Baker Outplays Watson – Again

Deshaun Watson’s 2023 season has come to an untimely end. Only days after a glorious victory over the Ravens, Watson’s MRI showed a broken shoulder. So, before the season rolls on, let’s take a look at how Watson did versus Baker Mayfield in the first 10 weeks of the season.

In case you don’t know, back in January, I demonstrated that Baker put up better stats during the 2022 season than Watson did. Well, you may be delighted to know that Baker out-played Watson again in 2023.

Watson had a large advantage over Baker in that he began the season with a pretty fantastic Browns team. Meanwhile, Baker was stuck with what many analysts considered the very worst team in the league: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Plagued with injuries, Watson played much less than Baker, so lets take a look at some averages.

Watson completed 105 of 171 pass attempts for 61.4%.
Baker completed 197 of 305 pass attempts for 64.6%.

Baker’s TDs-per-attempt was 4.6% versus Watson’s 4.1%
Baker’s interceptions-per-attempt was 1.6% vs Watson’s 2.3%
Baker’s yards-per-attempt was 7.0 vs Watson’s 6.5%
Baker’s quarterback rating was 93.7 vs Watson’s 84.3
Baker’s sacks-per-attempt was 5.0% vs Watson’s 9.0%

Even though Watson had far fewer passing attempts, he still managed to get sacked more than Baker. Watson was sacked 17 times vs Baker’s 16. While he’s not as fast as Watson, Baker is very slippery.

So, once again, Baker beat out Watson on nearly every metric you care to look at.

Baker has also been hampered by a coaching staff that has been trying to fix its running game. In 2022, the Buccaneers ran the ball less than any other team in the league: 32% of plays. This season, they have jacked that percentage up to 42%.

That’s a problem because the Buccaneers ground game has been terrible, racking up a measly 3.1 yards-per-carry; the very worst in the league. The team’s grand strategy has been a complete failure. Many times, while trailing deep into the game, the Buccaneers would call yet another running play that would go nowhere instead of letting Baker throw the ball to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, or Cade Otton. A top-tier guy like Evans should have 30 more targets than the paltry 70 he got. When Evans doesn’t get targets, you have to wonder if the Buccaneers are tanking. What other explanation could there be?

Head Coach Todd Bowles seemed like he prioritized fixing his ground game over winning games. This was hard on Baker, not only because he didn’t get to throw, but also because of the situations created. For example, two running plays to start a possession lead to a third and long. Now the defense knows Baker has to throw it, and the element of surprise is lost. It was pretty frustrating to watch.

Bowles is a defensive guy, and it shows. He needs to stop banging his head against the wall, give up on his dream of having a rushing offense, and unleash his passing offense. The team has a decent QB, excellent receivers, and an o-line that is fantastic at pass-pro. The team is built to thrive in the air. Why the hell would prioritize the ground game?

In any case, Baker is still having a good year, so I can’t complain too much.

Baker is only five months older than Watson. And since Baker is arguably a better QB than Watson, I don’t see why he doesn’t get more respect, not to mention, more money. Lots more.