Can Baker Mayfield prove that Matt Rhule was the problem?

(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports) Baker Mayfield
(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports) Baker Mayfield /

How can Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield prove that former head coach Matt Rhule was the problem in Week 11 at the Baltimore Ravens?

It’s funny how things work sometimes. The Carolina Panthers were not planning on putting Baker Mayfield into the firing line after an adequate display from P.J. Walker on Thursday Night Football versus the Atlanta Falcons, which was the team’s most impressive triumph of the 2022 campaign so far.

Building on this will be especially difficult in Week 11 at the Baltimore Ravens, a team destined for playoff football thanks to an outstanding defense and the performance levels of quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Walker’s high-ankle sprain means the Panthers will roll with Mayfield versus an organization he’s clashed with plenty during his time on the Cleveland Browns. This familiarity when it comes to the opposition served him well when called upon at the Cincinnati Bengals, with Ben McAdoo’s offensive expansion in the immediate aftermath of Matt Rhule’s removal benefitting the former Oklahoma standout tremendously.

Baker Mayfield can emerge from Matt Rhule’s shadow in Week 11

This has led many to speculate whether it was Rhule’s absolute power overseeing football and personnel operations that was holding the Panthers’ offense back, not Mayfield and McAdoo. The introduction of interim head coach Steve Wilks has brought an extra level of professionalism, with his trust in the offensive coordinator to do things his way within a newfound ethos coming across significantly in a short space of time.

Mayfield has also noticed the changes since Rhule got the boot and Robbie Anderson and Christian McCaffrey were traded. Something that’s added to his own personal excitement of getting another crack at the starting job.

"“It’s just a very different situation. Some faces not here anymore, and that’s not being shady or anything; it’s just different. A lot of guys finding their roles and stepped up in a big way. We’ve just found our identity as time’s gone on, and I’m just looking forward to it.”"

Sunday’s game does appear to be the last chance for Mayfield to prove himself in Carolina. Wilks has already declared a willingness to get Sam Darnold involved if things don’t go according to plan, which only adds to the pressure on the Heisman Trophy winner’s shoulders as he looks to keep his fellow top-three selection from the 2018 NFL Draft off the field.

Should Mayfield perform well and perhaps keep this game closer than many anticipate, it would be a positive step in the right direction. Almost everything has to go right for Carolina to gain one of the league’s biggest shocks of 2022, but it’s not impossible providing everyone plays up to or above the level expected.

This starts and ends with Mayfield. If he plays loose, keeps mistakes to a minimum, and also takes advantage of every opportunity, it will go a long way to proving beyond all doubt that he wasn’t the complication holding this team back.

Mayfield’s production before he missed time doesn’t leave much cause for optimism. But what transpired in the second half against the Bengals does if the signal-caller seizes the moment with the spotlight glaring once again.

Wilks and McAdoo should have Mayfield ready for every eventuality. Whether that will be enough for the polarizing quarterback to get one over on a familiar foe is highly debatable.

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