It was just about this point in the program that another losing coach handed him another desperate situation.
It was just about here that a season, lost already, was turned over to Mike Glennon.
And here we are again.
The Bucs are terrible, again. A season is disappearing in the distance, again. The team has turned into a punch line, again.
It sounds like Glennon time, doesn't it?
Even for a franchise with a lot more bad seasons than good, the Bucs managed to embarrass themselves Thursday against a Falcons team that didn't win any more than they did last year. The Bucs were Leeman Bennett bad, and Ray Perkins bad, and Richard Williamson bad. If they were not such a tragedy, you might suggest they were a comedy.
This is a professional football team? These guys get paid? These guys practice?
Why, this is the worst start the Bucs have had, well, since last year. You remember. Last year, the Bucs started 0-3, and they were a mess, and the quarterback looked lost. That was when then-coach Greg Schiano dumped Josh Freeman in a move that didn't work out for anyone. Freeman was soon chased out of the league, and Schiano was fired, and the Bucs finished 4-12.
Yeah, this feels a lot different.
This year, the Bucs are once again 0-3, and once more, they look like a mess, and just like always, the quarterback looks lost. In other words, it is about on cue for the new coach, Lovie Smith, to dump another Josh and hope that, somehow, this situation winds up better.
Isn't it about time? Wasn't it time before Glennon entered the game in the second quarter after Josh McCown injured his thumb? No, Glennon wasn't Joe Montana himself, but isn't it about time to let him play for a while? What else are you going to do? Bring back Freeman?
"We're so far from talking about stuff like that right now," said Smith, shrugging off a question over whether he might change quarterbacks. But, yes, he said, there will be changes.
"Of course, we have to make some changes. The direction we're going right now isn't getting it done."
Even before his injury, McCown again looked every bit like the career backup trying to play the lead role. For the third straight game, he threw a horrible-looking interception on his way to a forgettable game. For the third straight game, he didn't give his team a fighting chance.
All along, this was the fear when it came to McCown. He had spent so much of his career on the bench, watching other quarterbacks play, that the feeling was this was where he belonged. Out of all of those other teams, and all of those other coaches, no one looked at McCown and saw the answer.
Yes, McCown had a good year last year with the Bears. More and more, that looks like a guy who was playing above his head. There is nothing special about McCown, nothing that suggests he is elite, particularly not with ordinary teammates. Ask yourself this: What other team in the NFL would start McCown next week? Two teams? Three?
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And if most of the others wouldn't, why should the Bucs?
Yeah, yeah. I know what you're thinking. There were plenty of things wrong with the Bucs on Thursday night. They couldn't run. They couldn't tackle. They couldn't cover. Worst of all, they didn't compete.
It starts with the quarterback, however. Through the history of the Bucs, that is the team's grand failing. The team's history is a sad line of Steve Spurrier to Jack Thompson to Vinny Testaverde to Trent Dilfer to Freeman to McCown. Oh, Doug Williams had his 15 minutes, and Brad Johnson had 10, but this is still a franchise looking for its first great player at the position.
You know how Smith is fond of talking about the days he spent in his basement last year watching films and preparing for his return to the NFL? Just asking, but did anyone lend him tapes of Matt Ryan? Or Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Drew Brees or another dozen or so quarterbacks?
On Thursday night, Ryan was the quarterback that Bucs fans always hoped their team would pursue. He was accurate. He was lethal. He moved well in the pocket. He sorted through his progressions as if he were ordering dinner. In all, he hit 21 of 24 passes in what might have been the greatest contrast between quarterbacks in NFL history.
Just as important, Ryan looked like a quarterback. He attacked the defense. With the ball in his hands, all things were possible.
When is the last time you said that about any Bucs quarterback? When is the last time a drive started and you believed the team would score?
At this point, Glennon doesn't have to be the answer.
At this point, all he has to be is an alternative.