Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Glennon

TAMPA, Fla. -- If you're wondering why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been so quiet in free agency this year, all you have to do is look at last year.

That's when the Bucs splurged on free agents in the first year with coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht. They made some decent moves, such as signing Alterraun Verner and Clinton McDonald. But the team made three moves that turned out to be disastrous.

They signed defensive end Michael Johnson, offensive tackle Anthony Collins and quarterback Josh McCown to contracts that were worth a combined $83 million.

So what did the Bucs get out of all that?

Virtually nothing. Johnson recorded just four sacks. Collins was benched by the end of the season. And McCown led the Bucs to precisely one win (Mike Glennon led the other victory).

One year later, all three of those players are gone. Johnson's release Wednesday completed the trifecta.

There's a lesson to be learned here. Championships aren't won in March. The Bucs found that out the hard way during a 2-14 season.

It's pretty obvious the Bucs are using last year as a cautionary tale. Their approach to free agency this year has been totally different. They've stayed out of the bidding for high-priced players and focused more on midlevel free agents.

That's the smart approach. This team has a lot of holes. Filling them without overspending is crucial. The Bucs have a long road ahead of them as they try to reverse course.

They have the first pick in the draft and likely will use it on a quarterback, either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. The draft is where good teams form their nucleus. Free agency should be used to add complementary players.

The experience has been painful, but at least the Bucs are getting it right this time around.
video Our weekly look at clues that might reveal whether the Buccaneers are leaning toward selecting Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota -- or neither -- with the No. 1 pick in the draft:

The rumors started to really fly on Friday. All along, there’s been speculation that the Philadelphia Eagles might try to trade up for the No. 1 pick in the draft to use it on Oregon's Mariota. It all is logical. Mariota played for Eagles coach Chip Kelly in college and would be a perfect fit in Philadelphia’s up-tempo offense. It was pure speculation, I thought.

Until my phone started ringing Friday. Two different members of the Philadelphia media called me to say they were hearing rumblings that a trade was imminent. These are trusted media members and the content of both calls contained the same details.

The Eagles were about to trade quarterback Nick Foles, running back LeSean McCoy and three first-round draft picks to the Bucs for the No. 1 pick in the draft. It sounded believable.

So I called someone within the Tampa Bay organization that would know if something was cooking. He said the rumor was untrue. Meantime, my friends in the Philadelphia media poked around some more with their Eagles’ sources. They got the same response I did. No trade was imminent and no one would say if there even have been any talks between the two teams.

Scrap that rumor -- for now. If something is going to happen, it probably won’t come until much closer to the draft. Deadlines push people to action and the draft isn’t until the end of April. The rumors are likely to continue to circulate.

But for every reason why such a deal would make sense, there are an equal number of reasons why I don’t see it happening.

Let’s start with Tampa Bay’s side of things. Would the Bucs really part with the No. 1 pick instead of using it on Mariota or Florida State’s Winston? I think that might be a stretch. Winston and Mariota might be franchise quarterbacks. The Bucs would be giving up a franchise quarterback and plugging in Foles as the starting quarterback.

That doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Bucs had something close to Foles in Josh McCown and they let him go. They still have something close to Foles in Mike Glennon.

Then there’s McCoy. He’s a great running back. But the Bucs already have Charles Sims and Doug Martin. All indications are the coaching staff and front office are deeply invested in Sims, who they drafted last year. I don’t see the Bucs suddenly giving up on Sims. Plus, I'm not so sure the Bucs want to take on McCoy's big contract.

The three first-round picks would have to be attractive for the Bucs. They have plenty of holes besides quarterback. But this is where the potential deal hits a major roadblock.

With that in mind, let’s flip over to Philadelphia’s point of view. No matter how smitten Kelly is with Mariota, the Eagles might not have the firepower to make such a trade. At the moment, the Eagles have the 20th overall pick in the draft. That’s all they have.

They would have to make another trade first to get another first-round pick for this year. Yes, Philadelphia could offer its first-round picks in 2016 and ’17. But the Bucs can’t sit around and wait for those drafts. Coach Lovie Smith needs to win now.

Besides, giving up three first-round picks, would mean the Eagles would be mortgaging their future on Mariota. Three picks and two players would be a very steep price.

