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Relax Tampa Bay fans, Bucs have their Gator

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are suiting up a former Gators quarterback in week one of the 2023 season.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 04 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL World was buzzing when Anthony Richardson made the decision to blow the roof off of Lucas Oil Stadium, as he detonated the Combine. In Lance Zierlein’s mock draft 1.0 the Florida quarterback was mocked to the Buccaneers at 19. The reason cited by Zierlein— “The Bucs are headed into rebuild mode whether they like it or not. They shoot for the moon with the big, dual-threat QB from Florida who has boom-or-bust potential.” Some Tampa Bay fans were very excited by this mock draft, thinking that the potential selection of Richardson could change the franchise’s long-term fortunes. Now, after Saturday’s combine performance, even more Bucs fans may be salivating at the thought of Ricardson being drafted by the Buccaneers. Unfortunately for those in the ‘draft Richardson camp,’ this mock draft will undoubtedly be updated and deemed inaccurate. After setting a new standard for quarterback Combine results, Anthony Richardson to the Bucs has become a pipedream. Richardson all but assured that he will never last nearly 20 picks into the first round. The Buccaneers, however, will select nearly 20 picks into round one.

So, what does this mean?

First and foremost, it means no, there will not be an Anthony Richardson sighting in Raymond James this season unless he is standing on the visitor’s sideline. That doesn’t mean the Buccaneers won’t have a former Gator to face off against Richardson when/if he does come to visit Ray Jay. In what is still a young offseason, Kyle Trask has spent a significant amount of time in the news. Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht and Head Coach Todd Bowles were peppered with questions regarding the 25-year-old quarterback during their media availability in Indianapolis. Each of them stood behind the former second-round pick, as he is currently the only passer they have to stand behind. With no other player at the position on the team’s roster, it is quite literally Trask or bust, as things stand presently.

What is being said about Kyle Trask?

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Both Todd Bowles and Jason Licht were consistent in their answers, boasting about the fact that they feel like they have a reliable young quarterback who has been in their building developing for two years. They made it clear, that the former second-round selection is a passer they feel possesses the potential to become a long-term starter. The two, each took time to laud Trask’s work ethic. Licht did so by offering a glimpse into the view from his office, “[Kyle is] one of the players that’s working out by himself every day. I see him out of my office, I see him out the window on the field by himself every day.” High work ethic and drive to be great are important in any occupation and crucial for an NFL quarterback. Tampa Bay fans should be elated to hear that their team has a quarterback who has clearly dedicated himself to his craft and is willing to put in the time to be great. When asked if Tom Brady’s presence over the past two seasons was something that has had an impact, Jason Licht said of Trask, “I think he’s realized the importance of what he has to do to get to where he wants to be.”

Kyle Trask, if nothing else, does seem to have people who are willing to stand in his corner when it comes to the quarterback’s work ethic. Former Florida offensive lineman and college teammate, Richard Gouraige, echoed similar sentiments about Trask during his time at Florida.

Bucs quarterback gets praised at the Combine. - Bucs Nation

Trask in his time at Florida.

Capital One Orange Bowl - Virginia v Florida Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Kyle Trask was actually the starting quarterback at the University of Florida while Anthony Richardson was on the bench. Richardson may have lit up the NFL Combine, but in 2020 Kyle Trask lit up college football. Trask’s 2020 season with the Gators was elite. One of the biggest knocks on Kyle Trask coming out of college was that the cast of weapons he had at his disposal was too good. The high level of talent around him incited the argument that Trask didn’t have to be all that good to have thrown the ball to Florida’s team of stars. Good or not, Trask threw the ball 437 times with a 68.9 percent completion percentage. He topped 4,000 yards passing, netting 4,283 and accounted for 46 total touchdowns. The situations are apples to oranges but Richardson, for the same college program only two years later, threw for just 2,549 yards and 17 touchdowns. These numbers represent a staggering drop-off from the numbers Trask posted two years prior. To the credit of Richardson, he also added another 654 yards rushing and scored nine times with his legs. Evening out all the production between the two. In their best seasons, Trask was able to provide his team with a little over 4,300 yards of offense and 46 touchdowns, while Richardson produced 3,203 yards and 26 scores.

