Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

Should the Bucs have a backup plan for their backup quarterbacks?

John Romano | It’s been rainbows and paparazzi since Tom Brady arrived, but the Bucs could have a serious problem if their quarterback gets hurt.

You are a Bucs fan. You grew up on worst-case scenarios.

You know the story of Bo Jackson. You know Bill Parcells stood up Tampa Bay — in two different decades. You know that quarterbacks are born here and praised elsewhere.

So all of the optimism of recent days has made you skittish. Like playing hooky with the principal’s daughter. It sounds like a blast, but it can’t possibly end well, right?

And then you saw pictures of players at an informal practice this week, and that’s when it hit you. There was Tom Brady. And next to him were Ryan Griffin and Blaine Gabbert.

Related: Bucs GM Jason Licht: Tom Brady, Bruce Arians are win-now guys


We live in Florida. We have hurricanes. Storm surges. Sinkholes. We understand the need for insurance.

And yet, the Bucs didn’t think to upgrade their backup quarterback policy?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert (11) and Ryan Griffin (4) work on passing drills during training camp last fall. [Tampa Bay Times (2019)]

No offense to Gabbert and Griffin. They are millionaire athletes, and I’m not. But, um, can you see either one of them being Earl Morrall? Or even Nick Foles? Can you see the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl with Brady on the sideline in a cast?

Do you remember? One win away from the Super Bowl in 1992, the Dolphins started hot in ’93 with four wins in five games. Then Dan Marino ruptured his Achilles tendon, and Miami went 5-6.

Go ahead and call me an alarmist. After all, Tampa Bay’s defense is on the upswing, the receivers are bona fide stars and the coach has guts and gravitas.

Related: Grandmother inspires Bucs’ Chris Godwin to pay it forward

But let’s be honest. Brady is the only reason Monday Night Football has a crush on Tampa Bay. Brady is the reason tickets are suddenly in demand. Brady is the reason the Bucs are on the Super Bowl radar.

Derrick Brooks recently chided receiver Mike Evans for saying Brady was a franchise changer. It takes more than one player to turn a team’s fortunes, Brooks argued.

And he’s right. Adding one player is not enough to win a Super Bowl.

But how about removing one player?

In this Dec. 22, 2011, file photo, injured Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning stands on the field before the team's NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Indianapolis. [AJ MAST | Associated Press (2011)]

Do you remember? Going into 2011, the Colts had made nine consecutive postseason appearances and won a Super Bowl. And then Peyton Manning had neck surgery, and Indianapolis finished 2-14.

The good news is Brady is durable. Almost freakishly so. Playing in one of the most vulnerable positions in sports, he has not missed a start due to injury since 2008.

Related: NFL owners to selves: We still stink at hiring minority coaches

The bad news is Brady is an anomaly. On average, a little less than half the quarterbacks in the NFL start every game in any given season. Sometimes, that’s due to performance instead of injury, but you get the idea.

Which means the odds just aren’t in Brady’s favor of surviving an entire season. Not when he’s soon to turn 43. And that puts an awful lot of weight on Griffin, who just turned 30 and has only thrown four passes in his NFL career. Not to mention, Gabbert’s career passer rating of 71.7 is the lowest in the NFL among active quarterbacks with at least 40 starts.

Do you remember? San Diego was a chic pick to reach the Super Bowl in 1983 with future Hall of Famer Dan Fouts at quarterback. Then Fouts hurt his shoulder at midseason and backup Ed Luther went 1-5.

To be fair, the Bucs did not have a lot of options when it came to backup quarterbacks. The salary cap was stretched a little thin, and there were some crazy contracts handed to Case Keenum (3 years, $18 million), Marcus Mariota (2 years, $17.6 million) and Chase Daniel (3 years, $13 million) to be backups.

One possibility might have been to convince Andy Dalton that he would have a shot at playing for a Super Bowl contender while backing up an older quarterback. It would have been similar to the coup in New Orleans where the Saints got Jameis Winston to agree to a bargain deal.

Related: Romano: History suggests a hurried baseball season might benefit Rays

Instead, Dalton signed a one-year deal for $3 million to look over Dak Prescott’s shoulder in Dallas. And Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco just signed with the Jets for $1.5 million.

That doesn’t leave a whole lot left on the market. There’s Blake Bortles and not much else. At this point, you could argue about talent but there is an advantage to Griffin and Gabbert having’s familiarity with Bruce Arians’ offense.

Do you remember? The Packers had made the playoffs eight consecutive seasons under Aaron Rodgers and oddsmakers had them as the No. 2 preseason pick for the Super Bowl in 2017. And then Rodgers broke his collarbone and Green Bay had its first losing season since 2008.

Of course, training camp is still two months away. Worrying about Brady’s health in May might seem pointless and premature. Worrying about Tampa Bay’s backup quarterbacks seems awfully fatalistic.

But you are a Bucs fan. You’ve been raised to expect the worst.

Consider this Tampa Bay’s Achilles’ spiel.