The Tampa Bay Buccaneers broke into the win column Monday night with a 22-19 jump-out-early, choke-it-away then come-from-behind victory over the Miami Dolphins. The Bucs sit at 1-8 currently and feel no pain.
That bliss won’t last long.
Soon—and we’re talking a day here, not days—the decision-makers in One Buc Place will realize that while the euphoria of the win was fantastic, this Tampa Bay team won’t make the playoffs and its only hope is to rebuild and come back stronger in 2014.
With the talent on this roster, improving quickly in 2014 is an attainable goal. The offense is flush with playmakers in wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, whose injured hamstring should be ready by 2014, and running backs Doug Martin and Mike James. Martin is on injured reserve with a torn labrum, and James left Monday’s game with an ankle fracture, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported.
For #Bucs RB Mike James, X-rays revealed an ankle fracture, per source. He is out indefinitely. Had 5 carries for 41 yards before exiting.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 12, 2013
Both Martin and James should be ready for the 2014 season and should make a formidable one-two punch at running back.
That leaves Mike Glennon as the guy to throw the ball and hand it off to these guys. And therein lies a problem.
While Glennon possesses a cannon arm and a prototypical quarterback’s frame at 6’6” and 225 pounds, he’s not really looking like the answer under center for the Buccaneers long-term.
Glennon completed just 11 passes on Monday and just 52.4 percent of his throws. He connected on a score through the air, but he also threw an interception and made a number of horrible decisions tossing the ball into heavy traffic. The rookie quarterback made way too many deep throws down the field and looked erratic doing so.
It’s in Tampa Bay’s best interest to spend a large amount of time working with Glennon between now and next year’s NFL draft. Developing the 23-year-old passer makes more sense than the alternative of using a high (possibly the first pick in the draft) first-round pick on another quarterback.
Glennon, who was drafted in the third round of the 2013 draft to be Josh Freeman’s backup, started his sixth game of the season Monday night. He’s thrown only four interceptions in those six games, but that’s about the best talking point for Glennon.
Glennon isn’t making enough of a difference on offense. He's only averaging 217.3 passing yards and 1.5 touchdown passes per game. He’s completing just 59.6 percent of his passes.
If Glennon can’t show the Buccaneers that he’s good enough to start and be the long-term answer moving forward, Tampa Bay might choose to look at next year’s draft class—one that’s rich in quarterback talent—and pull the trigger early on a franchise passer.
Glennon has seven more games to prove to general manager Mark Dominik and the Glazer family he can put this Tampa Bay team on his back and guide the franchise to winning ways. If he can’t do that, Dominik might look at Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater or Oregon star Marcus Mariota to turn things around.
The Buccaneers are still in line to get one of the first two picks in next year’s draft, and Bridgewater and Mariota are likely going to be the two biggest draws at quarterback.
But if Tampa Bay could go in a different direction with that early pick, wins in 2014 might come more quickly.
If the Buccaneers have the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft, whom should the team pick?
Say Glennon burns it up over his last seven games and the Buccaneers don’t have to draft a quarterback early. If that were the case, they could look at South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in the first round.
Heading into Monday night, Tampa Bay had just 17 sacks on the season; only five NFL teams had fewer. Tampa Bay pulled down Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill just twice in the game, meaning Clowney’s incredible pass-rush skills could be of immense value to this team.
The Buccaneers have incredible young talent at linebacker in Lavonte David, and they spent a king’s ransom on the secondary prior to the 2013 season. Add a fierce pass-rush option like Clowney to that defense, and 2014 looks like a lot of fun in Tampa.
But this scenario hinges on Glennon.
If the Buccaneers can coach Glennon up enough to show real signs of development, real signs he could lead a talented team to a winning record, Tampa Bay has options. If not, the Buccaneers spend a lot of time scouting Bridgewater and Mariota or scouring the free-agent pool for a starting quarterback.
The best option for Tampa Bay’s short-term future is for Glennon to step up, and he’s going to need a lot of help from his coaching staff to comply.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.
Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of 100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.