TAMPA — For the most part, we are reasonable people.
We understand that changing a tire on a Hyundai does not make us fit to work a pit stop at the Daytona 500. Adding bacon to a Kraft macaroni-and-cheese mix doesn’t mean you can cater weddings, and while your Labradoodle never poops in the house you’re not going online to find a Westminster Dog Show application.
On the other hand, you have seen a Super Bowl or two.
And now you are a quarterback guru.
That’s just how it works. For everybody. Bruce Arians may be the quarterback whisperer, but we are all quarterback geniuses. Footwork, arm strength, pocket presence? We know it all, even if we can’t throw a Nerf through a carnival hoop.
I bring this up only because Tampa Bay seems to be losing its collective mind.
The Bucs have an honest-to-goodness quarterback battle for the first time since social media became our preferred governing method, and now everyone is an expert on the intricacies of Baker Mayfield vs. Kyle Trask. Folks are sniping on Twitter, shouting on the radio and still blaming Gisele for 2022.
And I love it!
Seriously, this is a major part of the joy of sports. It allows us to argue loud and ludicrously about a topic we care about deeply but which, ultimately, has little impact on our lives. Sort of like a presidential election, minus the Iowa state fair.
Recently, a WTSP video of an offseason workout from AdventHealth Training Center included an errant pass or two. This, apparently, was a sign that the Bucs were tanking in order to pick at the top of the 2024 draft. Social media went bonkers, although it’s admittedly a short journey.
Suddenly, there were people critiquing Mayfield’s arm and Trask’s ability to move in the pocket. Never mind that Trask has yet to play a meaningful down in the NFL or that Mayfield is playing for his eighth head coach in his sixth professional season.
Nuance has no place in this league, and typing in ALL CAPS undoubtedly makes you smarter than the average fan.
I don’t know much, but I do know this:
The Bucs did not sign Mayfield because they wanted to go 4-13 and pick USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye near the top of the draft. If that was the plan, they could have saved $4 million, and possibly more, by just handing the job to Trask.
It’s true, Tampa Bay is no longer a great team. That ship sailed a couple of years ago, although it took us a while to recognize it. The best you can hope for in 2023 is that the Bucs are a decent team in a weak division. Which, in a way, is a mirror of the quarterback situation. At this point in their careers, few people are predicting greatness for either Trask or Mayfield, but there’s still a smidgen of hope for a shining moment or two still ahead.
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The point is that nobody knows for certain what the Bucs have at quarterback. Not me, not you, not Todd Bowles. Mayfield is either a good quarterback who just needs a better supporting cast and game plan, or he really is the journeyman that recent evidence would indicate.
Eventually, every quarterback gets what he deserves. Sometimes that determination is made quickly, and sometimes it takes multiple chances before the real story can be told. Geno Smith bounced around the NFL for eight years before emerging in Seattle last season. Ryan Tannehill was a disappointment in Miami but went to Tennessee at age 31 and took the Titans to three consecutive playoff appearances.
So, no, watching a handful of practice throws or poring over past game films does not mean you have Mayfield pegged. You might have an opinion, your opinion might have merit, and you might end up being right. But if it was as cut-and-dried as people are suggesting, then the Bucs either screwed up royally by giving Mayfield a chance or the rest of the NFL is filled with morons because they didn’t offer him more.
And I don’t think either scenario is true.
Signing Mayfield was a smart, sensible, calculated risk. There’s a chance he’ll bomb, and a chance he’ll succeed. His past performance suggests one scenario is more likely than the other, but that doesn’t mean either is out of the question. And 20 seconds of video three months before the season opener is not the evidence you might think it is.
When it comes to Bucs quarterbacks, that’s the only thing I’m certain about.
John Romano can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.
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