3. What if the Bucs were still searching for a quarterback after missing out on both Winston and Mariota in 2015?
Okay, I’ll admit it. By this point, we are completely lost in this world of “what ifs.” We’re practically thinking in an alternative universe. So, let’s recap the scenarios which led to where we are now:
- Bucs finish better than 2-14 in 2014, but not drastically better. Perhaps a 3-13, 4-12 or 5-11 record.
- The higher 2014 win total leads to a lower spot in the draft, meaning the team doesn’t have the chance to draft a top-tier quarterback.
- Because they miss out on Winston and Mariota, they head into 2015 with McCown, Glennon or potentially a free agent at quarterback.
- The lack of a rookie quarterback in 2015 potentially changes how the front office feels about offensive coordinator Koetter. If he is offered another job, maybe he leaves and Smith gets another year in Tampa Bay.
- Regardless of what happens with the coaching staff after 2015, there’s no telling what the actual 2015 season would have brought. Considering the shape that the roster was in, it most likely would’ve been another down year. It might have been an extremely down year with the lack of a clear answer at quarterback.
So, here we are. The 2016 NFL Draft rolls around and the Bucs are probably picking in the top ten again. If they are in the top two, a quarterback would undoubtedly be the pick. That means either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz is a Buccaneer right now.
That alone is so strange to picture, but it could have been a reality. But if Tampa Bay misses out on a quarterback again? Maybe Ezekiel Elliott is a Buc today. Maybe Jalen Ramsey would be. In either of those scenarios, the team might still be looking for a true long-term answer at quarterback. Sure, some might not believe in Winston as the long-term answer. But the organization, at least as of now, sees him as exactly that.
As frustrating as it was to see the Bucs barely miss out on the playoffs in 2016 and then fall flat in 2017, could you imagine what it would be like if the team was shuffling through quarterbacks throughout each season? This franchise has done that in the past. Other organizations are still doing it. But at the very least, taking Winston with the No. 1 pick in 2015 brought some stability to the position for Tampa Bay.
If 2014 had gone even a little differently, the outlook for the offense would be wildly different. Not only that, but the defense might look different with a couple of top ten picks potentially spent on that side. Maybe the offensive line doesn’t include Donovan Smith and/or Ali Marpet. Maybe Kwon Alexander isn’t leading the defense into the future. The entire makeup of the roster would be different.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I am enthralled by all of this. The disaster that was 2014 was the first, and maybe the biggest, domino to fall for the Bucs. They are at a crossroads heading into 2018, thanks in large part to what went down in 2014. Had that year gone one or two wins differently, the 2018 Buccaneers would look very, very different.