Josh McCown seen as a below-average quarterback

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

No surprise here, but the latest quarterback rankings have Josh McCown as not the very best player in the NFL. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback is even seen as below-average.

Apparently, early July is the time for rankings. The latest rankings pertain to quarterbacks: how should they be ranked, who should be in what tier, and who's the MOST ELITE of the ELITE? I don't know. Rightly, I don't really care -- mostly because the Bucs haven't had anyone to contend for the title of elite quarterback in ever.

Still, there are rankings, and they say some kind of interesting things about Josh McCown. So there's that. ESPN's Mike Sando polled 26 "league insiders" to get their views on quarterbacks, and the result was not entirely surprising for Bucs fans: McCown was ranked as the 24th-best player in that list, soundly in tier three of four groups.

"We got ready for him last year and boy, did he have a good season," a defensive coordinator said. "I would have to put him in the three group because you have to factor age in there and it might have just been that perfect storm, but he played well last year. It could have been the system. Maybe it was right with the reads and what they did. Good for him."

That's an interesting ranking because it places him well ahead of other veterans who signed with new teams the past years in Brian Hoyer, Chad Henne, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Schaub. It's a reminder that Josh McCown was very, very good last year but to expect that to continue is probably not realistic.

But then, no one is expecting him to put up the All-Pro numbers he put up last year. The question is whether he can be an adequate game manager given the system he's in, the running game, and the receiving weapons the Buccaneers have surrounded him with.

NFL.com calls him a "borderline franchise quarterback", after earlier calling him one of the players likely to "make the leap" this year. While they note some obstacles, overall they think that the light has gone on and that while he won't replicate last year's numbers, he'll still do well enough to hold off Mike Glennon and ne a [rpdictove starter tjos be a productive starter this season.

I think the Buccaneers will be quite happy if McCown puts up a middle-of-the-road performance. They've done everything they can to minimize the importance of the quarterback position: they've brought in more weapons on offense, strengthened the running game, overhauled the offensive line and have repeatedly noted a commitment to a run-based offense.

If everything goes well, McCown won't be asked to be the team's savior this year. In fact, no quarterback under Lovie Smith has ever been asked to be that -- nor have any of them ever delivered that. The plan is for the defense and running game to compensate for quarterback deficiencies. If that works, the Bucs could go a long way. But if they hit a snag somewhere and the quarterback is going to have to carry the offense, we might see a swift collapse.

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