The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new coach, a new GM, and have spread a new sense of optimism with a lot of fans, who believe the team is better now than it was under Greg Schiano. And while a change in coaching will certainly help the Bucs take a step forward in the upcoming season, is the roster in better shape than it was under Schiano, Mark Dominik and company?
This series will take a position-by-position look at the roster in Tampa Bay, and consider if the Bucs are better off now than they were just under a year ago at this time. (For consistency purposes, I have used the OurLads 2013 depth chart from June 1st, 2013 as a basis for last year's roster.)
Let's start under center with a look at the quarterbacks.
Then Versus Now
At this time last year, the Buccaneers' depth chart at quarterback looked something like this:
At the time, opinions on Josh Freeman were split among the fanbase, and the coaching staff seemed reluctant to stand behind him as the starter. Glennon was still seen as a curious pick in the draft by some, while others figured he was well on his way to overtaking Freeman.
One year later, and a controversial name remains in the same spot he was in a year ago:
Glennon moved up the depth chart one spot during the course of the 2013 season, but was immediately bumped back down to the second spot once free agency opened and Lovie Smith named Josh McCown the starter. And despite claims that Glennon "is the future", the 2013 rookie sits behind a starter for the second offseason in a row.
So how does the depth chart compare overall? There's still uncertainty at the starter's spot, a debatable amount of promise in the backup position, and a pair of camp arms (which admittedly hold a bit more potential on the 2014 list than the 2013 version, as Orlovsky and Weber were not going to challenge Glennon at any point in the future), meaning there hasn't been much change at all.
The biggest difference between this year and last is the confidence that the Bucs can have in Mike Glennon to handle himself on the NFL stage. We can all debate just how good Glennon is, but he proved in 2013 that he's capable of producing at the NFL level and has shown that he has a career as at least a premium backup with his careful style of play.
So what's the future of the position for 2014 and beyond? If Josh McCown is at the beginning of a late-career resurgence like the one we saw from Rich Gannon in Oakland, then the starting spot is locked down for the next few years, and an ideal backup is in place in Glennon.
But McCown isn't guaranteed to be anything like Gannon, and if he struggles, the Bucs have nothing more than an extra QB coach to help guide Glennon in a new offense that would seem to favor athleticism (if anything the coaches have been saying this spring is true). So the future is just as murky as it was in 2013, when fans took sides with either Josh Freeman or Mike Glennon and debated up until the day Freeman was released.
Brett Smith holds some promise, but he's a project for Jeff Tedford and his staff to work with, rather than a prospect who will be able to play any time soon. If the Bucs can stash him on the practice squad, he could develop the skills needed to be a good NFL quarterback. But I wouldn't expect an appearance from the Wyoming product any time soon.
So while many (including myself) scoffed at the notion that Glennon is the future at QB for the Bucs, it's the truth when considering the current construction of the roster. Passing on the quarterbacks available in the draft to stick with Glennon means that the NC State alum is the only realistic long-term player the Bucs have at the position.
If McCown falters in 2014, and Glennon is unable to reproduce his 2013 production, the Bucs may be in a decent position to select a quarterback in the 2015 NFL Draft. But if Lovie Smith's defense plays anything like a Lovie Smith defense has in the past, it's unlikely the Bucs will have a pick as high as the seventh overall selection they held in this year's draft.
So unless Peyton Manning or Drew Brees are set free on the open market once again, the Bucs don't seem to have a clear path to a franchise quarterback outside of the faint hope that Glennon can become "that guy".
The Buccaneers are only slightly better off at quarterback than they were at this time in 2013, and that mainly rests on the experience of Glennon and the confidence that McCown would be a constructive member of the team were he removed from the starting spot.