Tuesday, 4 a.m.
It's the ugliest beauty contest ever held. It's an auto race between wrecks. It's a collection of misfits to rival the Usual Suspects, only without Keyser Soze.
Poor Jason Licht.
What kind of bargains are left for a backup quarterback?
Look over there. It's Jay Cutler, who doesn't have an ounce of leadership in his body. And he's probably the most talented guy in the bunch. There's Robert Griffith III, who the Browns threw away. There's Johnny Manziel, who will be with you once Happy Hour is over.
There's Colin Kaepernick, who must be protesting touchdowns these days. There's Geno Smith, who has proven he can't play. Soon, there will be Brock Osweiler, who is less gifted than his agent. There's Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Barkley and Luke McCown and cover your heads.
There are interceptions and bad decisions all around, noodle arms and scattered heads. There are backups that no one ever wonders "why isn't he starting?" By and large, they know.
And, gee, no wonder the Bucs were interested in Nick Foles.
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For crying out loud, did the USFL break out again? There has never been a time when the insurance quarterbacks of the NFL were so collectively, well, blah. Eighteen of the 32 teams in the league last year started at least two quarterbacks last season, and pretty much, most of them were an excuse to turn the channel. I mean, why watch Matt Moore and E.J. Manuel and Cody Kessler and Tom Savage and Scott Tolzien and Blaine Gabbert start games?
So imagine if you are Jason Licht. Even though it isn't a starting position, it's an important one. But instead of backup quarterbacks, the choices are guys you want to be your backup's backup.
Fortunately for Tampa Bay, it hasn't had an alternate quarterback start in the two years that Jameis Winston has held down the fort. Heck, Mike Glennon threw only 11 passes all of last year. But in the NFL, injuries happen. Somewhere down the line, the team might ask a backup quarterback to steal them a game.
And, then: Who? The days of Steve Young and Don Strock and Frank Reich coming off the bench seem to have departed.
A lot of people get the idea of a backup quarterback wrong. He's not an alternative quarterback. He isn't here to split time and make coaches go with the hot hand. Look if Winston throws four interceptions in the first half and the backup throws four touchdowns in the second, the depth chart isn't going to change. The backup is here to mop up and to play if the starter is hurt. Those yelling for the backup are just being silly.
That said, if I was Licht, I'd give it time. I'd let the teams draft first, and I'd see who was available once the smoke cleared. No hurry for an insurance policy in March. Especially not when the choices are zombies and corpses.
Ah, but what if it doesn't get any better. Where should Licht be looking?
1. Josh McCown: I know, I know. The Bucs have been here before. But when McCown went 1-10 with the Bucs in 2014, he was being asked to be a starter. That's a different deal. But McCown is well thought of as a backup. He's smart, he knows his place. The Bucs could do worse.
2. Brock Osweiler: Osweiler wasn't close to what the Texans thought they had spent their millions for, but he was a fairly good backup for the Broncos. If the Browns end up releasing him (and I wouldn't) he could rebuild his reputation on the Bucs' bench.
3. Ryan Fitzpatrick: Eventually, a guy's chances to start go away, and he either goes home or learns to be a supporting player. If Fitzpatrick's mind is right, his skill set would work well as a reserve.
4. E.J. Manuel: How about getting as many former FSU players as possible on the Bucs? Manuel would be a loyal backup for Winston. The question is how much of his former first-round ability does he still have?
5. Jay Cutler: I know what you're thinking. The Bucs were darned lucky they were unable to trade for him before. Cutler can be moody and sullen. But he's got good arm strength. If he accepts his role – a big if – then he could win a game or two for someone.
6. Robert Griffin III: The Bucs would be the third team to try to help Griffith recapture his former talent. They'd be better off to pass.
7. Blane Gabbert: Gabbert hasn't done much in the NFL, but he did play for Dirk Koetter in Jacksonville, and Koetter is a loyal soul.
8. Colin Kaepernick: No.
9. Geno Smith: No, with volume.
10. Chase Daniel: He was released by the Eagles Monday, after collecting a fortune for throwing three passes in two seasons. He'd have to play for a fraction of what he made in Philly. But does the NFL really know if he can play?