The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a state of perpetual rebuilding. Ever since Super Bowl XXXVII, they’ve been trying to find the right formula to compete in arguably one of the NFL’s most unpredictable divisions. And given the fact that their chance for a resurgence comes at a time when the best quarterback in the division is likely on his way out, and the other franchise quarterback is still waiting for an extension, now would be a good time to find an identity.
As of right now, the Buccaneers are a team that has very little personality. Okay, maybe a few things, like the fact that they have arguably the tallest receiving corps in the NFL, or the fact that they haven’t developed a decent quarterback in the history of ever.
Which brings me to my point. The Buccaneers need to develop a franchise quarterback. I could have told Lovie Smith that Josh McCown was in no way an NFL starter. The fact that he did a decent job filling in for Jay Cutler last season was pretty much a given. Any quarterback can do Cutler’s job, Kyle Orton was somewhat respectable in his lone full season as a Broncos starter the year after Cutler left, Tim Tebow may have been wildly innaccurate, but he had a young receiving corps that made up for his deficiencies. And do we even need to talk about Peyton Manning?
The point here is that McCown is a mistake, and Glennon is no Russell Wilson or Philip Rivers.
Of course, this happens to be the year that two big name quarterbacks are available in the draft. There’s Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, who torched his competition en route to a Heisman trophy, and Jameis Winston, who has also won a Heisman, but has …baggage, to say it lightly.
The general consensus here is that Marcus Mariota is the given first overall pick if there is a quarterback-needy team drafting first overall, and given Tampa Bay’s situation, there’s a good chance that it will happen. Assuming that the current draft order works out the way it does, the top three quarterback needy teams will be the Buccaneers, the Titans (although there is speculation that Zach Mettenberger could be given one more year based on certain factors) and the Jets.
If the Buccaneers want to get out the perpetual rebuild, they will avoid Mariota like it’s their job, and here’s why.
The term “Product of his environment” is often used when describing a free agent who leaves an optimal situation for a more difficult one. Eric Decker, the former Denver Broncos wide receiver was considered an example this offseason when he left Peyton Manning in Denver for the muddy quarterback situation in New York. In baseball, power hitters who leave Colorado are often labeled as products of their environment because of the thin air that allows balls to travel further without wind resistance. But I digress.
Mariota is a product of his environment. The University of Oregon is a place where quarterbacks thrive. The offense is practically tailored for them to shred possibly the weakest defensive power conference in football. To provide proof, only one team (Stanford) was ranked in the top 50 this year out of all defenses in college football. The second highest team was ranked 66th, and that was USC. Incidentally, in the three seasons Mariota played for Oregon, the only team that consistently gave him trouble was Stanford. If that isn’t a clue that Mariota’s stats were inflated because he played defensive cupcakes, then I don’t know what is.
Mariota is also another example of a dual threat quarterback, a quarterback who can run and throw. Examples of dual threat quarterbacks in the NFL include Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Geno Smith, and Johnny Manziel, I’ll let the reader connect the dots on the implications here.
Although Mariota is highly accurate, and he’s justified being a first round draft pick, my feeling is that for a team to get the maximum return on him, the coach must tailor the offense around him, instead of wedging him in to another offense. Guys who come to mind that would work well with him are Chip Kelly, who incidentally was his coach in his first season at Oregon, and his current college coach, Mark Helfrich. Assuming Lovie Smith doesn’t survive past this year, if the Buccaneers are adamant on getting their Duck, they’ll need Helfrich in order to maximize his potential as a franchise quarterback.
Now, the title of the post also talks about Jameis Winston, the other first round potential signal caller in the draft. And for me, I think that Winston is the quarterback that teams should go after, and here’s why.
Winston is a pro style quarterback coming from a quarterback factory. Now granted, the quarterbacks that have come out of Florida State have been less than stellar, but these were guys who improved their draft stock, guys who otherwise would have gone in another round. Winston was pretty much hyped from the beginning, people knew that he was the genuine article, like Peyton Manning back in 1998, or Andrew Luck in 2012. While Winston is certainly no Manning or Luck, he’s definitely a certainty like them.
Winston also is a traditional passer with some running ability; while he’s no dual threat like Mariota, he can use his legs to get out of a situation, but not as a secondary weapon should his receivers be covered. Although his throwing motion is somewhat compromised due to the fact that he pitches also for the Seminoles baseball team, the idea is that it can be corrected.
Although Winston is the product of several… interesting off-the-field incidents, ranging from yelling **** her right in the ****** in the Student Union to stealing seafood from a Publix to alleged sexual assault of a woman, the idea is that kids do stupid things, and that Winston’s athletic talent is too hard to ignore. And while Winston has had a down year, especially given his interception totals mostly due to slower receivers, he has also never lost a game in college. Even if he lost to Oregon, unless he did something incredibly stupid or injured himself on a play, there’s no doubt that Winston would still be a first round prospect. The only way that Winston’s stock takes a major tumble is if he has a terrible scouting Combine.
The Buccaneers need a true franchise quarterback if they want to win in the future, and a gimmick from Oregon will never solve that problem. With proper development and discipline, Jameis Winston could actually develop into one of the premier signal callers in the NFL.