NFL NEWS: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s very attractive to draft a quarterback in the first round and Josh Freeman set franchise records since being drafted in 2009. What did Freeman’s leadership get the team? One winning season and no playoff appearances.
The team’s failures during the Freeman era were far beyond the player, as it was more the undisciplined team. His eventual mental breakdown was nothing short of tragic.
The point is, the team needs far more than just a quarterback to get behind. The franchise was never known for its elite quarterback play.
When you stack up the top five most starts in franchise history, you have Trent Dilfer, Vinny Testaverde, Doug Williams, Freeman, and Brad Johnson, all threw for over 10,000 passing yards for the team. Who would you guess would be the most successful?
If you answered Johnson, you’d be correct. In 49 starts with the team, he’s the only QB among them with an over .500 winning percentage at .536. He’s also the quarterback who won a Super Bowl with the team in 2002.
Johnson was a journeyman who played for the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins before landing with the Bucs in 2001. The four other men? All franchise quarterbacks drafted by the team. Of the four, only Freeman has more touchdowns than interceptions. Testaverde, Dilfer and Williams finished with sub-70 QB ratings while Freeman finished at 79.7 and Johnson at 83.2. Johnson also tops the list as most accurate among them at 61.8 percent.
That being all said, is drafting a franchise quarterback with a projected early round pick a good idea for the Bucs?
I would never discourage the Bucs in getting Florida State’s Winston or Oregon’s Mariota as they appear to be pristine talents worthy of they projected first round status. NFL.com’s Brian Billick, the coach who allowed Dilfer to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at Tampa in 2001 as a Baltimore Raven, wrote if you’re going to draft a quarterback in the first round, it’s best to start him right away.
Billick knows more than anything that it’s not just the quarterback you have to have, it’s the team you build around him. Otherwise, Dilfer wouldn’t have won behind that Ravens defense as Johnson did later with the Bucs.
If you look at the history of the Buccaneer franchise, the team’s most successful years were based on a successful running attack along with a stifling defense. Before Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden, Williams threw for only 2,448 passing yards during head coach John McKay’s most successful run in 1979 before their fall at the NFC Championship game at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams.
When the Bucs returned to the NFC Championship game in 1999 under Dungy, Dilfer threw for 1,619 yards before being lost for the season and rookie Shaun King threw for 875 yards for the season before falling to the St. Louis Rams.
So what should the Bucs focus on in the 2015 draft since we’re already planning for next season? How about the best player available? One who can address a need like pass rushing (to help McCoy) or offensive line? You can always pick up or trade for an established quarterback who’s been a starter for more than a year. Maybe a change of coordinator can turn the team’s offensive fortunes as well.
The Bucs are far from just one person away from being a complete team. They’re 1-8 for many reasons. Getting a person in the first round this early has to play now, not later and there’s no shame in trading down for more picks.