Trent Dilfer took some time to discuss Baker Mayfield’s outlook as a starter, Jared Goff’s rise to stardom and Carson Wentz’s road coming back from injury.
The 2018 NFL season is in full swing. One overriding theme thus far has been the outstanding play from the quarterback position. The league officials have put a continued emphasis on protecting the quarterback, especially on the body-weight rule in the early part of the season. One guy who is absolutely loving the elite quarterbacking he’s seen is Super Bowl XXXV Champion of the Baltimore Ravens and former Pro Bowl quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Trent Dilfer.
Dilfer spent some time with me on Friday morning discussing all things NFL quarterback. America saw a great game on Thursday night between the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Rams, one where Jared Goff went off by throwing for 465 yards, five touchdowns and no picks in a shootout win 38-31 over Kirk Cousins’ Vikings.
Last Thursday night, America saw No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield enter the game in relief of Tyrod Taylor versus the New York Jets down at home after halftime. While Mayfield didn’t throw a touchdown in his NFL debut, he led the Cleveland Browns to their first regular season win since Christmas Eve 2016 over the then San Diego Chargers. Yes, it was that long ago.
Week 3 also gave us the return of last year’s NFL MVP front-runner Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles. He played well in Week 3, as the Eagles defeated Andrew Luck’s Indianapolis Colts 20-16 in his first game back from an ACL tear suffered last December.
“So I do think Jared has command of this offense. I think we’re only going to see him get better as his time with McVay goes on.” – Trent Dilfer on if Jared Goff has full command of Sean McVay’s complex offense.
Dilfer had plenty to say on all three, but is already excited about the work he’s doing with Panini America this year. For the fifth year in a row, he’ll be coaching the Panini Super Bowl Kid Reporter to ask questions at media day during Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.
“[On] Monday media night, I coach the kid up on how to be a kid reporter and we go to the front of the lines of all the booths at media night and these kids get to ask questions of these superstar players,” said Dilfer. “It’s obviously awesome for the kid, but the cool things that have come out of it is how cool it is for the players. Players LOVE to talk to this kid reporter. They engage the kid and throw follow-up questions back at the kid. It’s almost a breath of fresh air for the players on media night to deal with the kid reporter instead of the normal reporter.”
With Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta this year, it looks like through four games Atlanta native Sean McVay could have his Rams representing the NFC. The Rams won their only Super Bowl to date coincidentally in Atlanta right next door to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the old Georgia Dome. Then in St. Louis, the Rams beat interestingly enough, McVay’s predecessor in Jeff Fisher’s Tennessee Titans on the final play. If the Rams are going to dominate the final three quarters of the season, they’ll need Goff to continue to play out of his mind.
When asked if third-year pro Goff has full control of McVay’s complex offense, Dilfer respond confidently with, “he’s a guy that has total command of the protection schemes, the route concepts, reading defenses. He’s going to know where you’re weak and he’s going to attack where you’re weak. He’s also a guy that can get through progressions, one of the biggest things you have to look for in a young quarterback…So I do think Jared has command of this offense. I think we’re only going to see him get better as his time with McVay goes on.”
Yes, it is absolutely a testament to the work that Goff has put in under McVay’s tutelage. However, Dilfer did point out that Goff has plenty of great players to work with. He’s spot-on in that assessment, as Todd Gurley might be the best running back in all of football and the receiving trio of Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and newcomer Brandin Cooks makes this arguably the best offense in the NFC.
But is Goff going to eclipse his fellow 2016 NFL Draft classmate in the Eagles’ Wentz? Dilfer doesn’t see it that way, as he likes both quarterbacks, as he should. They’re fantastic to watch go to work on fall Sundays.
“I think Carson by the second half of this season will be playing MVP type football again. He’s too talented, he’s too smart, he’s too tough to not play at that level.” – Trent Dilfer on when Carson Wentz’s climb back to superstardom.
“Well, I think they’re probably equal. I don’t like that conversation of who’s going to be better: Carson or Jared? Because when they came out, it thought it was either or. Like everybody would ask me, “Who would you take?” I’d take either. I love both kids. They’re both going to be really, really good.
They’re just a little different. Carson is going to be more of a playmaker. Carson is so big, physical and athletic. I bet he’s going to create some big plays because of that.
