Position review: Bucs on the clock for a game-changing QB

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon (left) threw a career-high 14 interceptions compared to 11 touchdowns and QB Josh McCown closed with 1,417 passing yards with 10 touchdowns in six games.

There can be no more following a direction that leads to nowhere. There can be no more acceptance of folly behind center, of a gaping hole when a true answer must be found.

It’s time for change.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you’re on the clock.

Another season passed with more failure at quarterback. Josh McCown was sold to the fan base as a calm, collected veteran only to unravel before everyone’s eyes. Mike Glennon was presented as the quarterback of the future only to falter when given a chance to prove his time was now.

Tick tock, tick tock, the Bucs continue to wait for their franchise quarterback.

Could this be the year he is found?

It’s possible. By securing the NFL draft’s No. 1 selection for the first time since 1987, Tampa Bay has its pick of Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston. Of course, the Bucs could trade down (hello, Chip Kelly) or choose a promising talent at another position (hello, offensive tackle). But either of those directions would be a large letdown for starved fans looking for a reason to climb from their storm shelters after a 2-14 embarrassment.

"I think for the most part everybody that played this year, we’ve taken into consideration where we were, but we got a pretty good evaluation of everyone," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "I feel pretty good about that."

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That evaluation of the quarterbacks shouldn’t lead to a grade higher than an "F." In a quarterback-driven league, there are two types of teams: Those that enjoy a bounty with Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning, etc., and there are those that live on scraps while searching for the next big thing. The Bucs have fallen into the second category far too long.

So before dreaming about what could be ahead behind center, here’s a glance back at the dark developments of 2014 …

STARTER

Josh McCown — He was billed as a smart, safe pick to lead the Bucs’ offense after he was named Smith’s pick as starter in free agency. However, McCown was anything but composed throughout most of the season. The former Chicago Bears backup played in 11 games, the most since appearing in 14 for the Arizona Cardinals in 2004, but he threw a career-high 14 interceptions compared to 11 touchdowns. Particularly early in the fall, some of his decisions in the pocket were odd and almost rookie-like in their recklessness. At 35 years old, McCown had a chance to capitalize on a golden chance late in his career to make good on the trust placed in him. Instead, he led one of the NFL’s worst offenses, and the Bucs continue to search for that elusive answer at quarterback.

BACKUP

Mike Glennon — After being dubbed Smith’s "quarterback of the future" last spring, the second-year NC State product could have made the starting job his own after McCown was sidelined with a right thumb injury sustained in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3. Instead, Glennon announced his demotion on his own radio show when McCown was ready to return before a Week 10 matchup against those same Falcons. Glennon led the Bucs to a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4, and he closed with 1,417 passing yards with 10 touchdowns in six games, but he was too inconsistent in finishing with six interceptions. He threw at least one pick in each of his five starts, and he closed with a so-so 57.6 completion percentage. Aside from the upset in Pittsburgh, the Bucs never showed enough spark with Glennon to answer all the questions that surround his future.

POSSIBLE FREE-AGENT TARGETS

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It’s unlikely that the Bucs will target a quarterback in free agency. Their attempt to improve talent at the position will probably come in the draft with the No. 1 overall selection. It’s possible that Glennon could be dealt in a trade to improve depth at the position, but if Smith truly believes in Glennon’s potential, then No. 8 staying put in pewter and red wouldn’t surprise either. The franchise needs a face of the future behind center, plain and simple. It’s time to take a quarterback at the top of the draft.

BEST DRAFT OPTIONS

The question is simple, but the choice is hard: Mariota or Winston? Both include positives. Both include concerns. Still, there has been too much reading of the tea leaves of late when trying to understand what the hires of Dirk Koetter as offensive coordinator and Mike Bajakian as quarterbacks coach mean for the Mariota/Winston debate. Let the process play out. Likely, with the Super Bowl still to be played, the Bucs don’t even know whom they’ll select yet. So much study remains, but if Tampa Bay selects a quarterback with the No. 1 pick, there will be much-needed excitement injected into the fan base.

FINAL THOUGHT

Change is needed, period. The Bucs can’t enter next season with the status quo intact, with McCown as their starter and Glennon as the backup/quarterback of the future/potential trade bait. Selecting either Mariota or Winston would provide hope for the future after a dreadful season in which McCown and Glennon led the Bucs’ offense into a dead end, with help from former quarterbacks coach/acting offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo. Can the Bucs, finally, make their quarterback situation right? They must or more losing seasons are on the way.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.