For Bucs, Losing might not be the worst thing

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions with nine rushing touchdowns despite rarely playing into the fourth quarter.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions with nine rushing touchdowns despite rarely playing into the fourth quarter.
Published Nov. 2, 2013

In 2011, with QB Peyton Manning out for the season with a neck injury, the Colts lost their first 13 games.

Retread Kerry Collins went 0-3 and Curtis Painter 0-8. Dan Orlovsky started 0-2 then won two of the final three games, nearly knocking Jim Irsay's team out of the No. 1 pick.

Irsay twice transformed the Colts. First in 1997 by drafting Manning first overall then in 2012 with the selection of QB Andrew Luck.

Two weeks ago, when the Colts spoiled Manning's return to Indy, Irsay took to Twitter: "As OWNER, Buck stops with U; In 1997 n January 2012, alone n the room, plotting the vision 4 Greatness! Strategically decades of success follows."

That brings us to the 0-7 Bucs.

While no owner would ever admit this — and frankly he has little control over game-day decisions — would the Bucs benefit from a horrific record and securing one of the top two picks in the 2014 draft?

Recently, an anonymous NBA general manager spoke to ESPN the Magazine about the value of losing: "Our team isn't good enough to win, and we know it. So this season, we want to develop and evaluate our young players, let them learn from their mistakes — and get us in position to grab a great player. The best way for us to do that is to lose a lot of games.

"This draft is loaded. There are potential All-Stars at the top, maybe even franchise changers. Sometimes my job is to understand the value of losing."

It sounds crazy, but is it?

At least five quarterbacks are expected to be taken in the first round of the draft. Two are considered franchise changers: Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Oregon's Marcus Mariota.

Where does this leave Mike Glennon? Of course it depends on the next 10 weeks. Glennon hasn't looked like a rookie, going 106-of-181 (58.6 percent) for 997 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. But he is, after all, a third-round pick and 0-4. Will the Bucs know enough about Glennon to pass on a top-flight quarterback?

Mariota has 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions with nine rushing touchdowns despite rarely playing into the fourth quarter. Of course, no player or coach is going to tank for Teddy. That's what is tricky. Players have to continue to believe they have a chance to win every game. Coaches' livelihoods depend on it.

But there are some organizational decisions that could, and maybe should, be made in the interest of the long-term future. Shutting down RB Doug Martin is one. He needs surgery on the torn labrum in his left shoulder. LG Carl Nicks likely will wind up on injured reserve as well. Multiple foot surgeries, the latest to cure MRSA, makes his future with the team bleak.

You can't underestimate the value of a franchise quarterback. Many are No. 1 overall picks.

The Bucs aren't going to the playoffs. Most teams that lose their first seven win four games maximum. Jim Caldwell, who coached his team to the Super Bowl, was fired after the Colts' 2-14 debacle.

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But Luck, it seems, was on their side. Sometimes, the worst thing for a franchise is not losing. It's not losing enough.

COLLEGE CURVE: Pete Carroll might be proof that college coaches can succeed in the NFL.

Carroll failed with the Jets and Patriots, had great success at USC and is 7-1 with the Seahawks after back-to-back playoff berths. Is the belief that college coaches can't succeed in the NFL overblown?

"Absolutely, it's totally overblown," Carroll said. "The same aspects and fundamentals that make up a good college coach make up a good pro coach. It's the same guys. They're just a little bit older. Once you adapt to the game and you learn your league and you learn your division, you know what the other coaches are like, and you get the brand of football, then it's certainly a transition guys can make. And they do it all the time.

"Every year helps. You always learn, and you get better as you go. This is a job you really have to grow into."