Imagine Tom Terrific.
Imagine Tampa Bay as titletown.
Imagine Tom Brady, flashing that grin, leading all those comebacks on the way to all those Super Bowls. Imagine him as elegant in the pocket as ever. Imagine him in the winners circle.
Now imagine him here.
Even the thought of it is enough to ruin your day, isn't it? Even as the Bucs turn to another quarterback in another lost-already season, even as the four-wins-in-a-career Mike Glennon takes over for the 16-wins-in-a-career Josh McCown, the thoughts of the one who got away can eat at you.
And there are all the others.
Joe Montana. Peyton Manning. Drew Brees. Dan Marino. Aaron Rodgers. Brett Favre. Warren Moon. Russell Wilson. Colin Kaepernick. Andy Dalton. Boomer Esiason. And others.
For the entire history of the franchise, the Bucs have been playing dodgeball with quarterbacks. It is the team's biggest failing. It has simply never gotten the position right. It never has gotten close.
No, a team doesn't end up with all of the great quarterbacks. But somewhere along the line, don't you think that this team would have fallen into one or two? That it would trip over this guy or that? For crying out loud, it's only seven steps back to the pocket. How lost can a franchise get along the way?
Year after year, this team has managed to trip over itself on the way to a quarterback. It doesn't matter who is the coach or general manager. They're going to draft Josh Freeman, or Trent Dilfer, or Vinny Testaverde. They're going to trade for Jack Thompson, or Chris Chandler, or Steve Spurrier.
Which leads us to Mike Glennon, Part II. Not to say this might not be big, but let's hold off on the parades for now.
Oh, it didn't have to be this way. So many times, this day could have been avoided. Granted, there are a lot of teams that would like to go back to a draft day or two, or an offseason or two. But is there any team that has gone through its history with so little to brag about at quarterback?
Take, for instance, April 16 of 2000. The Bucs were coming off an NFC Championship Game appearance, and they had just decided not to bring back Dilfer. No one knew what the team had in Shaun King.
And, in the draft, there was this guy named Brady.
Perhaps you've heard of him.
To be fair, Brady was not yet Brady. Even the New England Patriots took a guy named Antwan Harris earlier in the sixth round that day.
But someone was going to be smart enough to take Brady. It wasn't going to be the Bucs.
So the Bucs took Cosey Coleman, a forgettable guard, in the second round. They took Nate Webster, an undersized linebacker, in the third. They took James Whalen, a tight end, in the fifth. And three picks before the Patriots picked Brady, with John Lynch and Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson at safety, they took David Gibson.
All together now: David Gibson?
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It wasn't the first time the Bucs had stubbed their toe. Consider 1979, the third year of the franchise.
Granted, the Bucs had Doug Williams back then, but he was a rookie who had started only 10 games and won only four of them the year before. He had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. It wouldn't have been a terrible thing to invest in a backup quarterback instead of the immortal Mike Rae.
Besides, the Bucs had five draft picks in the second and third rounds that year. They had traded the No. 4 pick in the draft for Wally Chambers (really?), but they took Greg Roberts and Gordon Jones in the second and Jerry Eckwood, Reggie Lewis and Rick Berns in the third.
Meanwhile, Joe Cool waited.
The Bucs could have had Joe Flipping Montana.
And so it went. In 1982, the team botched its draft pick and took Sean Farrell by mistake. Even worse, it traded away its pick the next year for all-time flop Booker Reese.
Had the Bucs kept that pick, they could have taken Marino the next year.
They could have drafted Esiason in 1984 instead of trading for Thompson. They could have taken Favre in 1991 instead of Charles McRae. They could have taken Drew Brees in 2001 instead of Kenyatta Walker. They could have taken Kaepernick instead of Adrian Clayborn in 2010. People still think they had a nice haul in getting Mark Barron, Doug Martin and Lavonte David in 2012, but they could have had Wilson.
Then there is free agency. The team didn't blink when Warren Moon was out there in 1984. It didn't bite on Brees in 2006. It never got in on Manning in 2012.
It tried to deal for Favre in 2008, but it failed on that, too.
It is staggering when you think of all the quarterbacks who could have had their greatness here. How many touchdowns? How many titles?
Of course, you could always argue that this franchise would have let them down, too, the way it has a lot of its quarterbacks. Maybe, given their teammates and their coaching, no one would have heard of the great players, either.
After all, Tampa Bay did have greatness at quarterback once.
His name was Steve Young. He won three games in two years.
In the end, the Bucs gave him away. Even when this team had its hands on something special, it couldn't hang on.