I’m not saying such a deal can’t happen. But let’s file that trade away for the moment and wait for something that’s stronger than a rumor.

Bucs should trade Mike Glennon

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Mike Glennon trade rumors have started with a report the Cleveland Browns are looking into a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the quarterback.

Glennon is the only quarterback on Tampa Bay's roster at the moment, but trading him makes a ton of sense. Let's be really honest here. The Bucs are going to draft a quarterback -- either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. Glennon's only future with the Bucs is as a backup. The Bucs can find a backup that's just as good, if not better, than Glennon in free agency.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to keep Glennon around if the Bucs can get something decent in return. I'm thinking they can get something like a third- or fourth-round pick for Glennon and they should pounce on a deal like that.

Glennon is a promising young quarterback, but he has little value to the Bucs. The current coaching staff has benched him twice -- once when Josh McCown was signed and a second time when McCown came back from a thumb injury.

Glennon has more value elsewhere. That's why the Bucs should deal him. If the Bucs can get a draft pick for Glennon, that should make everyone happy. Glennon is a competitor, and he's not going to be content to sit around as a backup.

Get something in return for Glennon, and the Bucs should be very content.
INDIANAPOLIS – Once, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers declared Mike Glennon the quarterback of the future.

That was last year. More recently, it was looking like Glennon was the quarterback of the past. Not so fast.

If nothing else, Glennon is the quarterback of the present.

“Mike is the only quarterback on our roster,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. “I think that’s where he fits.’’

That comes with a qualifier. The Bucs hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and it’s looking like they’ll use it on either Florida State’s Jameis Winston or Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

But Glennon is in better shape than he was a year ago. He’ll be either a bridge quarterback – starting until Winston or Mariota is ready – or a backup with important duties as a mentor to the rookies. That’s better than last year when Josh McCown was brought in as Smith’s handpicked quarterback. In a bit of a surprise, McCown was released last week and Glennon was kept. Smith explained the logic behind that.

“That has nothing to do with the future,’’ Smith said. “Last year, we had Josh. We brought Josh here to be our quarterback. I wanted to let Josh have an opportunity to play. But that wasn’t a knock against Mike or anything like that. We made the decision early on to release Josh. You guys know what I think about Josh. I think he can still play football. But, going forward, I thought our best chance to win was with Mike right now as our quarterback.

"So where does that put Mike? Mike’s the only quarterback that we have that’s played on our roster. That should tell you an awful lot. We have a new staff also coming in. I let offensive coordinator] Dirk [Koetter] and [quarterbacks coach] Mike Bajakian look at our quarterbacks and see what they thought. We all feel comfortable right now with Mike being on our roster and being our quarterback.’’

“We like Mike Glennon,’’ general manager Jason Licht said. “We want him to be a part of the future. We like Mike Glennon a lot.’’

The future hasn’t arrived yet, but at least Glennon is part of the plan.
INDIANAPOLIS – Three things we learned at the combine.

Lovie wasn’t blowing smoke. Coach Lovie Smith sang the praises of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Smith made it a point to say Winston was never charged after sexual assault allegations in college and that, as of the moment, he wouldn’t have any trouble making him the quarterback of the future. A lot of people are going to say Smith simply was blowing smoke. But I don’t think that was the case. Smith reminds me a lot of former Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy in that he’s very truthful. Smith didn’t have to talk so highly of Winston, but he did and I think that says a lot. I also believed Smith when he said Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota isn't out of the picture. There's still a lot of time for the Bucs to make a decision on which quarterback they prefer.

Mankins isn’t going anywhere. General manager Jason Licht said very strongly that guard Logan Mankins will be back with the Bucs. There had been some speculation that Mankins could be a salary-cap casualty as the Bucs overhaul their offensive line. But that’s not going to happen. Mankins is going to be a building block along with right tackle Demar Dotson and, possibly, center Evan Dietrich-Smith. But there are definite changes coming at left tackle and the other starting guard spot. Veteran receiver Vincent Jackson, who is scheduled to take up more than $12 million in space, also is a salary-cap concern and Licht wouldn't make any promises there. At very least, look for the Bucs to try to restructure Jackson's contract.

