Should Tom Brady walk off into the west central Florida sunset after 22 NFL seasons, the most viable replacement scenario involves the Bucs again seeking a proven free agent in earnest.
But could they stay in-house? It’s plausible, just not likely popular.
“Yeah, we do (contingency plans) with every position,” coach Bruce Arians said earlier this week. “Quarterback, obviously you start there. Again, (we’ll) see where we’re heading and wait and see what Tom does. But we’ll be doing our homework, that’s for sure.”
Should the team promote from within, the choices are limited to 32-year-old free agent Blaine Gabbert and 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask. Gabbert, who owns a 13-35 career record as an NFL starter, has completed 16 of 27 passes in mop-up duty for Brady over the last two seasons.
His last NFL start came with the Titans in the 2018 regular-season finale. A fill-in for injured regular Marcus Mariota in a game Tennessee had to win to reach the playoffs, Gabbert went 18 of 29 for 165 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 33-17 loss to the Colts.
But in fairness, he played for eight different head coaches (excluding interims) in his first eight NFL seasons, and most of his starts were logged with struggling teams (Jaguars, 49ers). Moreover, Arians, who had Gabbert his final season in Arizona (when he won two of five starts), raves about the 6-foot-5 right-hander’s arm.
Arians also has lauded the work ethic of Trask, inactive for all 19 games this season in a de facto redshirt year. A career backup in high school (to University of Miami QB D’Eriq King) and at Florida before flourishing as a Gators starter in 2020, Trask was drafted with the intent of waiting his turn and watching how Brady goes about his job.
“We’re treating him just as if he’s Tom (Brady),” Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said in late October.
“Obviously, he doesn’t get the reps, but in the meetings, he has responsibilities. He has responsibilities for this team, for the room, so we’re trying to teach him how to play the position, really. And he’s got a guy in front of him that he can learn from.”
Thing is, internal hires remain uncommon in Gabbert and Trask’s line of work.
Not since Josh Johnson in 2009 has a Bucs quarterback made his starting debut after serving as a backup for the team the previous year. Translation: Starters typically are culled from free agency (Josh McCown, Brady) or the draft (Josh Freeman, Jameis Winston), and plugged into the huddle in short order.
Which isn’t to say career resuscitations or successful grooming are without precedent.
In terms of the former, Doug Williams earned Super Bowl MVP honors with Washington a half-decade after taking his final snap for the Bucs; and 1971 No. 1 overall draft pick Jim Plunkett led the Raiders to a pair of Super Bowls in the early 1980s after foundering his first seven seasons (with the Patriots and 49ers).
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As for the latter, Aaron Rodgers didn’t start until his fourth season in Green Bay; and Brady himself didn’t start until his second year in New England, after Drew Bledsoe was injured.
Moreover, Arians said he’d be “comfortable” if Brady’s heir already exists on the roster.
Then again, a GOAT appeared behind Door No. 2 the last time they peeked.
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls
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