Buccaneers: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Quarterback
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head into the 2014 season with a very intriguing situation at the league's most important position.
On one hand, the Bucs have a veteran with a hot hand in Josh McCown, who is coming off an impressive 2013 campaign with the Bears. On the other is Mike Glennon, who, despite being a third-round rookie thrust into an adverse situation in many different ways, put up solid numbers and showed plenty of promise.
Mike Kafka currently sits behind those two, followed by YouTube trick-shot star Alex Tanney.
Is there really a clear-cut starter under center in Tampa Bay? Should it be the veteran coming off a hot streak or the sophomore who looks like the future of the position and already has valuable starting experience under his belt? Let's take a deeper look at the Bucs' quarterback situation.
Starter: Josh McCown
After signing the veteran free agent to a two-year contract this offseason, the Bucs' new regime wasted little time declaring Josh McCown the starter.
Despite the fact that Mike Glennon had started most of his rookie season in 2013 and posted respectable numbers, to say the least, head coach Lovie Smith has decided to go with McCown. The 34-year-old threw 13 touchdowns and just one interception for the Bears in relief of an injured Jay Cutler last season.
Though he's in his mid-30s, McCown doesn't have a ton of experience in the NFL, making just 38 starts over his 10 seasons in the league. The Bucs are McCown's fifth different NFL team over that stretch.
But what McCown lacks in experience he makes up for in other ways, such as his leadership ability, according to new Bucs general manager Jason Licht:
"What better person to have here to help Mike Glennon develop than Josh McCown? We win on both ends. That's the way we're looking at it. Any quarterback who would be here would benefit from Josh. (McCown) is eager because he's naturally a mentor on and off the field, with anybody he comes across."
One key to McCown's success in Chicago last season was the presence of two big, physical receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The Bucs have given their new quarterback a similar set of weapons in Tampa this season with receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, as well as tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, all of whom are 6'5" tall.
Bucs fans likely won't be believers in McCown until he shows he can play consistently at a high level, but the team has made plenty of moves in the offseason that should put him in the best possible position to do just that.
Backup: Mike Glennon
It's not often that a third-round pick at quarterback throws 19 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions as a rookie and then finds himself in a backup role the following season.
But that's exactly the situation for Mike Glennon heading into the 2014 season, as he takes a back seat to veteran free-agent acquisition Josh McCown.
The North Carolina State product took over the starting job after just three games in 2013, replacing the embattled Josh Freeman. Glennon performed admirably, especially considering the season-long run of injuries along the offensive line and in the backfield, as well as the MRSA issue the team faced.
Heading into the offseason, there was plenty of chatter about Glennon possibly not being the right fit for new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford's system, prompting many to believe the Bucs might target their future franchise quarterback in this year's draft.
But the draft came and went without the Bucs selecting a quarterback at all, and Glennon received a resounding vote of confidence from new head coach Lovie Smith, after the team reportedly fielded several trade offers for him:
"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."
Smith has made it clear on multiple occasions how much he thinks of Glennon:
"I've been in position meetings with Mike, I've been around Mike in every environment that you can think of, and then just watch him on the football field and what you ask a quarterback to do. Smart. Makes checks. And then throw the football. Mike can make all the throws. I knew what he can do throwing-wise and all that before, but to just see it up close and personal.''
Though this year's draft class at quarterback had some attractive options, and next year's could be even better, it looks like Glennon is indeed the future at quarterback for the Bucs. At least for now.
3rd String: Mike Kafka
Currently third in the pecking order at quarterback, Mike Kafka was signed by the Bucs early on in the offseason process.
“Mike hasn’t played in a while, so we were just looking for a team right now. But who knows? If Mike plays well he could be the No. 2. But we have confidence that if Mike plays well, they’ll keep three.’’
However, with McCown entrenched as the starter and Mike Glennon the clear choice of the new regime to be the future franchise quarterback, it's possible that Kafka could be looked at as merely a camp arm. During his four-year NFL career, the Northwestern product has thrown just 16 passes and wasn't on an NFL roster during the 2013 regular season.
With the importance of depth at other positions, especially when special teams are considered, I would expect Kafka's roster spot to be used elsewhere by the Bucs come Week 1.
4th String: Alex Tanney
Most fans, however, know Tanney as the YouTube sensation whose trick-shot video has been viewed nearly four million times. Though the video is usually the first topic that comes up in any discussion or interview with the quarterback, Tanney hopes that his legacy lies in the NFL rather than being an Internet star.
Thankfully, Bucs head coach Lovie Smith is far more interested in what Tanney brings on the field as opposed to throwing at garbage cans or basketball hoops:
"We're always looking to improve our ball club, and each week we'll be bringing players in. If we feel like they're better than what we have on the roster at that time, we'll make a move. Alex came in and did a good job. I'm told he's a YouTube sensation or something like that. I'm behind the times on a lot of that. But on the football field, he did some good things, and we're going to go to camp with four quarterbacks, and he's our fourth one."
Tanney played his college football at Monmouth College in Illinois, and though his is a unique story that's easy to root for, don't expect Tanney to make the final 53-man roster this fall.
Does Glennon Have a Legit Shot at the Starting Job?
Even though head coach Lovie Smith has been publicly clear that Josh McCown is his starting quarterback, things might not be set in stone at this point, according to The Tampa Tribune's Roy Cummings:
"I'd say they're probably kind of sharing the reps right now. Josh McCown's working with the first group more than Mike Glennon, but Mike Glennon's getting a lot of work and he's got a good opportunity here to steal that job away."
"I'm going to go out there every day and compete and help the team win in whatever way possible. Josh has been great so far to me. It's a great opportunity to work every day with a guy who has so much experience like that. At the same time, just by my nature, I'm going to go out there and compete. Whatever my role might be, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability."
Considering the $10 million the Bucs are scheduled to pay McCown over the next two seasons, it would be hard not to view him losing the starting job to Glennon as anything but a disappointment to Bucs fans. However, having the two share first-team reps might just be a way for Glennon to keep a healthy chemistry with the offensive starters just in case he's forced into action due to injury.
Though it might seem like Glennon has a legitimate shot to wrestle the starting gig away from McCown, I wouldn't bank on it in the slightest.