Mike Glennon has a future. Wednesday was the first time Smith and Licht have talked publicly since the release of quarterback Josh McCown. They thanked him for his contributions but said it was time to move on. Instead of keeping McCown, the Bucs kept Glennon. Smith and Licht both said Glennon has a future with the Bucs. I think it’s pretty clear the Bucs plan to start a rookie right away and use Glennon as the backup.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith has a well-deserved reputation for being stubborn.

He earned it in his days as the Chicago Bears' coach by doing things like sticking to the Tampa 2 defense and staying with quarterback Rex Grossman when fans were screaming to get rid of both.

So what the heck happened the other day when Smith released quarterback Josh McCown? He was showing flexibility I didn’t think he had. It’s funny how a 2-14 season can change your thinking.

A year ago, McCown was Smith’s hand-picked quarterback. They had been together in Chicago and there was a comfort level that flowed both ways. Mike Glennon, who had started 13 games in 2013, immediately was pushed to the bench to make room for McCown.

In theory, McCown was supposed to be the savvy veteran who rarely made mistakes. In theory, he was supposed to lead a highly efficient offense while the defense and special teams took care of the rest and the Bucs would contend for the playoffs.

In reality, none of that happened. It wasn’t all McCown’s fault. Things started going wrong in the preseason when offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford had to have a heart operation. Tedford left the team and never returned. Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo ended up calling the plays and the offense never got into any real rhythm.

It also didn’t help that McCown severely sprained his thumb in the third game of the season. He missed five starts. Although Glennon didn’t play badly in McCown's absence, Smith showed his stubborn streak and went back to McCown after the thumb had healed.

Even when healthy, McCown didn’t play the way he was supposed to. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns and won only one game as the starter.

Still, I thought McCown would be back in 2015. I thought Smith would use him as a mentor for whichever quarterback the team drafts with the No. 1 overall pick -- either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. McCown is the kind of guy who could have accepted a role like that.

But it didn’t happen. That’s because Smith is showing flexibility, which isn’t a bad thing. The Bucs need change, and Smith is allowing it to happen.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter came across as confident during this segment of "Meet the Coaches" on Buccaneers.com.

Koetter, who spent the last three seasons in Atlanta working with Matt Ryan and tutored David Garrard in Jacksonville before that, better have some confidence. He has a huge challenge in front of him.

“Regardless of who our quarterback is, I’m confident I can help that guy play as close to his potential as we can possibly get," Koetter said. "Any player is going to be successful if he plays as close to his potential and talent level as we can get him."

It has become very obvious Koetter is going to be working with a rookie quarterback. On Wednesday the Bucs released veteran Josh McCown, who started 11 games last season. Mike Glennon is a backup in the eyes of the coaching staff, and he could even be trade bait.

Tampa Bay’s depth chart at quarterback now is wide open, and it’s not a stretch to imagine the Bucs opening the season with a rookie. Tampa Bay holds the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.

All indications are they’re going to use it either on Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston or Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

If the Bucs wanted a "bridge" quarterback to cover the span between the present and the future, they would have kept McCown. They didn’t.

That means Koetter is going to have to do his best work yet to get a rookie ready to play.

What if Bucs don't draft a QB?

February, 10, 2015
Feb 10
TAMPA, Fla. -- It is widely assumed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will use the No. 1 overall pick in the draft on a quarterback.

The only question seems to be whether it will be Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. But what if the Bucs aren’t enamored with either quarterback? What if the Bucs don’t draft a quarterback?

I think that’s unlikely, but somewhat possible. Let’s say the Bucs aren’t sold on Mariota or Winston. They could trade down a few spots or stay put. In either scenario, they would be positioned to land a pass-rusher.

Randy Gregory or Leonard Williams could make big impacts as outside rushers. And we all know the Bucs could use a strong outside rusher to pair with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

But, if the Bucs go the defensive end route, they wouldn’t be addressing quarterback. I don’t think going through another season with Josh McCown and Mike Glennon is something the Bucs want to do.

There is another decent option out there. In fact, it might be a better option than Mariota or Winston. St. Louis’ Sam Bradford could be available.

