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Why Baker Mayfield can be 2023’s Geno Smith

Last year’s NFL season was full of captivating storylines, possibly none more surprising than the growth and development of Geno Smith.

NFL: MAR 20 Buccaneers Press Conference Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Geno Smith was a second-round draft pick of the New York Jets in the 2013 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, Smith would go on to throw for a respectable 3,046 yards, however those yards would be accompanied by 21 interceptions. Tossing only 12 touchdowns, Geno Smith’s passer rating was an uninspiring 66.5. One season later, he balanced out his touchdown to interception ratio, posting a pedestrian 13 in each column. Smith threw for just over 2,500 yards in 2014 and that was the last time most NFL fans heard from the former Mountaineer— until 2022. After six straight seasons of anonymity, Smith resurfaced, as a playoff quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.

In 2022, Geno Smith emerged from the background to rack up career highs in yards, touchdowns and a personal best touchdown to interception ratio. Passing for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, Geno Smith forced the NFL to take notice and changed his career’s narrative. At the NFL Honors, the league recognized the 32-year-old and gave him his flowers. Smith took home the Comeback Player of the Year award and he has since taken home a great deal of newfound wealth. Heading into 2023, Geno Smith is now a starting NFL quarterback who has agreed to a three-year 75-million-dollar contract.

2018 Cleveland Browns OTA

Baker Mayfield, in contrast to Geno Smith, has actually had decent levels of success in the past. Prior to 2022, Geno Smith had never produced a single successful season at the NFL level. A breakout season, in 2023, wouldn’t be out of Baker’s character, nor would it be something we haven’t seen before. Factor in the talented weapons that Mayfield will have around him combined with the fact that Mayfield’s play caller was formerly Geno Smith’s quarterback coach, and in theory, Baker Mayfield is more likely to be Geno Smith than Geno Smith was.

Baker Mayfield’s career has had its ups and downs, but the ups have been high-up ups.

Mayfield’s two best seasons have been his debut season, 2018, and two years later in 2020. As a rookie, Baker played in 14 games. With nearly a 2:1 Touchdown to interception ratio, he threw 27 scores and just 14 interceptions. The number one overall pick injected life and energy into Cleveland, and a Browns team that had seemingly spent ages lacking any form of hope. In his rookie campaign, Mayfield totaled over 3,700 yards through the air and led the Cleveland Browns to a 7-8-1 record.

Oakland Raiders vs Cleveland Browns Set Number: X162178 TK1

Two years later, Mayfield was at it again. While the Buccaneers were en route to winning their second Super Bowl title, Baker Mayfield was having a career season. Cleveland was rocking behind their new, brash, franchise quarterback. The Browns qualified for postseason play and registered their first winning season since 2007. Baker Mayfield had the Browns playing relevant games in December and January— he, and Cleveland, had arrived.

The face of football in Ohio passed for 3,563 yards and 26 touchdowns. Even more impressive, the former Oklahoma Sooner cut his interceptions all the way down to eight, giving him a better than 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio. The Browns entered the playoffs on the road against their bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger had the Steelers at 12-4 with the division crown. The underdog Browns, led by Mayfield, went into their rivals’ house and took home a playoff victory. In his first career postseason start, Baker Mayfield put up big numbers— 263 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Their playoff run would end one week later when the Browns were matched up against the Kansas City Chiefs. In a tight contest, Mayfield did toss his fourth career playoff touchdown pass, but couldn’t do enough to advance his team into the AFC Championship. The Browns lost 22-17.

Throughout his career, Baker Mayfield has put good play on tape, and bad play on tape. There can always be a laundry list of reasons and/or excuses for a player’s inconsistencies, but the facts are plainly— Baker Mayfield, over long stretches of whole seasons, has shown he has what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Is Baker Mayfield an elite quarterback? No, most likely not.

Has Baker Mayfield shown that if he has a good team around him, he can produce at a high level? Absolutely.

The Buccaneers have been spoiled rotten with expectations of division titles and playoff runs the last three seasons because of Tom Brady. While that was a three-year stretch Buccaneers fans will and should remember forever, it’s important to keep perspective. This is a team, who just five seasons ago, had its fan base clamoring for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fans were so starved for a true franchise quarterback that, ‘Fitz-magic’ took over Tampa Bay. Again—

Is Baker Mayfield an elite quarterback? No, most likely not.

Could the Buccaneers do much worse? Yes, and they have.

If Baker Mayfield, who is only 28 years old and at one point in his career was a budding superstar in the NFL, comes in and performs at a high level, as he has in the past, the Buccaneers are very likely to have a successful season. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a successful season, Mayfield will get a large share of the credit and he will be set up for a Geno Smith-esque payday heading into 2024.


Baker Mayfield might actually turn out to be a franchise quarterback for the Bucs.

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