TAMPA — The worst thing, if you are general manager Jason Licht, and you lose a starting quarterback like Jameis Winston to injury, is to have to face the Bucs owners before a game on Sunday and answer this question:
Do we have a chance to win today?
That answer this season is yes.
Tampa Bay is among the teams with the best quarterback depth in the NFL. In addition to Winston, a budding star and the 2015 rookie of the year in fan voting who was durable enough to play 16 games last season, the Bucs have an experienced backup in Mike Glennon, who has started 18 games in his career but none since 2014. Ryan Griffin, acquired off waivers from the Saints a year ago, is sort of the backup in waiting since Glennon will become a free agent at the end of the season.
How comfortable is coach Dirk Koetter about the quarterback position?
"I feel great about that room. I think we have good depth," Koetter said. "If it was a perfect world, we are getting to the point where it would be better for our football team if we could keep two quarterbacks because we're going to have to let some guys go that we don't want to let go. And I think the perfect set-up with the way the NFL is structured right now, is two quarterbacks and one on practice squad. But if you have a good one and you try to put him on practice squad, the league is so short of quarterbacks, he'll get scooped up like that.
"We had two guys we were waiting on last year and Ryan Griffin was one of them. We had two guys that we had our eye on, only one of them came open (and) we snapped him up. And we invested a year and it just so happens that Mike's (Glennon) deal's up (after the season). If we didn't have that situation with Mike, then maybe things would be different. I believe in keeping two and a developmental guy, but we're just not in that situation right now."
Consider the alternative. The Vikings lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to what appears to be a season-ending left knee injury during a non-contact drill Tuesday. Their backup is 36-year-old journeyman Shaun Hill with a career record of 16-18.
Griffin, a former Tulane standout, should see a lot of playing time tonight against Washington. He has completed 20 of 36 passes for 239 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions in preseason. And by the time Griffin has gotten into games, he's playing with third and fourth-string offensive linemen and receivers, most of whom won't be in the league after tonight.
Griffin says he doesn't focus on what might happen when the Bucs trim their roster to 53 players by Tuesday.
"I think just being in the NFL, you never know what's going to happen, especially when it comes down to getting to the 53; there's so much that goes on with injuries and all that stuff so you can't really think about it," Griffin said. "I know I've gotten to the point where I just get out there and give it my all."
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Glennon hasn't exactly lit up the scoreboard this preseason. He's 20 of 40 passing for 216 yards with one touchdown one interception playing exclusively with the No. 2 offense. However, Glennon should get an opportunity to at least compete for a starting job in the NFL next season. So why wouldn't the Bucs entertain trade offers for him?
First, it costs the Bucs nothing to listen. But unless they were blown away by an offer — say a second- or third-round pick — his value is greater to them as a backup to Winston who can win games in a pinch. When Glennon leaves via free agency, the Bucs will receive a low-round compensatory pick for him.
"I think it's safe (to say) that we're probably going to keep three quarterbacks," Koetter said.
Of course, you need some luck to keep a starting quarterback healthy for 16 games. But if he gets hurt, that miracle teams hope for is often a mirage.