Advertisement

Everybody wants the next Tom Brady. The Bucs actually need one.

John Romano | The NFL is a quarterback’s league, and the Bucs should be in the market now that Tom Brady is a free agent.
Kyle Trask has spent most of the past two years watching Tom Brady from the bench, but the Bucs might find themselves in the market for a younger, more mobile quarterback in 2023.
Kyle Trask has spent most of the past two years watching Tom Brady from the bench, but the Bucs might find themselves in the market for a younger, more mobile quarterback in 2023. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Jan. 21

TAMPA — There are no absolutes in the NFL. What is true on Thursday is not necessarily valid come Sunday.

There are always exceptions, anomalies and inexplicable outcomes. So what you’re seeing in the NFL playoffs this weekend should not be viewed as the lone path toward glory.

But it’s certainly worth considering.

Of the final eight teams remaining in the playoffs, six have quarterbacks 26 or younger. The other two are 27 and 29. And all eight play for the teams that drafted them.

This is directly opposed to recent history when Tom Brady showed up in Tampa Bay and won a Super Bowl at age 43 in 2020 and Matthew Stafford was traded to Los Angeles last season and won a Super Bowl at 33.

Suddenly, owners and general managers were chasing the next great retread. And they spent crazy money along the way. Indianapolis gave Matt Ryan $29 million this year — and benched him after seven weeks. Washington gave Carson Wentz $26 million — and benched him after six weeks.

To acquire Russell Wilson from Seattle, Denver spent two first-round picks, two second-round picks, three players and a contract extension that added up to $296 million over seven years — and the Broncos promptly went 5-12 this season.

Now, again, you should be careful extrapolating too much from a handful of examples.

The Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes, 27, is in the second round of the playoffs with seven other quarterbacks younger than 30. Tom Brady, 45, and the Bucs exited in Round One.
The Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes, 27, is in the second round of the playoffs with seven other quarterbacks younger than 30. Tom Brady, 45, and the Bucs exited in Round One. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

But with the strong possibility the Bucs will find themselves in the quarterback market again this offseason, it’s good to know the difference between tried-and-true and trendy.

Almost three-quarters of the 56 Super Bowls were won by quarterbacks who were playing with their original teams. (I counted John Elway, who was technically drafted by Baltimore in 1983, but was traded to Denver a couple of weeks later without ever putting on a Colts uniform.)

This isn’t exactly a revelation. Teams often used high draft picks to find franchise quarterbacks and players such as Elway, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Bob Griese and Ben Roethlisberger went on to win multiple Super Bowls.

The Bucs are one of the rare franchises to have success while sifting through the veteran quarterback aisle. Both of Tampa Bay’s Super Bowls were won by quarterbacks (Brady and Brad Johnson) acquired on the free-agent market.

So, yes, it can be done.

The trick is knowing when you’re close enough to actually contend, and when it makes more sense to look for a long-term solution at quarterback.

And that’s where the Bucs find themselves today.

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Subscribe to our free Bucs RedZone newsletter

We’ll deliver a roundup of news and commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

While Brady might be a physical marvel at 45, his lack of mobility requires a near-impenetrable offensive line. That was not Tampa Bay in 2022, and it won’t likely be in 2023.

Besides having an average age of 25.4, the eight surviving quarterbacks in the postseason are also somewhat nimble. Between them, they averaged 84 rushes for 416 yards with 35 first downs. Brady ran the ball 29 times for minus-1 yard and five first downs.

The yardage gained is not as significant as the added threat of a mobile passer.

No one is knocking Tom Brady for playing past 40. But even in his 20s, he wasn't the most nimble of quarterbacks.
No one is knocking Tom Brady for playing past 40. But even in his 20s, he wasn't the most nimble of quarterbacks. [ TONY AVELAR | AP ]

A quarterback who can move in the pocket changes the way defenses set up game plans. Because Tampa Bay’s offensive line struggled to protect Brady — the NFL’s Next Gen Stats had his average time to throw at a league-low 2.45 seconds — it limited what the Bucs could do offensively.

Brady rarely left the pocket to buy more time to throw, and consequently he had a higher-than-average rate of short passes. With that in mind, defenses often kept 10 defenders within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, which made it difficult to find open passing lanes. Not to mention, run the ball.

So does that mean the Bucs need to scour college campuses looking for the next Jalen Hurts? Not necessarily. There is still lots of room in the league for stay-in-the-pocket passers. Brady’s age and lack of speed were just a little farther off the chart than most dropback passers.

The point is more that Tampa Bay should probably avoid the offseason carousel of used quarterbacks. The Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Baker Mayfield types. Any one of those guys might be more effective than Kyle Trask or any quarterback the Bucs could find with the No. 19 pick, but it’s hard to see Tampa Bay turning into a Super Bowl contender with the passers available.

It’s true, Tampa Bay’s history of drafting quarterbacks is not terribly inspiring. At least not while they’re wearing Bucs uniforms.

But, if you take a look around the NFL this weekend, it could be worth the investment. If not this April, then soon.

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

• • •

Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.