The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs. This week’s topic: Who should back-up, and potentially succeed, Tom Brady at quarterback?
Scott Reynolds: It Should Be A Veteran, Gabbert Gets The First Shot
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I just wrote about the fact that the Bucs will likely draft a developmental quarterback this year in my latest SR’s Fab 5. I’m not a big fan of the idea for the reasons Jon Ledyard wrote about previously. Yet with just Tom Brady on the roster, the Bucs will need two more quarterbacks this year. I think Blaine Gabbert is one, and the other one comes from the draft. Likely either Florida’s Kyle Trask or Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond. I see the logic in developing a young QB behind Brady over the next two years. But I don’t agree with it. I’m sticking with my stance that Brady’s eventual replacement needs to be a veteran free agent.
That approach has worked out well in the past, evidenced by Super Bowl wins in 2002 and 2020. Both Brad Johnson and Brady were veteran free agent signings. The last two times Tampa Bay has won the NFC South it started the season with veteran free agent QBs. Yes, Chris Simms, a third-round pick, helped get the Bucs to the playoffs in 2005. But Brian Griese started that year with a 5-1 record before tearing his ACL. Jeff Garcia guided Tampa Bay to NFC South supremacy in 2007, which was the last time the Bucs won the division. I’ve spent 10 years watching Josh Freeman and Jameis Winston each make it to their fifth-year option, only to falter. The two former first-rounders combined for just two winning seasons out of decade’s worth of football.
I’m not saying Gabbert is the Bucs’ answer at QB after Brady. But for some reason Arians and G.M. Jason Licht love the guy, and that intrigues me. He’ll get re-signed soon. There have been a few journeyman QBs that have been to the Super Bowl before. Johnson, Rich Gannon, Trent Dilfer and Kurt Warner come to mind. And Carson Palmer had Arians’ Cardinals knocking on the door in 2015. Maybe Gabbert is next with all of he talent he’ll have to work with? I won’t be against the Bucs drafting a QB in the middle rounds, but I won’t hold my breath that he develops into a playoff-caliber starter. Give me Gabbert, Aaron Rodgers in two years, or Andrew Luck coming out of retirement rather than tying this team’s future to mid-round pick like next Simms, Shaun King, Bruce Gradkowski or Mike Glennon.
Mark Cook: Bucs Can’t Trust 2021 Backup Job To A Rookie
Despite my disdain for Blaine Gabbert, listen to last week’s Pewter Report Podcast (47:10 mark). The Buccaneers can’t go into 2021 with a rookie or a new quarterback who doesn’t understand the system. Unless Bruce Arians is going to talk Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck or Carson Palmer out of retirement, they need to find a way to bring Gabbert back. Maybe even Ryan Griffin, too.
If the Buccaneers were to lose Tom Brady for the season with an injury, kiss the Super Bowl goodbye. Hollywood loves scenarios where the relatively unknown comes in for the star quarterback and saves the day. But this isn’t NBC’s Friday Night Lights. A real life Matt Saracen isn’t going to come off the bench and fill in for injured Jason Street and take the Bucs to a championship. Even if you want to point to one of the few times it really has happened in professional football, it’s been 30 years since Jeff Hostetler came off the bench to replace an injured Phil Simms to lead the Giants to a Super Bowl win over the Bills. To put that in perspective, Brady was 12 when that happened.
While no one would expect Gabbert to step in and lead Tampa Bay to a championship, if forced into action, he is good enough to possibly get the Bucs into the playoffs with so much talent around him. With Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II and now Giovani Bernard surrounding him, Gabbert doesn’t need to be Brady – or even Hostetler – for that matter. It would actually be hard not to make the playoffs with that supporting cast. Does anyone know what Matt Saracen is up to these days?
