TAMPA — His team is eliminated from the NFC South division fiasco. He awoke Monday with a 2-11 record and the Bucs currently owning the first overall pick in the NFL draft that many believe will be used on a quarterback — either Oregon's Marcus Mariota or Florida State's Jameis Winston.
The only thing left for coach Lovie Smith to decide in the final three games is whether Josh McCown or Mike Glennon should be the guy to potentially serve as the bridge to the eventual franchise quarterback. At the least, Glennon could stir some potential trade value.
"This week is a little bit different for us," Smith said Monday. "There's no 'destination Phoenix,' (for Super Bowl XLIX) or anything like that."
For the second time in less than 24 hours, Smith wouldn't say whether he would turn back to Glennon at quarterback. But he hasn't ruled it out.
"We want to put the best product on the field, guys in the right spots, the ones that gives us the best opportunity to win," Smith said. "That's where we're at.
"Playing a player at a position that won't hurt our football team (or) win a football game, we'll always look at that. I hadn't made it that far, to even decide. We haven't even started looking at video from Carolina (Sunday's opponent) yet. We won't give up a game just to see to put a player in a situation like that. And I would like to think if there's a young player we haven't played, when you go through a 2-11 season, you would've looked at that option a little bit earlier. I don't think we have a lot of those situations around."
Smith is right. The Bucs already have begun to turn to the future. That was evident in Sunday's 34-17 loss to the Lions.
Rookie running back Charles Sims played 40 snaps to 24 by starter Doug Martin. Safety Bradley McDougald, claimed off waivers from the Chiefs last November, made his second straight start in place of veteran Major Wright. Linebacker Danny Lansanah moved to the middle for injured starter Mason Foster, who will become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
"I think his talents are better suited at the (middle) or (strongside) linebacker position and he's had success at both of those," Smith said of Lansanah. "We'll find out more these next three weeks, like we found out more about him each week he's played. I'll just say he's a player that's a part of the foundation we're building."
Injuries may force some other changes for Sunday's game. Linebacker Lavonte David suffered a concussion when he was struck in the head by Calvin Johnson's knee and was undergoing league protocol on head injuries Monday.
Smith denied reports from Pro Football Talk that defensive tackle Gerald McCoy suffered a dislocated kneecap, saying he bruised his right knee. McCoy finished the game.
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McCown suffered a physical pounding. He took a season-high six sacks and was hit 14 other times. From a performance standpoint, there is also reason to make another change at quarterback. McCown is 1-7 this season and has not protected the football. He has nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Glennon didn't fare much better in his opportunity this year, going 1-4 with a last-second win at Pittsburgh. In two seasons, he is 5-13.
"Obviously, we're not going to the playoffs so coaches are going to start making preparations for next year and looking to the future," McDougald said.
The playoff talk finally is over. The only payoff left is to evaluate players.
"Different mind-set as far as all of that being off the table," Smith said. "Now it's about a three-game season for us — a one-game season as far as playing better football against the defending champions in our division."