With Bucs training camp quickly approach the PewterReport.com staff asks – and answers – 15 critical camp questions that need to be answered this August as Tampa Bay prepares to embark on the 2019 season. Over the next 15 days PewterReport.com will offer up its thoughts on the topics that the Bucs will need to sort out in order for the team to be successful this season and possibly compete for a long-awaited playoff berth.
These are the things that the PewterReport.com staff will be following closely in camp, and invite our readers to share their thoughts as well in the comment section.
Bucs’ Critical Camp Question No. 13:
Who Wins The Backup QB Job?
Blaine Gabbert. This is a two-horse race between Gabbert and Ryan Griffin with undrafted free agent Nick Fitzgerald playing different positions all over the field on offense and special teams in a Taysom Hill role. Gabbert will win the backup job, based on his experience in Bruce Arians’ offense. Though, in a year from now, things could look different in Tampa Bay at the quarterback position in general.
Gabbert is a long-tenured quarterback in this league, playing in the NFL for eight years with four different teams. He’s seen a lot of looks in that time and has only had marginal success since entering the league as a first-round pick by Jacksonville. In 2017, Gabbert played under Bruce Arians in Arizona, backing up Carson Palmer. During that season, he ended up starting five games, throwing for 1,086 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions while compiling a 2-3 record.
That amount of experience and familiarity with Arians has to hold a great deal of weight for winning the backup job. Arians holds the backup job as a very important position with helping the starter, and in the past has made sure a knowledgeable veteran was there to give insight to whoever the starting quarterback was. One can go as far back as to when now-Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich was backing up Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, with the intricate role he played.
The case for Griffin is a mysterious one due to the unknown element about his game. Signing as an undrafted free agent with the Saints in 2013 and being a member of the Bucs since 2015, Griffin has yet to play a snap in a regular season game – not even in a clean-up situation.
He’s shown some favorable signs in the preseason, including last year with 541 passing yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions with QB rating of 105.3. That led to former Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter constantly giving him praise during training camp. But this is a new regime under Arians and his coaching staff, so Griffin will have to continue to impress in front of a new set of eyes.
With Griffin, there’s still that “What if?” factor for what he could potentially be if he had a chance to start. He’s intriguing because the team doesn’t totally know what it has in him and what his ceiling is, and that will be up to Arians and Leftwich to decide.
Obviously, the Bucs do not want to have a situation where someone has to come in for starter Jameis Winston. In the event that does happen though, Arians will lean on the experience and the trust he has with Gabbert to help lead the Bucs to a win. Right now it’s too much of a gamble to play someone like Griffin that hasn’t taken a snap yet when Arians has a veteran like Gabbert on the bench.
With both Gabbert and Griffin being under contract for just one year, and Winston playing in his fifth-year option, it’s way too early to determine which quarterback or quarterbacks – if any out of the current stable – will be on the team in 2020 serving as the backup or even as the starter.