The Bucs could sign Bradford and then draft a pass-rusher. Bradford is a known commodity. When healthy, he’s done some good things. He already has plenty of experience and wouldn’t face a big learning curve like the rookies.

Maybe the best route for the Bucs would be to sign Bradford and draft a pass-rusher.

On the hot seat: Mike Glennon

February, 3, 2015
Feb 3
TAMPA, Fla. -- We continue our look at veteran Buccaneers who could be candidates for trade or release this offseason with quarterback Mike Glennon.

 Why he could be on the hot seat: The Bucs hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and they could use it on quarterbacks Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. That would leave Glennon in a tough spot. Veteran Josh McCown likely would be asked to play the role of mentor to a rookie, and it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to carry a third quarterback. Glennon has done some positive things when he has had a chance to play during the past two seasons, and he could have some trade value. Glennon is good enough to be a No. 2 quarterback for a lot of teams, and the Bucs could shop him for a draft pick.

Why he could stay: The Bucs could pull a surprise and not draft a quarterback. I think that’s unlikely, but not impossible. Coach Lovie Smith has shown a stubborn streak, and he could decide to stick with McCown, who he brought in last year, as the starter and keep Glennon as the backup. Glennon does have a strong arm, good work ethic and some intangibles. But this coaching staff already has sent Glennon to the bench twice -- once when McCown was signed and once when McCown came back from a thumb injury after Glennon had started five games. If the Bucs can’t get a decent draft pick for Glennon, they could bring him to training camp and ponder the possibility of keeping three quarterbacks. But that will only happen if the coaching staff believes Glennon still has some upside.
TAMPA, Fla. -- It’s time to continue our look at recent drafts by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a look at the class of 2013.

It’s still too early to call this draft a winner or a loser, but there is some hope for this class.

That is largely because cornerback Johnthan Banks, a second-round pick, started to blossom as the 2014 season went on. Heading into the season, Banks appeared destined for backup duty behind Mike Jenkins. But Jenkins was hurt, pushing Banks into the starting lineup. He improved as the season went on, and appears to have the starting job locked up for the foreseeable future.

But the rest of the class hasn’t been nearly as productive.

Quarterback Mike Glennon, a third-round pick, started 13 games as a rookie and wasn’t bad. But the new coaching staff brought in veteran Josh McCown to be the starter in 2014. Glennon did start five games when McCown was injured last season, but he failed to win over the coaching staff, and his future in Tampa Bay doesn’t look bright.

Defensive tackle Akeem Spence, a fourth-round pick, started as a rookie. But Spence was reduced to a rotational player last season with the arrival of Clinton McDonald. But Spence still can be productive in a backup role.

Defensive end William Gholston, a fourth-round pick, had nine starts last season, but produced only two sacks. Gholston’s future is likely as a backup.

Defensive end Steven Means, a fifth-round pick, had little impact as a rookie and ended up getting cut after appearing in one game last season. Running back Mike James, a sixth-round choice, has been a regular on special teams.

I’ll give this class a C.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The new offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has no better idea who the team’s quarterback will be than you or I.

“Who the Bucs are going to pick with the first pick, I’m the last guy to ask that question to right now," Dirk Koetter said Tuesday afternoon. “I have no idea."

Koetter was speaking with the Tampa Bay media via conference call and made his first public comments since being hired last week. There already is a lot of speculation about whether the Bucs will take Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston with the first pick in the 2015 NFL draft. There even is some speculation the Bucs could stick with incumbents Josh McCown and Mike Glennon and go in a different direction with the draft pick.

But Koetter wasn’t shedding any light on who the quarterback will be in 2015.

"You’re going to be disappointed in the answer because I have no idea," Koetter said. “That’s somebody else. (General manager) Jason (Licht) and coach (Lovie) Smith will be in charge of making that decision."

Despite his early dancing, there’s no question Koetter will have plenty of say in what happens at quarterback. He knows a fair amount about McCown and Glennon, but give him a little time to get up to speed on the draft prospects. As Koetter pointed out, Mariota hasn’t declared himself eligible for the draft yet, so he can’t be commented on.

“When you’re coaching in the NFL, you’re watching college football in the distance," Koetter said. “I watch college football for fun. Once we get started and we’re focusing on guys you’re going to draft, now you drill down and really watch guys and put grades on them and that sort of thing. But until then, heck, I watch college football for fun. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you."

