Is rookie Mike Glennon the franchise quarterback the Bucs are now and once again looking for?
The fair answer to that question is no one knows. That's what the Bucs hope to learn over the final nine games of this otherwise lost season.
But here's the problem: The rest of this season likely won't be enough for the Bucs to accurately gauge whether Glennon is the quarterback of the future or a future backup.
And because of that, the Bucs will have no choice but to start over again next season with the next franchise quarterback.
You feel bad for Glennon. He is getting the opportunity of a lifetime, but I just don't see how he is going to have enough time to make the most of it.
Let's start with what we know. Glennon is a big kid with a strong arm and doesn't seem overwhelmed by the moment.
"I'm impressed with Mike,'' Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "I'm impressed, as I've said many times, with his work ethic, his preparation, the way he reads things out in games, his cool demeanor.''
He seems to be getting a little better each week and, occasionally, there are moments when you say, "Hmm, okay, that doesn't look half-bad.''
But Glennon, a third-round pick, is 0-4 so far, and history tells us that, despite the likes of Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Tony Romo, it's rare that any quarterback not drafted in the first round will have much success in today's NFL.
Schiano admits that they've put Glennon in a bad spot. The Bucs have abandoned the run and Glennon has thrown way too many passes in his four starts. In the past two games, 92 of Glennon's 95 pass attempts have come while the Bucs were trailing — not exactly the kind of situations designed for success.
And now things are getting worse. The beat-up and leaky offensive line has been without former Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks for much of the season, and no one knows when or if he will return. Same with star running back Doug Martin. On Monday, wide receiver Mike Williams was put on injured reserve. Suddenly, Glennon is driving a jalopy that is dropping parts at every turn.
"We have kind of a mixed bag there on offense,'' Schiano said, "but that's our bag."
Still, that makes it nearly impossible to evaluate Glennon's progress and estimate his future.
"You evaluate what you have,'' Schiano said. "What else can you do?''
Here's the likely scenario: Glennon continues to look like the Glennon we've seen thus far. You're going to see the same game over and over again, and it will look exactly like the past four games.
Glennon will be good at times and shaky at others. He'll throw some solid passes and some ill-advised ones. He'll throw touchdowns and interceptions, he'll run for first downs and fumble the ball.
And the Bucs will get to the end of the season with, maybe, a couple of wins and a top-three draft pick.
And then what?
At that point, the Bucs will have to make a decision that will affect the franchise for years to come.
They could look for a veteran free agent, but that rarely seems to work. The league is full of sub-.500 teams quarterbacked by the usual array of drifters and journeymen like Carson Palmer and Chad Henne.
No, the Bucs will have a much tougher choice. Do they turn the franchise permanently over to Glennon or spend their high first-round pick on some college kid such as Oregon's Marcus Mariota or Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom are projected to be NFL stars?
In the end, it's a no-brainer. The Bucs simply cannot put their chips on Glennon and pass up what could be the next Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. Even if they have a gut feeling that Glennon can be good, the risk of not taking a Mariota or Bridgewater is simply too great.
Glennon could solve all this by playing so well in the final nine weeks that he convinces everyone he is the starter in 2014 and beyond. Plus, if he played that well, the Bucs would win too many games to get a top pick.
But don't expect that. Expect more of the same from Glennon.
Unfortunately for Glennon, more of the same means another change at quarterback next season.