Yesterday, Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht met with the media and said this:
Licht said they’re all hoping Jameis Winston will have success and they can begin talking about an extension but for now they’re in a wait and see mode— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) March 25, 2019
If the Bucs were to move on from Jameis Winston after the 2019 season, could Will Grier be an option to replace him?
Will Grier’s Career
Grier was a composite four-star blue chip recruit from North Carolina in the class of 2014 who committed to the Florida Gators and head coach Will Muschamp all the way back in 2012. Grier redshirted in 2014, and after the season Muschamp was fired, replaced by former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was a teammate of Grier’s during this time.
As a redshirt freshman for the Gators in 2015, Grier backed up Treon Harris in the Gators’ opening day game but did play about half the game. McElwain named Grier the starter for the team’s second game, and Grier ran away with the job. After six games Grier had racked up 1,200 yards at 7.5 yards per attempt with 10 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. It looked like Florida would finally break its post-Tim Tebow QB curse.
But it was not to be. Just four days before the 8th-ranked Gators’ big showdown with No. 6 LSU Grier was suspended by the NCAA for one full year for testing positive for PEDs. Unable to return until the team’s seventh game in 2016 and because McElwain allegedly refused to promise the starting job to Grier when he was eligible again, Grier decided to transfer.
He ended up at West Virginia, playing for Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen comes from the Hal Mumme and Mike Leach coaching tree - an Air Raid disciple. Holgorsen’s brand of the Air Raid, which he likes to call the Airraid, puts more of an emphasis on the running game and play action. Another of Holgorsen’s innovations to the evolution of football was the use of packaged plays. Holgorsen would often package together a run, a screen, and a quick pass all into one play.
Holgorsen and Grier benefitted from each other. After sitting out the 2016 season due to his transfer, Grier started the 2017 and 2018 seasons for the Mountaineers. He was prolific, racking up over 7,000 yards at a 9.4 yards per attempt clip with 71 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
First thing first, he is by all accounts a good presence in the locker room, and has the confidence you want to see in a quarterback. He is accurate to the short and intermediate parts of the field and with good ball placement, especially when throwing seam and fade routes. He possesses nice touch on deep balls. He is able to change his arm angle and still deliver accurate passes. He consistently diagnoses the defense pre-snap and is able to work through read progressions. In addition, Grier is good at extending plays and operating in chaos. As for his play style, Grier is a gunslinger through and through, and likes to attack downfield and in general play aggressively. Depending on your personal preference for quarterback play you may think of that as a pro or a con, but math generally falls on the side of it usually being a positive.
So why isn’t Grier being talked about among the best quarterbacks in this class, or projected as a top pick? Well, Grier may play like a gunslinger but at this point he doesn’t have enough of the traits or skills gunslingers must have to thrive at the NFL level. First, his arm strength is only adequate and his arm talent isn’t great, and his wind-up release is noticeably slow. He is good on broken plays but too often his mechanics throwing off-platform are poor, which leads to inaccurate passes. He lacks anticipation on his throws, an unfortunate trait for a gunslinger. And because he consistently struggles to generate torque through his lower body his throws also often lack needed velocity. This means he struggles to hit tight-window throws, especially in the further intermediate and deep parts of the field. Grier also threw a lot of interceptions in the red zone.
While he thrived in West Virginia’s system he also benefitted greatly from it. The scheme often gave him pre-determined reads pre-snap and set up other easy reads and quick throws post-snap that were schemed open rather than Grier having to do any actual read progressions. While he can make it through full field progressions he is often slow to do so and will take bad sacks while holding the ball far too long, or he will throw wildly off his back foot. When sacked, he fumbled frequently. For as much as he likes to challenge safeties down the field he isn’t skilled at looking them off and too often simply threw up prayer balls.
In short, in crunch time Grier will win you the game with exciting plays but he will often lose you the game through careless play. He is a gunslinger who struggles to process quickly, doesn’t make great decisions, isn’t consistently accurate deep, doesn’t throw with anticipation, isn’t capable of challenging tight windows, and has a bevy of mechanical issues. At this point his ceiling projects to be a backup and spot starter.
Why The Buccaneers Need Him
Jameis Winston is so polarizing as a football player because he can simultaneously be very good and very bad. He is also a gunslinger who like Grier is prone to hero ball that can lead to poor decisions and turnovers and still has some mechanical issues to iron out. However, because Winston possesses elite NFL-level anticipation, a very good understanding of defenses and processes pre and post-snap information quickly, and has a good arm with good velocity, he is able to regularly test and win tight-window throws down the field. Grier, at this point, doesn’t and can’t.
With that said, the Bucs are clearly using the 2019 season to evaluate Winston. If Winston continues to struggle and can’t overcome his flaws, the Bucs will be cutting their losses and looking for a franchise quarterback somewhere else. Grier is an intriguing project, and fixing his mechanics could make him a much better prospect.
Will It Happen?
Probably not. He could have been a good backup option to Winston but the Buccaneers just signed Blaine Gabbert to be Winston’s backup for the 2019 season. It also doesn’t make sense to take a QB who has many of Winston’s flaws, only worse, and much fewer of his good traits, and trying to mold him into a starter. Grier just isn’t there yet, and may never get there.