But Koetter will have some opinions by the time the draft rolls around. He has several months to watch tape of Mariota, Winston, McCown and Glennon. Koetter is correct in saying the decision will be up to Licht and Smith, but he’s going to have a big voice in this decision.
TAMPA, Fla. -- If you look at last year, it seems new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has nothing to work with.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ranked 30th in total offense and never really got into a rhythm in a season in which they had no offensive coordinator. Koetter was hired last week to fill the role that Jeff Tedford was supposed to but couldn’t due to health issues.

But the fact is Koetter isn’t starting from scratch. The best thing Koetter has going for him are wide receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Both had over 1,000 receiving yards this past season despite spotty quarterback play. Evans was a rookie and should only get better.

Koetter should look at Evans and Jackson and see shades of what he had when he was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta the last three seasons. Just like Roddy White and Julio Jones, Evans and Jackson are big and physical.

Throw in third receiver Louis Murphy, who earned the trust of the coaching staff and more playing time as the season went on, and there’s no reason the Bucs can’t have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL.

Oh, and let’s not forget tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who is even bigger and more physical than Jackson and Evans. Seferian-Jenkins dealt with a lot of injuries as a rookie, but looked like he could be a big contributor when he was healthy.

The rest of the offensive talent is somewhat hidden, but there’s reason for hope.

Let’s look at the running backs. Doug Martin averaged only 3.7 yards per carry in an injury-filled season. Koetter might see a reclamation possibility with Martin, who rushed for more than 1,400 yards as a rookie in 2012. But coach Lovie Smith didn’t draft Martin and may not be his biggest booster.

Smith drafted Charles Sims last year and the rookie played extensively as the season went on. Sims is an all-around back and he could end up as the starter with Martin possibly becoming expendable.

Of course, it doesn’t matter who’s carrying the ball if the offensive line isn’t doing its job. That was the case last year. Despite overhauling the line and going with four new starters, the Bucs got lousy play up front. Left tackle Anthony Collins, who was benched at the end of the season, almost certainly will be released and the team will probably look for an upgrade over Patrick Omameh. But tackle Demar Dotson, center Evan Dietrich-Smith and guard Logan Mankins can be effective if they’re surrounded by more talent.

That brings us to the biggest question facing Koetter. Who’s the quarterback? Let’s start with the obvious: It won’t be Mike Glennon. The Bucs got the impression that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a starter when they sent him back to the bench when Josh McCown returned from a thumb injury. The Bucs like McCown much more, but he’s not guaranteed the starting job. He could end up as a mentor/backup because the Bucs have the first overall pick in the draft and could use it on Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

If the Bucs go with a rookie quarterback, there’s no telling what they might get. But at least that rookie will be surrounded by a decent supporting cast.

Season in review: Quarterbacks

January, 7, 2015
Jan 7
TAMPA, Fla. -- It’s a quarterback-driven league, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent the season in reverse.

Josh McCown was brought in to be the efficient guy after throwing for 13 touchdowns and one interception in Chicago last season. But McCown was not efficient, throwing 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. More importantly, he never got into any offensive rhythm.

That might have had a lot to do with the absence of offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, who had a heart operation and ended up leaving the team. The Bucs went through the season with no true coordinator and quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo called the plays. There’s little doubt that had a negative impact on the offense.

McCown wasn’t alone in his struggles. Second-year pro Mike Glennon started five games and won one. Glennon looked good as a pocket passer, but had no mobility when the pass rush was coming.

More than any other position, the Bucs have to do something at quarterback this offseason. With the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, they have a shot at Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

Either way, Mariota or Winston should be an upgrade on McCown or Glennon.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers season report card

December, 31, 2014
video » AFC: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into the 2014 season talking optimistically about a fast turnaround under new coach Lovie Smith. The Bucs were aggressive in free agency, and the company line was the team didn't want to ask fans to be patient any longer.

In reality, the patience of the fans was put to a strong test during a 2-14 season.

Smith's system didn't take hold right away and defeats piled up. Blowout losses to Atlanta and Baltimore were ugly, and there were painful, close losses along the way. The defense showed signs of improvement as the season went on, but this team didn't do much to build optimism for the future. Major personnel moves will have to come in the offseason.

