Could quarterback Baker Mayfield hand the Carolina Panthers one final embarrassment before their dismal 2023 campaign comes to an end?
This season can be best described as an embarrassment. Collectively, it hasn't been good enough. There have also been some specific shames for the Carolina Panthers with the league's worst record officially confirmed.
It's been a catastrophe. But the football Gods could have one more knife to twist before everyone goes their separate ways.
Former Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield returns to Bank of America Stadium with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend. This should be reason enough for motivation, but the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft gets the chance to win a divisional crown versus the team that cast him aside midway through the previous campaign.
Baker Mayfield can hand Carolina Panthers one final embarrassment
This was an obvious question put to Mayfield during his recent media availability. The Oklahoma product highlighted the extra purpose of the upcoming occasion based on comments via USA Today Sports. One also got the sense that any resentment the signal-caller held was directed at the higher-ups and not those within the locker room.
"My mentality playing against the Panthers — the guys in the locker room are great. For other reasons, I’ll be extremely motivated to play. Obviously, the division is on the line. There’s many things. Everyone in our locker room should be motivated, not just me personally."- Baker Mayfield via USA Today Sports
Mayfield is speaking about those whomade the trade and didn't give him any chance to thrive. It's been a hard slog back to relevancy, but the player has the opportunity to get the last laugh by winning the NFC South in front of the likes of general manager Scott Fitterer and team owner David Tepper.
This is the latest in a series of horrific scenarios to unfortunately befall the Panthers this season - one of the worst in franchise history. Giving up the No. 1 overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft is right at the top. Tepper's drink-throwing incident is another. Mayfield winning the division in a place he wasn't deemed good enough is the icing on top of a very bitter-tasting cake.
One doesn't have to look far around the league to see ex-Panthers players thriving. The likes of Christian McCaffrey, Stephon Gilmore, D.J. Moore, Rasul Douglas, Haason Reddick, and countless others seem to take their games to new heights upon leaving such a toxic workplace. If Mayfield clinches a postseason berth on home soil, he'll be another.
The Panthers are a complete mess, that much is glaringly obvious. Suspect decision-making. Questionable roster personnel moves. Paying the wrong people while more accomplished performers walk. It's been a chain of events that saw Carolina descend into the NFL's laughing stock.
Nobody is saying Mayfield's performances didn't leave a lot to be desired. He didn't play well. He was also set up to fail and made a scapegoat at the first opportunity by a leadership structure that could not properly evaluate any position group looking at the current state of affairs.
Beating the Panthers - condemning them to a 2-15 record on the season - would be sweet vindication for Mayfield. He looked like a broken man a little more than a year ago. Now, it looks like he's one good display away from getting another contract with the Buccaneers.
As for the Panthers? They'll be the ones casting envious glances after another season of abject misery.