I’ll be the first admit that I fell for it. The oldest trick in the book.
When an NFL head coach has you looking in one direction he’s likely trying to go in the other. Take Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith. Although the coach has yet to lead the Bucs onto the field for a single game, he’s already made quite an impression on the franchise.
Smith wasted no time after his hire (and the eventual general manager hire of Jason Licht) to begin building the team in his image. Free agent defensive studs like corner Alterraun Verner, end Michael Johnson, or safety Major Wright, were added to the depth chart. Rising offensive lineman Anthony Collins and Evan Dietrich-Smith signed on for the voyage as well.
The only real hole that needed to be filled was the quarterback position. Who could man the Bucs’ proverbial ship in 2014? Mike Glennon was an option but with only a rookie season on his resume’ he looked more risk than reward. Enter former Chicago Bears passer Josh McCown. The journeyman started for a time in the Arizona Cardinals organization. Just this past season, though, he raised eyebrows filling in for an injured Jay Cutler. Only five starts garnered a 109.0 passer rating to go along with 13 touchdowns and only 1 pick.
One of the eyebrows raised was Smith’s. After signing McCown it appeared the Glennon era had come to a short and abrupt end. Stuck between an aged never-was and a youthful never-will-be, Smith started courting college quarterbacks like he was a south beach sports agent.
Smith would gush over media darling Johnny Manziel and watch Blake Bortles’ pro day with eager anticipation. A bounty of quarterback riches filled NFL draft boards. Wouldn’t the Bucs try to nab one of the many names available to cultivate their “QB of the future?”
The only signal-caller the Bucs would target wasn’t a national headline at all, but rather a lesser-known college free agent Brett Smith from Wyoming. It’s hard not to like what Smith (Brett) brings to the table, but he is no where near the investment of a first or second round draft pick. Smith (Brett) may not even make the team.
During the draft, Smith (Lovie) declared that Glennon was in fact the “quarterback of the future.” Moments after making the first pick the head coach was quoted by ESPN,
“Just talking about our quarterback position, our quarterback position is as strong as any quarterback position I’ve had when I’ve been a head coach. You know how much I like Josh McCown as our starter. I love Mike Glennon. Mike Glennon is our quarterback of the future here. So why would you want to add a third quarterback to the mix? We needed other positions. Forget just the quarterback position, we thought this was the best available player for us. It was an easy decision for us.”
Was Smith lying before the draft? Trying to misdirect other teams and the media regarding his true intentions? Likely. Every team does it. The bigger question is, is Smith telling the truth now? Does he really believe that Glennon IS the quarterback of the future? There’s an old saying: watch what they do not what they say.
If I were to guess, Smith was never that sold on any of the quarterbacks of the 2014 class to begin with. He might have liked a few, but didn’t see any that were more than the project Glennon is. Why waste a pick on a young developing quarterback when you already have one.
By building around the quarterback position the Bucs have provided McCown or Glennon the tools needed to show what they have. Both Licht and Smith spent the off-season answering questions at every level of the depth chart. Now only one position remains to be answered. That’s what this season is all about. If the Bucs aren’t contending for a championship they might well find out if they have rostered a quarterback worth keeping.
It was the plan all along. Well, at least it’s the plan now.