Jon Ledyard: Bucs May As Well Ride With Gabbert For 2021
Everyone would like the Bucs to find Tom Brady’s successor this offseason. But no amount of longing will make it happen. The reality is that Tampa Bay isn’t in position to make a play for one of the top QBs in the draft this year, thanks to winning the Super Bowl. It’s unlikely that any quarterback outside of the first round locks is going to become a franchise guy at any point in his career. And the Bucs shouldn’t need a backup to Brady by the time the draft rolls around.
As underwhelming as he’s been, bringing back Blaine Gabbert over the next 10 days seems like the smart play. He knows the offense. He played decent in his one opportunity this past season. And the Bucs coaching staff sure seems to have instilled a lot of confidence in him. Gabbert has always been talented, but accuracy and decision-making concerns mar all of his upside at times. At 31, that’s highly unlikely to change for the veteran. But he hardly needs to be a hero in Tampa Bay to be worthy of the backup job to Brady.
If Brady goes down with a major injury, nothing they can do at QB is going to help them repeat. I could see Gabbert, with the help of a sterling supporting cast, squeaking out an ugly win if Brady would ever have to miss a game or two. With no successor for Brady this offseason, bringing back a temporary stopgap pairing in Gabbert and his sidekick Ryan Griffin seems like the best decision. That allows GM Jason Licht to focus all of his draft picks on other positions.
Matt Matera: The Answer Has Always Been Gabbert
There’s the old saying that if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Forget the fact that the Bucs’ salary cap keeps dwindling day by day as they re-sign all of their important players from last year’s Super Bowl winning team. But who else at this stage would be a better fit as a backup QB given the asking price? With all due respect to Blaine Gabbert, not many teams jumping to sign him. So returning to the Bucs as the backup is a solid role given this point in his career.
No other quarterback available right now understands Bruce Arians’ offense better than Gabbert. He had a year to learn in Arizona and now two years of experience here in Tampa. Let’s not forget the fact that Gabbert got to play in a regular season game last year in the second half of a blowout win against the Lions and played well in it. He went 9-of-15 for 144 yards and two touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans, respectively.
I don’t even want to think of a scenario where Tom Brady isn’t under center for the Bucs this season. But if there’s a guy that needs to win them a game or two while Brady gets healthy, Gabbert gives them the best chance. It’s hard to imagine a rookie quarterback learning the ropes this year and stepping in to replace Brady if there is an injury. I’m all for drafting a QB on Day 2 or Day 3 and having him learn from the sideline. But if you’re asking for someone to come in right away, it’s Gabbert that can do it best with the Bucs’ roster.
Taylor Jenkins: It’s Got To Be Gabbert In 2021
I wanted to change it up and go a little different. Either pegging the Bucs to select a rookie to step in as the backup for Tom Brady or maybe go and grab one of the remaining available free agents. But the fact of the matter is that Tampa Bay is better off with Gabbert as their backup QB. For at least one more year. I’m not saying that the Bucs shouldn’t potentially add a quarterback through the draft. But when you’re smack dab in the middle of a Super Bowl run I just don’t think you can trust that to a rookie. Especially the later-round caliber of rookie that the Bucs would more than likely be taking in the draft.
The Bucs are likely going to sink or swim with Brady and their chances of repeating significantly hinge on him playing through the season and avoiding a serious injury. While Gabbert may not be the optimal choice to wind up under center for Tampa Bay, he brings a lot to the table for them. He’s spent over a decade in the NFL, bringing a ton of experience with him. He’s now spent multiple seasons under head coach Bruce Arians, so he brings comfortability to the offense. The organization likes his skill set, whether you agree with them on that assessment or not. With a supremely talented roster around him, Gabbert is likely good enough to string some positive games together and win a few.
On the free agent market the Bucs could go out and pluck a backup that’s still on the market. But are they really making an upgrade? Guys like Alex Smith, A.J. McCarron, Blake Bortles and Brian Hoyer remain available. But do they bring the Bucs any greater chance of success behind Brady than Gabbert? Between Gabbert’s familiarity with the offense and team and a non-existent market that keeps his price tag low, he seems like the clear choice to remain Brady’s backup for the 2021 season.