him than initially expected. His retirement created a void at quarterback, one the team hopes it has filled until a long-term plan is put in place.
That’s where things get tricky, as comparisons to Brady are impossible to resist when looking at anyone who steps into his shoes. Baker Mayfield was signed in free agency to be the Buccaneers quarterback next year, but that’s already been mischaracterized as him replacing Brady.
Semantics aside, that’s not the way to look at Mayfield’s arrival in Tampa Bay. He’s also not the automatic starter, as he still needs to earn that role in training camp.
Mayfield has only been in Tampa Bay for a few weeks and the Brady comparisons are running wild.
Head coach Todd Bowles has heard them, just like we all have, and is ready to put a stop to it before things get out of control.
Todd Bowles sends a brutally honest message to Baker Mayfield
Rather than let the idea of Mayfield replacing Brady fester, Bowles got ahead of it and squashed it. Not only that, he provided a little tough love for a quarterback who has, in the past, been adverse to criticisms that he’s anything but perfect.
“You don’t need to be the guy. We are not looking for a guy to come in here and be Superman. We have great players, you have Mike Evans, you have Chris Godwin, you have Rachaad [White], you have Tristan [Wirfs], you have Ryan Jensen, you have Cade Otton coming,” Bowles said at the NFL Owner’s Meeting. “You have guys that you can play with and pieces, so you do not have to be the guy. You just really need to drive the car.”
Of course, it’s easy to hear that from Bowles and immediately drum it up to being something negative or creating drama — which it’s not.
Baker wasn’t brought in to be coddled, he’s going to be competing for the starting role with Kyle Trask and potentially a rookie. He’s also not here to have his ego stroked without having earned it first, which he hasn’t.
Bowles is simply shooting straight, which actually seems like the sort of thing Baker would appreciate. He’s been jerked around throughout his career, part of which he deserves blame for, but he hasn’t had a coach like Bowles who will strip off the varnish and simply say what needs to be said in so many words.
Mayfield isn’t here to be Tom Brady. That’s an incredibly unfair expectation and it’s a misguided way of approaching how next season will go. Tampa Bay isn’t tanking, but they have an uphill battle to be Super Bowl contenders again.
That being said, they have many of the pieces that got them to a Super Bowl three years ago largely intact, and Baker needs to make sure he knows how to drive enough to not crash the car.