Baker Mayfield crashed, hard.
The Rams quarterback led his new team to a historically-improbable Thursday night win against Las Vegas in Week 14, driving 98 yards and throwing a go-ahead touchdown in about a minute and a half, all after being claimed by them off waivers from Carolina just 40 hours prior.
After that, Mayfield said, he slept for “probably about a day and a half.” He has since processed that night in a series of flashes — “guys communicating with me … clocking the ball late in the game … (center) Brian Allen yelling in my face what the cadence is … Sean (McVay) yelling in my ear … little things like that.”
Then, it was back to work, to prepare for his first start as a Ram — against the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football, in freezing Lambeau temperatures.
Mayfield has four games to present his best possible resume, most likely (the Rams believe) for another team interested in signing him as a starter in free agency. The 4-9 Rams, while all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason, would like to go out swinging and get a good evaluation of their younger players in the process, with so many stars injured.
“I think you just take it a day at a time. You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself,” McVay said after the wild win. “I think we’ll just at least have a little bit more normalcy to a weekly rhythm. You still don’t want to be naïve to the fact that there’s a lot of things that we’ve got to continue to try to be able to build on.”
It’s mid-December. Consider this: Mayfield is not just learning the Rams’ playbook for the first time. He’s also balancing that effort with game planning for opponents each week, starting with the Packers.
“I still think you have to be cognizant of the amount of information that a quarterback’s responsible for,” McVay said. “You want to give it to him in bite-size increments, you want to be mindful of (getting) a good, tight game plan together that is reflective of what the 10 guys around him are comfortable with (and) what he’s comfortable with.”
Some of the philosophical or foundational principles cross over. Mayfield worked with Kevin Stefanski and Bill Callahan in Cleveland, two operators of the McVay/Kyle/Mike Shanahan offensive system that is so prolific throughout the NFL. As it pertains to the general responsibilities of the offensive line and protection calls, the language is universally shared within that system regardless of where it’s being run.