- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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TAMPA, Fla. -- For the first time since his hiring, Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith announced his quarterback of the future Thursday night.
Smith made it clear that it isn’t Johnny Manziel when he passed on the Texas A&M quarterback and instead selected his college teammate, wide receiver Mike Evans, with the seventh overall pick in the NFL draft.
Moments after the pick, Smith stepped into the media studio and started getting grilled about why he passed on Manziel, who had been tied to the Bucs in a lot of the pre-draft hype. In the middle of it all, Smith made a strong declaration.
“It’s what’s best for us," Smith said. “Just talking about our quarterback position, our quarterback position is as strong as any quarterback position I’ve had when I’ve been a head coach. You know how much I like Josh McCown as our starter. I love Mike Glennon. Mike Glennon is our quarterback of the future here. So why would you want to add a third quarterback to the mix? We needed other positions. Forget just the quarterback position, we thought this was the best available player for us. It was an easy decision for us."
So Glennon’s the quarterback of the future? That’s something Smith hadn’t said previously. In fact, the early signs were that Smith and the new coaching staff in Tampa weren’t at all high on Glennon, who started 13 games as a rookie last season. The Bucs started free agency by signing the veteran McCown.
On the day McCown was signed, Smith wasted no time in publicly saying the veteran would start off as the No. 1 quarterback. Since then, Smith has had some praise for Glennon, but the second-year pro has seemed like more of an afterthought -- until Thursday night.
Going with McCown for the short term and Glennon for the long term wasn’t the flashy choice. Manziel would have been that. A Heisman Trophy winner with a large personality, Manziel would have helped the Bucs sell tickets and brought the team tons of attention.
Wasn’t Manziel the best player in Texas A&M’s offensive huddle last season?
“We’re going off our opinions and we felt like he wasn’t," general manager Jason Licht said.
As tantalizing as Manziel’s mobility and playmaking ability might have been, the Bucs are following the right path by going with Glennon for the long haul. Manziel came with risk as well as reward and he could end up being a bust.
Glennon might not have Manziel’s upside, but the Bucs already have a year invested in him. As a rookie, Glennon played reasonably well after being thrown into the starting lineup in the fourth week of the season after Josh Freeman imploded.
Go with McCown for a full season or maybe half a season and then turn it over to Glennon. He’ll have a better team around him than he did as a rookie, and Evans is a big reason for that. Evans fills a big need opposite Vincent Jackson.
Evans instantly will step into the starting lineup. Evans is 6-foot-4 and Jackson is 6-5. They’ll form one of the biggest receiver tandems in the NFL and that should only help McCown and Glennon.
“I like having a 6-5 guy versus a 5-9 or 5-10 corner and throwing the ball up," Smith said.
The Bucs didn’t make the splashy move in the first round of the draft. But maybe going with Glennon and giving him Evans was the right move for this franchise.