Position Group: Quarterback
Players: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
(Ryan Griffin is on the Bucs' practice squad)
2022 Evaluation: In 2022, 45-year-old Tom Brady guided the Buccaneers to their second-consecutive division title with several late-game comeback victories (Saints, Panthers), however, the offense did not live up to its potential. A lack of consistency down the stretch led to the team's demise. The Bucs averaged 405.9 total yards of offense (No. 2 overall), 307.6 passing yards, 98.4 rushing yards and 30.1 points per game in 2020-21. Those numbers declined in 2022, falling to 346.7 total yards of offense (No. 15 overall), 269.8 passing yards, and 76.9 rushing yards per game (league-worst). A myriad of injuries to both the offensive line and skill positions hindered continuity that led to personnel shuffles.
Additionally, Tampa Bay's offense averaged just 18.4 per contest in 2022, which was among the worst in the league. The Bucs could not achieve balance between the passing and running game, which resulted in the unit being forced to dial up a pass-heavy script in a perpetual cycle of playing catch-up. Tom Brady averaged over 52 pass attempts per game during the last month of the season, including 66 attempts against the Cowboys in the Wild Card Round. As a result, opponents did not have to allocate resources to the Bucs' rushing attack and loaded up on the back end to prevent the big plays over the top.
Tampa Bay's once explosive downfield aerial assault did not materialize in 2022 as opponents worked to neutralize it. The Bucs finished 26th in points per drive as the club was unable to restore its nature of old. Brady concluded the 2022 regular season with 4,694 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions, completing 490 of 733 attempts. He threw more passes than ever before (733), posted the fourth-highest completion percentage of his career (66.8) and the sixth-most passing yards (4,694). For the first time in Brady's prolific 23-year NFL career, his team finished with a losing record, despite making the playoffs. A prompt exit against the Cowboys in the playoffs ended the Bucs' roller-coaster 2022 campaign, garnering the permeating question: Was that Tom Brady's last ride?
Blaine Gabbert spent the entire season as Brady's primary backup, getting 14 offensive snaps that Brady did not take. Gabbert threw just eight passes, completing six for 29 yards and one touchdown in the regular-season finale. Rookie Kyle Trask, a second-round pick in the 2021 draft, was inactive for every contest but one, playing 10 snaps in Week 18 against Atlanta. Ryan Griffin spent the season on Tampa Bay's practice squad.
2023 Outlook: Who will be the Bucs quarterback in 2023? Tom Brady announced that he will be retiring on Wednesday morning, ending his prolific 23-year career in the NFL. Blaine Gabbert is set to become a free agent in March. Brady fielded questions about retirement at nearly every press conference as the 2022 season came to a close and now his decision has been finalized, silencing speculation. Subsequently, his decision begins the search process for the person to fill his lofty cleats under center for the Bucs in 2023.
Will the Bucs promote Blaine Gabbert to fill the starting role (who would have to be re-signed first as he is a pending free agent) or young Kyle Trask? Todd Bowles spoke highly of Gabbert following the 2022 season, stating "Blaine is a heady player. He's extremely smart. I think he helps out a great deal on both sides of the ball. He understands what the game is about. [He's a] competitor. I love what he does for us in practice – getting us looks. I love how he helps Tom [Brady] out. [He's a] tough guy. He's one of my favorite players."
Gabbert, the 33-year-old passer has not started a game since 2018, which makes him an unproven commodity despite his numerous years in the league. The same is true for Trask, who has only played in one regular-season game thus far, in the meaningless 2022 regular-season finale in Atlanta. Which, that brief outing did not disclose any meaningful information.
If the Bucs look externally for a Brady replacement, will they look to start over with a draft pick or will they bring in an experienced veteran? Would they seek a trade for an established starter? All those questions are going to be discussed incessantly in the coming months. The eventual decision of who lands the starting gig will carry weight in defining what the Buccaneers will look like in terms of contention for 2023.