Jared is going to be a guy that is going to play on time most of his career. He’s going to use his brain, as much as his athleticism. And you’re seeing that. You saw that [Thursday] night especially.”
While Goff has somewhat ascended to stardom after his best performance as a pro in Week 4’s Thursday Night Football game versus the Vikings, Wentz is semi-quietly working his way back from an ACL tear that stopped from winning NFL MVP, coincidentally to the Rams in Los Angeles.
Though I may think he’ll need a full year to get completely right, Dilfer believes it may take only a month or so before we see Wentz back to playing at an MVP level.
“I think Carson is going to be fine,” asserted Dilfer. “I think anytime you come off a catastrophic injury, I think Andrew Luck is dealing with the same thing. It’s going to take a month, a month of playing before you’re fully confident again and you’re back…And I think we’ll see that with Carson. I think Carson by the second half of this season will be playing MVP-type football again. He’s too talented, he’s too smart, he’s too tough to not play at that level.”
Having Wentz back playing at an MVP level only makes Sundays more compelling. One city that has not had compelling quarterback play since the end of the Bernie Kosar era has been Cleveland.
“I think Baker’s big thing is he has to decide, or he can decide it: Is he going to be a completion guy or a playmaker? If he decides to be a completion guy like Drew Brees…he’s gonna be a hall of famer. If he thinks he’s going to be a playmaker, and be like Cam Newton…he’s going to be a disaster.” Trent Dilfer on Mayfield’s big decision on how to play quarterback in the NFL.
But that might all change with Mayfield now taking over the Browns offense from Taylor entering Week 4. Mayfield’s first start will be versus the Oakland Raiders in the Black Hole on Sunday afternoon.
When asked about Mayfield’s attributes as a passer beyond that of ball placement, accuracy and that one-of-a-kind swagger he has, Dilfer would add the following.
“Baker has everything you’re looking for in a passer and I try to keep this simple for people. No. 1, you obviously have to have enough arm talent. You don’t have to have the biggest arm in the world, but you have to have enough arm talent to get the ball to both boundaries, get it down the field, layer it over defenders in the middle of the field versus zone. Have enough juice on it to beat tight coverage, and Baker has all that.”
Frankly, Mayfield’s arm talent is a bit underrated, as he played in the Air Raid offense at Oklahoma for Mike Leach disciple Lincoln Riley. Mayfield can really spin it, but he has a big decision to make as a passer. Dilfer elaborated on that choice Mayfield is inevitably going to have to make.
“I think Baker’s big thing is he has to decide, or he can decide it: Is he going to be a completion guy or a playmaker? If he decides to be a completion guy like Drew Brees and just get the ball out of his hand, and trust his accuracy, and trust the people around him, he’s gonna be a hall of famer.
If he thinks he’s going to be a playmaker, and be like Cam Newton and these guys that run around, he’s going to be a disaster. He’s not quite athletic enough, big enough to be an all-the-time playmaker. I think he can be an absolute surgeon from the pocket. I think he can slice and dice people for the next 15 years, but he has to make a conscious decision that that’s how he’s going to play the game.”
That is certainly lofty praise for a guy that has yet to make an NFL start. Then again, this guy is a two-time walk-on, won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma and went No. 1 overall to the Browns in this most recent NFL Draft.
I spoke with Mayfield last winter shortly before he attended the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February. He mentioned that the two quarterbacks he is patterning his game after are Brees and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.
While Brees is Dilfer’s best comparison for a “completion guy”, Wilson is more in the vein of Newton as a “playmaker.” It can really go one of two ways for Mayfield: star or just another failed Browns starting quarterback.
Hopefully he sees the longevity that Brees has had with the New Orleans Saints playing from the pocket. There is also a lot to learn from Wilson scrambling for his life behind a terrible Seahawks offensive line up in the Pacific Northwest. Does he want to give it the old Fran Tarkenton try or not?
Week 4 is already off to a great start with Goff forcing himself into the early NFL MVP conversation in the Rams’ thrilling home victory over the Vikings. Let’s look forward to Mayfield playing with that boulder-sized chip on his shoulder versus the Raiders and to Wentz playing with confidence against a talented Tennessee Titans defense on Sunday.