National Football League
Baker Mayfield's challenge? Getting others to believe in him again
National Football League

Baker Mayfield's challenge? Getting others to believe in him again

Updated Oct. 12, 2022 4:50 p.m. ET

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

Listening to Baker Mayfield, never mind the injured ankle, bruised ego, ailing performance record and all, is like attending a seminar that extols the virtues of positive thinking.

Point out that his job is being called into question, and he’ll challenge you, and demand to know if you’re one of the questioners. He’s questioning nothing. He’s confident in where he’s at.

He feels that way because there’s a lot of football left. That’s just how he’s wired. He doesn’t live in the past; he lives in the moment. He’s going to figure it out. He’s going to move forward.


We know these things because Mayfield himself said them last weekend, and we heard them because, as the Carolina Panthers’ first-choice quarterback, it’s his privilege and responsibility to speak after games.

How much we hear moving forward, and how long his status as starter lasts? Well, that’s up in the air right now, as the former No. 1 pick finds himself in the most precarious spot of his five-season pro career.

"I think there is a chance that Sunday was his last start," FS1’s Nick Wright said on "First Things First." "He has been statistically the worst QB in football this year. We are going to see how long he is out for."

Wrong about Baker Mayfield?

The Panthers fired Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start to the season. Nick Wright reacts to the news, including Baker Mayfield's role in the whole thing.

Remember when it was thought, somewhat widely, that the Panthers had enough depth to possibly make a run at the postseason and that Mayfield’s brand of brash bustle could help them to a winning campaign? That didn’t last long, did it?

And so, five weeks in, there are just a few things we know for certain.

That Matt Rhule is no longer in charge, fired on Monday after a 1-4 beginning that promised more failure to follow.

That Mayfield won’t be on the field for a couple of weeks and maybe more after sustaining a high ankle sprain in a 37-15 thumping by the San Francisco 49ers. And that former XFL QB P.J. Walker will be given the chance to show what he can do this weekend against the Los Angeles Rams.

Beyond that? Anyone’s guess. Sam Darnold — who also has a high ankle sprain — is rehabbing and will be an option for the new coach before too long. The rumor mill is starting to churn concerning a potential fire sale of the team’s best talent, a sense that the likes of running back Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore could be available for picks.

"The Panthers are open for business," added Wright. "They don’t matter to the NFL for the rest of the season. Why they matter is because other teams could get their piece. The Panthers are the team that is open for business and teams should be calling."

If this is the beginning of the end for Mayfield in Carolina — where he is on a one-year contract that’s mostly being paid for by the Cleveland Browns — it is hard to see where there would be a neat and obvious landing spot next, which is precisely why this saga has a crossroads kind of feel to it.

After getting shoved out of Cleveland, the chances of there being a team willing to give him what he wants, appear decidedly slim. He doesn’t jump off the page as a viable starting option, not even for desperate teams. The touted role of effusive and bullish leader for a scrappy but understrength team is not the right fit, or at least it hasn’t been in Carolina.

Rebuilding as a quality backup somewhere doesn’t feel ideal either, largely because Mayfield might have a hard time convincing a franchise that he’s the right man to stand quietly in the shadows, patiently working for and rooting for another.

This perhaps leaves only his ability to convince a team with strong surrounding parts but little spare money that he is the guy, that he can provide something close to elite play while on a non-elite salary and allow the monetary savings to be spent elsewhere to build a forceful lineup.

Problem is, there are others who can make that argument more strongly. Jimmy Garoppolo certainly springs to mind, depending on how things play out for him in San Francisco. If you were a GM in such a spot next summer would you take the plunge on Mayfield, or seek to unearth a cut-price diamond in the NFL Draft?

Given how quickly things have turned sour, how’s Mayfield feeling about everything?

"A lot of frustration," Mayfield told reporters. "And then, the more you think about it, angry because we haven't played to our capability, to be honest with you. That's the frustrating part.

"You work all week, come out on Sundays, you have to make the plays that are there. You have to take advantage of our one-on-ones and some of those plays that we have."

Mayfield still has the character and personality and swagger of a former No. 1 pick. He has the name, the recognizability. He has the knack of generating headlines, just by being Baker.

We are getting to a point where none of that is enough, not anymore.

Mayfield won’t stop believing in himself and doing things his way, which is to say they’ll be done at full speed and with full positivity.

Getting others to share that same belief? That’s the biggest challenge now.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.


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