Canales has to build another QB

by Gary Shelton on March 18, 2023

in general

Saturday, 4 a.m.

The admired quarterback had left town, and the fans acted as if the sky was falling. Only disappointment remained.

The guy who was left had one foot out of the NFL, and a lot of critics were ready to push. He had proven in other places that he couldn't play. Half the fan base thought the team was facing doom, and the other half thought it was facing gloom. Team expectations were low.

And Dave Canales helped his team defy expectations.

Now, he has to do it again.

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That's the modern NFL. One miracle won't do. The world wants a sequel. And so, one year after helping resurrect the career of Geno Smith, he will begin to try to rewrite the Baker Mayfield story. Last time, he helped to rescue the Seattle Seahawks, where he was the quarterback coach. This time, it is the Tampa Bay Bucs, where he is the offensive coordinator.

Yeah, it's a similar undertaking.

Go back a year and most fans had forgotten Geno Smith was in the league. He had failed with three different teams. From 2015 to 2021, he won a total of two games. Heck, he was no Russell Wilson, was he?

Likewise, a lot of fans wanted to forget that Mayfield was in the league. He, too, had failed with three different teams. He won two games last year. Heck, he is no Tom Brady, is he?

Smith, of course, won nine games last year and was the Comeback Player of the Year. While Wilson was flopping in Denver, Smith was a smarter, cheaper alternative. He showed that a guy doesn't have to throw for 400 yards if the team around him is good enough.

The thing about the NFL is that there isn't that much distance between good and bad. Mayfield's first two losses last season were by two and three points. He won his third game, and he was tied 10-10 in the fourth quarter in the fourth. But a bad coach and a horrible start (some of it Mayfield's fault) crushed the team.

Smith, meanwhile, had a four-game winning streak that was almost half of his victories on the year.

And that's the important thing to remember. Other parts of the team figure in, too.

The Bucs have a lot of building to do around the quarterback. The offensive line is in even a worse mess than it was last year without Donovan Smith or Shaq Mason. Neither of those guys were impressive last year, but a team doesn't get better by firing its starters. Someone has to replace them.

The pass rush needs work. The defense -- the one that has made this secondary rich -- needs to be more dependable. The backs have a lot to prove.

That's on Canales, too. But his first job, the one everyone will be watching, will be at quarterback. Kyle Trask hasn't thrown a lot of passes. Mayfield hasn't thrown enough good ones.

Somehow, between the unused and the unwanted, Canales has to find an answer.

If he can, the league will take notice. After all, it's his greatest challenge.

Until the next one.

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