So far this season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have defied expectations in the most epic way possible. The team was talked about so negatively in the offseason that it felt like the boldest act of courage would be needed in order to show up Week 1.
Not only did the Bucs show up Week 1 and pull out an upset win, they proceeded to win two of their next three games. Tampa Bay now heads into its bye week with a 3-1 record and sole possession of first place in the NFC South -- not too bad for a team that was supposed to tank.
So much is going right for the Bucs, but everything seems to start with how well Baker Mayfield is playing. He was trolled back in March after signing in free agency, but Baker and the Bucs are getting the last laugh and all signs point toward this being a long-term relationship.
Bucs GM sounds like he's ready to extend Baker Mayfield long-term
Earlier in the offseason, Baker told CBS Sports that he came to Tampa Bay not as a stepping stone but with the intention of making it his home. Former NFL GM Rick Spielman got that impression when he visited the Bucs, saying Baker made his decision with long-term goals in mind.
Now Jason Licht is dropping hints that seem to suggest the love affair goes both ways. Baker is happy, the Bucs are happy -- and winning -- and all signs point toward an extension in the near future.
“I think [Baker] is finally in a place where he’s got some stability and he’s got people that are kind of wrapping their arms around him and they truly love him as the leader and quarterback," Licht said. "Him toughing out some of those runs on third down and lowering his shoulder … he’s kind of won a lot of people over with that, his teammates."
Licht also praised Baker's ability to connect with the locker room and start building a positive, winning culture.
"He’s also done such a great job just the minute he came in here just gravitating toward the linemen, toward the receivers. Now they’re gravitating toward him. He’s a dude.”
All of that sounds like a guy who is getting ready to hand the keys over to Baker and give him a long-term extension. Bucs fans have been through false starts with potential solutions at quarterback, but what's happening with Baker feels different.
Long-term stability at quarterback has eluded the Bucs for the franchise's entire existence. Outside of Doug Williams and Trent Dilfer, Tampa Bay has either applied veteran band-aids or struck out swinging on potential franchise quarterbacks. Jon Gruden cycled through vets in the 2000s and Josh Freeman, Jameis Winston, and Vinny Testaverde all failed to live up to expectations with the Bucs.
Baker has a chance to finally break that streak and become the franchise quarterback the Bucs have been fruitlessly searching for.