The numbers, on paper, heavily favor Trask’s output over Richardson’s. Football is a game played in a stadium, not on paper and obviously no matter what the numbers say Richardson is capable of creating plays on a football field that Kyle Trask could never dream of making. What does that truly mean though? Are fans looking for the next best highlight reel, or the next best quarterback? NFL lore is littered with talented quarterbacks who have never succeeded in reaching their ceiling. Athleticism is a nice bonus attribute to have that can make playing the position easier, but it doesn’t guarantee automatic success. Kyle Trask is no match for a guy like Richardson in gym shorts, however, shoulder pads and a helmet may help level the playing field.

So why are some fans so disinterested in Trask?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans seem to have an all or nothing relationship with Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Trask. When and how the relationship began is unclear but if you take a second and go up to any Bucs fan asking about Kyle Trask you are likely to hear one of two things.

1. ‘The guy was amazing in college; he was a Heisman candidate, and he could be the steal of the 2021 draft.’

Matthew John B on Twitter: “The disrespect to Kyle Trask is insane. Heisman Finalist Year: - In 11 Games - 4,283 Passing Yards - 43 Passing TDs (46 Total) - 68.9% Completion In Comparison: 2019 Joe Burrow: - In 11 Games - 4,014 Passing Yards - 41 Passing TDs The Bucs are in good hands.” / Twitter


2. ‘The Buccaneers are just tanking with Trask because he’s cheap and already on the roster so that they can get a high pick and draft a quarterback next year.’

JC Cornell on Twitter: “Tank with Trask #GoBucs” / Twitter

This dichotomy is so intriguing. On one side, you have a group of fans confident that Trask is the Buccaneers’ future, so much so that they want no part of drafting a quarterback in this year’s draft. On the other side you have a section of the fanbase who is so opposed to the notion that Kyle Trask could one day turn out to be a good player that the entire concept of him starting for the Buccaneers just signals that the team is attempting to tank.

What is in store for Kyle Trask and the Bucs?

Come Sundays, Buccaneers fans are going to root for the Buccaneers and by default, whoever is under center. That is the nature of fandom. The thing that Tampa will have to guard against and/or be wary of is that if Trask starts off the season with a few bad games or even looks questionable in the preseason, the disapproval of fans will be spirited. That is also the nature of fandom.

Patience is not something a lot of fans have, especially when there are already such strong opinions brewing. A slow start for the quarterback or the team in 2023 spells disaster for the long-term development of Trask in Tampa.

What have we seen from Trask? Not much.

NFL: International Series-Tampa Bay Buccaneers Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Trask is unproven in the NFL. He has thrown nine passes in his career and completed just three. Those three passes went for a total of 23 yards. Trask’s career stat line certainly isn’t one that instills confidence, but it is an exceptionally small sample size. The minute nature of which, is impart, the fault of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last year, Tampa entered the final week of the regular season with the NFC South clinched. The division title was secured and the team’s positioning as it relates to playoff seeding was not going to change. The Buccaneers could have and arguably should have taken advantage of the moment by letting their young developing prospect take a good portion of the game’s reps. Rather than allow the game to play out with an eye for the future, Todd Bowles and the Buccaneers chose to allow 33-year-old backup Blaine Gabbert, playing deep into the second half, to attempt almost as many passes as Trask. The team finally inserted Trask into the game, but it was too little too late, leading to him attempting just nine passes before the contest reached its conclusion.

What can we expect from Kyle Trask in 2023? Nobody knows.

This article is not meant to stand on a soapbox and sing the praises of Kyle Trask. He may be the next franchise quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and provide the team with the long-term stability that they have essentially never had at the position. There is also a chance that when he gets his opportunity to play, he will look like the second-round pick that he was. He may confirm that he was a prospect who benefited from having immense talent around him at the collegiate level and therefore look out of place as a starter on an NFL field. The truth is, right now nobody knows, and anything said on the subject is strictly speculation. Until Tampa and their fans alike see Trask take actual reps in actual NFL games on a consistent basis his floor and ceiling remain unknown. Regardless of anybody’s speculative opinion, Kyle Trask was a second-round pick that Jason Licht and company thought highly enough of to select when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in the middle of a Super Bowl window and for that, he deserves the opportunity to show what he’s capable of.

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