In the first 48 hours of Baker Mayfield with the Rams and his stunning debut win
- December 9, 2022
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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — As Baker Mayfield walked from the podium to the locker room after his post-game press conference, he stopped and addressed a Los Angeles Rams public relations officer.
“Where the hell am I going?” asked Mayfield.
Given that this was the quarterback’s first time in the SoFi Stadium locker room, the question didn’t come as much of a surprise. Mayfield, a member of the Rams for just two days after being released from waivers, had just led them to a thrilling 17-16 win over the Las Vegas Raiders after entering the fourth quarter 13 points down .
Mayfield came into the game ready but didn’t know he was going in until starting quarterback John Wolford was taken out after the first series.
There was an abridged list of plays Mayfield studied that led to the game, but it wasn’t long before the Rams “got out of that little list and got into some other things,” he said.
The comeback victory capped three “emotional” and “hectic” days for Mayfield.
“I don’t know if you can spell it any better,” Mayfield said. “Obviously we’d like to be a little less stressful, but it’s a hell of a story, I’ll be honest with you.”
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AFTER LANDING Tuesday night and reaching the Rams’ facility around 9 p.m. Mayfield received a “crash course” on Sean McVay’s offense.
He relied on McVay, offense coordinator Liam Coen, quarterbacks coach/passing coordinator Zac Robinson, and also quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Wolford and Bryce Perkins to learn offense.
“I felt good about his ability to come in and do some of the things that we asked for because I’ve seen him before, but you never know,” McVay said. “…But I think he plays fast. You could see when he sees things he can speed it up.
“I was really impressed. I don’t know if I would say surprised because I’ve always been a fan of the things he was capable of, but to say I expected that certainly exceeded our expectations. But it was like that.” It was a lot of fun watching him go to work tonight.”
Mayfield, who was on the podium wearing a hat with “not my first rodeo” written on the side, laughed when asked about it.
“It was my first rodeo to do that,” Mayfield said. “I will say that.”
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But really, Mayfield drew on his own experience as he learned at least part of the Rams’ playbook over the past two days. He noted how many different offensive systems he had to learn in his first five NFL seasons: four years in Cleveland and then half a season in Carolina. It’s all handy, Mayfield said, because it allowed him to reference specific things from McVay’s system.
“Sean’s protection system is similar to [Browns offensive line coach] Bill Callahan’s that I had in Cleveland,” Mayfield said. “So the terminology with that, which erases a lot of the learning curve.”
Mayfield said his new teammates and coaches “did a great job helping me and communicating when I came off the field on the sidelines and just talking about the upcoming games.” And center Brian Allen “yelled in my face , which was the cadence for it because we didn’t cover it, and Sean was yelling in my ear too.”
“There were definitely still some what looked like rookie mistakes with formations in movements,” admitted Mayfield. “Obviously it hurt us late, but it worked out.”
During that final two-minute ride, McVay realized something. Trailing 16-10 with no timeouts left, the offense had to be careful about clocking the ball to ensure they had enough time to go 98 yards down the field.
“Those are parts of Day 1 or your early parts of the training camp setup that you go through situationally,” McVay said. “You can only cover so much in a short week of him coming in. So it was impressive. But football is football. This guy is a competitor. He’s a player. So many great games from a lot of guys tonight and Baker went ahead.”
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MAYFIELD’s efforts did not go unnoticed even before the Rams rallied late Thursday night. Wide receiver Ben Skowronek, who led the team with seven catches for 89 yards, including 32- and 22-yard catches on the last drive, described Mayfield as “a hell of a football player.”
“Whatever happens from now on, I have nothing but respect for Baker Mayfield,” Skowronek said. “For a guy to come in like that, work his dick off for 48 hours during the game schedule, learn our names… stuff like that. Hats off to him.”
McVay pointed to the details Mayfield wrote in his notebook as one reason he was able to quickly catch up. Mayfield had one practice, McVay said, with two 10-play periods. Typical Friday practice for the Rams, but on a Wednesday.
“He came in and worked right away,” said wide receiver Van Jefferson. “He got out onto the practice field and just threw it.”
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Mayfield’s game-winning touchdown pass went to Jefferson, someone he was actually familiar with before becoming his teammate. In fact, he had hoped to be his teammate much sooner.
“Van and I are going back,” Mayfield said. “I’m not very happy with Van so far. I tried to get him to come around [play college football at] Oklahoma. He would not write or call back. He owes me. And he caught me right there.”
Mayfield and his new head coach also go way back. The pair sat side by side on a Southwest flight to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine in 2018. The Rams weren’t in the quarterback market this year, having suffered a Super Bowl loss with Jared Goff at quarterback, but when McVay saw the future No. 1 pick sitting on a plane, he couldn’t resist smuggling himself to him to connect.
“I think I saw him right there and said, ‘I’m going to keep you from having to talk to anyone,'” McVay said. “…I had about 30 minutes where I would give him his quiet time and then be like, ‘All right, let’s talk to a ballman.'”
McVay made a good impression.
“This guy loves football,” Mayfield said. “I mean, he’s ball, ball, ball all the time. And you can tell he’s a relationship guy too. … We only got to know each other a little bit and only on a philosophical and personal level.”
Thankfully, McVay and Mayfield have some extra time to work on the Rams’ playbook.
Between the Thursday night game in Week 14 and a Monday night game in Week 15, Mayfield now has 11 days to continue studying before the Rams head to Green Bay to play the Packers.
That time will give the Rams an opportunity to “give him the totality of some of the different things that we can use with his skills and the 10 players that are playing around him,” McVay said. “So it’s going to be fun.”
And while it’s been a whirlwind for Mayfield, his Rams teammates are looking forward to seeing what’s next.
“I look forward to going to war with him,” Skowronek said. “I will go to war with him any day. He’s the kind of competitor you want to play with.”