Team MVP: Gerald McCoy. The defensive tackle was a constant on a team that didn't have much consistency. He finished with 8.5 sacks in a season cut short by a knee injury. McCoy was strong against the run and pass, and he also provided strong leadership. The team rewarded him with a big contract extension at midseason. That assures the team has at least one building block in place for the long term. The Bucs could use a bunch of other pieces as solid as McCoy.

Best moment: This season didn't have many highlights, but the Week 4 victory at Pittsburgh definitely was the shining moment. It came with second-year pro Mike Glennon filling in for an injured Josh McCown at quarterback and provided early-season hope. It showed Smith's system could work. The Bucs weren't able to build anything positive off the Pittsburgh win, but it showed they could be competitive on the road against a good team.

Worst moment: You could go in any number of directions on this one, but I think there's a hands-down winner. That was the Nov. 30 home game against Cincinnati. The Bucs seemed to do everything they needed to get a win. They drove the ball into field-goal range in the closing seconds for what seemed like a certain victory. But the play was called back because the Bucs were penalized for having 12 men in the huddle. They wound up losing 14-13.

2015 outlook: The good news is things probably can't get worse. The honeymoon is over for Smith, who needs to show positive results quickly. Despite the losing, Smith talked repeatedly about how his team was improving. You could see that in small portions, particularly on the defense. But the improvement needs to become much more obvious in Smith's second season. His team has the No. 1 overall draft pick and is likely to be active in free agency, and the Bucs need to start winning games or else Smith will end up on the hot seat.

Bucs need franchise QB with No. 1 pick

December, 28, 2014
WinstonUSA TODAY SportsJameis Winston and Marcus Mariota haven't announced plans to enter the draft, but they likely will.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The most important game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week might not be their season-ending 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Instead, it might be the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

General manager Jason Licht will be there. Coach Lovie Smith might join him. More importantly, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston will be playing in Pasadena, California.

Those are the two quarterbacks the Bucs might be choosing between in May. That much became certain Sunday as the Bucs secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft with a loss to the Saints at Raymond James Stadium.

The way the Bucs cemented the pick is up for conversation. They had a 20-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Then they inserted a whole bunch of young players. That led to questions about the Bucs trying to "tank" the game in order to get the No. 1 pick.

"In the second half, we wanted to look at some more football players," Smith said. "We're not going to the playoffs and we have a comfortable lead and we're going to run the football. The guys we had out there fought right up until the end. [The Saints] made some plays to win the game at the end."

In the final analysis, debate of whether the Bucs were playing for the No. 1 pick doesn't matter. What does matter is they have the No. 1 pick, and the debate about Mariota and Winston is only beginning.

More than anything the Bucs have done in years, they have to make the right call with this pick. Sure, there's a chance they could decide to go with a defensive end or an offensive tackle. But the Bucs, who finished 2-14 and were dismal on offense, have to at least consider a quarterback with the first pick.

"Right now, we’re going to evaluate it all," Smith said. "Our play at the quarterback position hasn't been good enough, as it hasn't been good enough at any position, starting with my position. It's a total evaluation of everything."

It's pretty obvious the Bucs already have evaluated their current quarterbacks, Josh McCown and Mike Glennon. It also is pretty obvious that neither one of those guys is the long-term answer. McCown will turn 36 before next season starts and the coaching staff's refusal to take another look at Glennon late in the season shows he is not in the plans.

The Bucs have a chance at a potential franchise quarterback in Mariota or Winston. In theory, you shouldn't have a chance at a franchise quarterback too often because you shouldn't always be at the top of the draft.

Even the Bucs, who have a .385 winning percentage all-time, haven't held the No. 1 overall pick since 1987. That year, they drafted quarterback Vinny Testaverde. Things didn't work out as planned, but that had more to do with the shortcomings of Testaverde's supporting cast than it did with the quarterback.

This situation is different. The Bucs have a defense that showed promise as the season went on. They also have an excellent pair of receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.

It's not much of a leap to say all the Bucs need to turn things around is a quarterback. They just have to pick the right one.