BY IRA KAUFMAN
It’s bound to happen one of these years, isn’t it?
At some point, the Buccaneers are going to land an elite quarterback, one worth signing to a second contract. That’s never happened for a franchise that began play in 1976 — when Gerald Ford was in the Oval Office and “Rocky” played on the big screen.
Buc fans watching the conference championship games wondered why the Bucs never have one of those guys, referring to Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts, young quarterbacks in their prime or yet to hit their prime. The Chiefs, Bengals and Eagles figure to be good for quite a while, along with the Bills and Josh Allen.
Those teams boast franchise players under center. Those teams kick ass.
The Bucs kick the can down the road.
Whether or not Tom Brady returns to One Buc Place, the problem remains. It’s been a big problem over the years. The Bucs were contenders in the late 1990s and early 2000s because they had a defense led by multiple Hall of Famers. The Bucs were contenders in 2020 and 2021 because Brady raised the performance level of everyone in the building.
Those days are gone.
In the wake of an 8-10 season, the time is now for ownership and management to chart a new direction.
The focus has to be on acquiring a young quarterback to build around.
A new face is required — not a facelift with mugs like Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo.
Find that guy.
It’s not easy, but it’s overdue. Listen to the philosophy of Joe Banner, president of the Eagles from 1995-2012. Philadelphia played in five NFC championship games during that span, with 10 seasons of double-digit wins.
“If you’ve got a good quarterback, then you’ve got to get from good to great,” Banner says. “The decisions you need to make get much narrower and your path to success is much easier. I’m in the school of if you have a chance to get a difference making quarterback, you do whatever it takes to get that person.”
Jason Licht and his scouts are knee-deep in preparation for the 2023 NFL draft. That draft is three months away, but the real salvation for this franchise at the crossroads rests in the quarterback-rich draft of 2024.
Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams of Southern Cal leads the pack, followed closely by North Carolina’s Drake Maye. Quinn Ewers of Texas should be on the radar, along with Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix of Oregon.
If it takes draft capital to grab one of these guys, so be it. Trade off some veterans and build flexibility.
For Banner, it’s all about positioning yourself for the quarterback you want — and having the guts to pull the trigger.
“I see speculation in Chicago that if they trade the No. 1 pick they might be able to get two ones and two twos, and maybe even a little bit more,” Banner says. “It sounds like a boatload of benefits, but the success rate in the first round is only 50 percent.
“The hit rate, quality starter, in the second round is 40 percent. So two ones and two twos probably gets you two quality starters. If anybody’s willing to trade two quality starters, let’s even say they’re two Pro Bowl players, but they don’t play quarterback for a difference-making quarterback, I don’t know what game they’re watching. That’s just a no-brainer.”
Pass rushers and left tackles are important. The guy under center is far more important.
“They’re not going to impact the game as much as a difference-making quarterback,” Banner says. “If the people I’m working with say there’s a difference-making quarterback and we don’t have one, and there’s a way to get to where we need to be to get that guy, I’m just doing it. I’m not hesitating. It’s not even a tough decision for me. I’m hoping we’re getting the evaluation right, but from a strategic perspective, I’m 100 percent confident in what we’re doing.”
The Bucs crave what some other teams have under center. It’s beyond time to get one of their own.
This content was originally published here.