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For the Bucs, it was never about “Johnny Football”

That’s not what a lot of people want to hear. Especially after many thought Tampa Bay would make the splash selection. 

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was linked heavily to the Buccaneers for the majority of this past week, mostly from the national media. That led to many believing that the pick would be the kid they call “Johnny Football.” Once Tampa Bay was on the clock, it was just a matter of when they would turn their card in to Commissioner Roger Goodell that read “Johnny Manziel” on it.

It did not happen.

Instead the Buccaneers decide to draft his teammate, wide receiver Mike Evans. A solid pick, but not one that the masses would have preferred.

With pressing needs at wide receiver as well as other positions, quarterback was not at the top of the list for the Bucs to address. And with the likes of Manziel and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater available the team validated that theory.

So why pass on the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback that several reports had the Bucs drafting? Head coach Lovie Smith explains.

“There are a lot of good players, but it’s what’s best for us,” Smith said during his post-selection press conference. “Just talking about our quarterback position: our quarterback position is as strong as, to me, any quarterback position I’ve had when I’ve been a head coach. You know how much I like Josh McCown as our starter here, but I love Mike Glennon. Mike Glennon is our quarterback of the future here. Why would we want to add a third quarterback to the mix? We needed other positions and forget just a quarterback position – yeah, we like it, but we thought this was the best available player for us. It was an easy decision for us.”

And an easy decision it was.

With the trade of Mike Williams last month, the Bucs needed to make sure they solidified the wide receiver position early on in the draft. It was a common theme that the class of wide receiver was deep, and it is. But at pick No. 7, you do not pass up the opportunity to draft a player who fills a void and can come in a play immediately.

However, that thought has been heavily argued by those that wanted the Buccaneers to draft a franchise quarterback.

The selection of Evans shows what the Bucs are trying to do: Surround their quarterbacks with weapons. We see that in running back Doug Martin, their potential plans for Jeff Demps, and now pairing Vincent Jackson with Evans. General manager Jason Licht touched on the success starting quarterback Josh McCown previously had with two big targets and how it’ll also benefit Mike Glennon.

“We didn’t go out looking for specifically a guy that Josh McCown would be friendly for him as a target, but it just so happens that he would and he does have the same type of catch radius as those two big guys he was used to throwing to,” Licht said. “It makes the learning process and the comfort level between the two and [quarterback] Mike Glennon, for that matter too, even quicker.”

So while many feel that passing over Manziel is a mistake, the Buccaneers do not view it that way. Smith and Licht have said countless times the team is ready to win now. No sense in drafting a player at No. 7 who can not make an immediate impact.

“Johnny Football” would not have made an immediate impact. Maybe for those who fill the stadium seats, but not on the field.

The organization is set up to win today and that is evident in how they handled free agency and the first round of the draft. And as Smith said, they already have their quarterback of the future. Whether or not that is a smokescreen remains to be seen. Lots of folks sure hope it is.

Follow Gil on Twitter: @GilArciaTBC

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