He doesn’t bring it up every chance he gets, but in the right situation, you’ll hear Jason Licht talk about how he was a part of the team that drafted Tom Brady in the sixth round. Licht was a member of the scouting team in New England when every team, including the Patriots, passed on the skinny, seemingly unimpressive Brady for five rounds before the Pats finally took him in the sixth.
Brady’s career speaks for itself, and he remains the defense in any argument for why a quarterback doesn’t need to be taken in the first round. Any analyst or fan who likes a late-round prospect points to Brady as the reason why they could be right.
But as Sander at Bucs Nation pointed out not so long ago using statistical data, there’s a very. very clear connection between how early a quarterback is taken, and how successful he turns out to be. Tom Brady and Russell Wilson are anomalies, while Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and others were all first-rounders for a reason.
Will that be enough to deter Jason Licht from going on a goose chase to find the next Tom Brady? It might not be.
Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds relays a comment from Licht, who told 98.7 The Fan that “I see franchise quarterbacks in this draft, but likely not the ones you’re thinking of.” He may be speaking ambiguously because it’s that time of year, or he could honestly think that he has the eye for talent to point out which of the later round quarterbacks have franchise potential.
Licht arrived in Arizona in 2009, and during his time with the team, the Cardinals selected fifth-rounder John Skelton and sixth-rounder Ryan Lindley. Previously, during his time in Philadelphia, the Eagles selected sixth-rounder Andy Hall and second-rounder Kevin Kolb. If Licht had anything to do with these decisions, hopefully he’s just putting up a smokescreen by thinking he has the ability to find franchise signal callers later in drafts.
But if Licht truly believes that he can wait on a quarterback and find a franchise guy for the Bucs via the draft, it could seriously set the franchise back. Tom Brady is a once-in-a-lifetime player who won’t come around again, and if the Bucs try to wait for lightning to strike a second time with a late-round passer, they’re going to do so for a short period of time before the GM and coach are fired yet again.
Lovie Smith was booted from Chicago because his offenses couldn’t win football games. He now arrives in Tampa and finds a roster with an offense that couldn’t win football games. He’ll need to exercise his control over the roster and convince his GM to not mess around when it comes to finding a franchise quarterback, or he’ll find himself with a very good defense and a bad offense yet again, and that’s not going to cut it if Smith wants to lift the Lombardi Trophy as the coach of the Buccaneers.
There are four first-round guys in the 2014 draft who have the potential to be above-average at the QB position, and the Buccaneers will almost certainly have the chance to land one with the seventh pick. Passing on that opportunity, with no other glaring needs on the roster, to fish for a speculative player later in the draft could only come back to haunt the Bucs further down the road.