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What a difference a year makes

The 2009 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have some big questions to answer in training camp, that comes as no surprise.  Every team waltzes into the pre-season with position battles and adjustments that need to be made.  The 2008 Bucs were no different.  Their questions were on how a veteran team would fair, did we have enough offensive fire power to win the shoot out, and how many "F" bombs Gruden could drop while on camera.

One big question that plagues the 2009 team is who will be under center come opening day.  This question likely won't be answered until a week or so before our game against the Cowboys.  Whoever it is, they will be a new starter in the NFL as neither Leftwich, Johnson, McCown or Freeman were full time starters in 2008.  There was another possible scenario, one that developed last year, saw the Bucs name get thrown around, ultimately for nothing.  In fact, that one name that is still around and possibly looking for a role, that figured in the 2008 Bucs plans?  Who is that person?  Good ole #4, Mr. Favre.

I wanted to write at least one article on Brett Favre, seeing as how every other publication in America (and some overseas) had found a way to get his name in print.  But I can make this relevant to the Bucs.  You see, you may or may not now (sarcasm) that the Bucs and Favre were linked in 2008.  There was an extended courtship and even a few times were we as fans, and maybe even the front office thought we had secured the rights to Favre with a trade with the Packers.  Fans were concerned with the potential trade as we had a QB who ran our offense (Garcia) and they didn't see the need to pay a quarterback for one year of service at such a high price.  Why cough up the money and change our team chemistry for one year?  Why trade away draft picks when we have a quarterback on our roster (In retrospect, had we given up our 2nd rounder who turned out to be Dexter Jackson, we would all be that much happier).  We stuck with (or got stuck with) Jeff Garcia, limped to a 9-7 finish (not his fault) and missed the playoffs.  Garcia was jettisoned from the team, and we now have a QB battle brewing

As it unfolded, Favre went to the J-E-T-S (Jets, Jets, Jets) had a magical opening to the season, even throwing 6 TD's in a game (I had him on the bench in my fantasy league) before apparently hurting his arm and limping to a finish that saw the Jets miss the playoffs.  Seems that both teams came out losers in the deal.

The question has to be asked; Would the Bucs (or Jets) have fared better if Favre had come to Tampa?   There's no guarantee his arm would have held up, but the competition faced was a bit easier down here and maybe the warm weather would have kept him loose.  It's easy to speculate and find the positive, but one move that wasn't made, and not for lack of effort, has completely changed the Bucs both last year and this year.  The Jets offered a better deal, Green Bay gets him out of the NFC, Favre takes off to New York, The Bucs roll with what we have, and here we are again, facing QB questions.

The bigger question is, would he have stuck around for year 2?  I'd like to think he would have.  In fact, I think we would have made the playoffs last year with him, although not gone very far and with Gruden still here, and a chance to get back to the playoffs, stick it to Green Bay in the NFC, and make that final run with good pieces around him, I think he stays for year two.  That would have given us the veteran presence to coach up Freeman, to allow him to sit, to have a capable back up in McCown.  You never know if #4 would have stuck around, but with two years of Favre (08-09 season) as opposed to one year of Garcia and then a coin flip, it's a risk worth taking.

On to the 2009 season, it looks like Favre will suit up for Minnesota and take another shot at crippling Green Bay.  There have been no mentions of other teams this year, making it a bit more tolerable for the NFL world.  It was easy to criticize the Bucs for going after Favre for a one or two year rental last year, but faced with what we know today, would it have been better to take a shot with a declining all-world QB, with multiple Super Bowl titles, MVP's and retirement decisions, or to run with a 37 year old journeyman (Garcia) and a young, unproven rookie (Freeman) or McCown? 

I wanted to roll the dice with Favre last year and was hoping to secure him on a two year deal for this very reason.  It would've given the team a chance to plan for the future and learn under a real quarterback.  We may have not finished last year any differently, he may have seen the same decline, and we may have had to deal with the retirement nonsense, but it would have been a smart gamble.  I'll take an aging Favre over an aging Garcia any day and twice on Sundays.

So as we look back at last year, we saw the Bucs become the second place finishers in the Favre sweepstakes, and stumble home to a 9-7 season.  We saw the Jets trade for Favre and miss the playoffs, retire, and now, allegedly, un-retire to come back for Minnesota (assuming he follows through with it).  This year, there is/was no Favre sweepstakes to participate in, but the Bucs still have no answers at QB.  There still is no long term answer at QB, though McCown or Freeman have a shot at being just that.  

With a year in the rear view, we had the decision in 2008 of Favre or Garcia.  2009 sees Byron Leftwich, Josh Freeman, Josh Johnson or Luke McCown.  What a difference a year makes.  Let me pose these questions to Buc 'Em nation; With a year to reflect, would Favre have made a difference, would he have stuck around this year, would it have been worth the draft picks and risk?  It would be hard for me to say anything other than I wish he would've come to Tampa. 

(In the fairness of full disclosure, I am a Favre fan)