Last night, in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the chance to be bold. To be different. To take a risk.

Instead, they displayed a degree of conservative that best can be coined “wetting the bed.”

When Lovie Smith, Jason Licht, and company passed on Johnny Manziel with the #7 overall selection, they guaranteed themselves a mediocre fate the next three seasons.

You can’t win in today’s NFL without a franchise quarterback. You also can’t get rich in life without taking risks. This new Bucs regime sure does look poor and Super Bowl-less to me today. Sure, Johnn’s a risk, but the fact that so many NFL coaches and GM’s passed over such a talent in the name of job security nauseates me. By my estimation, only 13 of 32 NFL teams have “the guy” under center;

Denver – Manning – 10
New Orleans – Brees – 10
Green Bay – Rodgers – 10
New England – Brady – 10
Indianapolis – Luck – 8.5
Seattle – Wilson – 8.5
Atlanta – Ryan – 8
San Francisco – Kaepernick – 7.5
New York – Manning – 7.5
Baltimore – Flacco – 7.5
Pittsburgh – Roethlisberger – 7.5
San Diego – Rivers – 7.5
Philadelphia – Foles – 7

The Bucs would have-could have-should have been the 14th team on that list, with Manziel’s likely fulfilled potential an 8, according to this host. Even if Mike Evans is your guy at #7, a HUGE if in and of himself, the failure to trade back into the first round to tab his college teammate is inexplicable. Unforgivable.

Certainly, Johnny Manziel would have been a financial windfall for the Bucs. A sold out Raymond James Stadium, prime time games, and national relevance would have ensued. Can one really put a price on what it means to be nationally relevant?

But where the Manziel detractors err is in their assumption that’s all he offers. Rather, the Bucs passed on the first true franchise quarterback in team history. Manziel will work in the NFL, because as his high school coach Mark Smith told me, he’s never been around another player with a stronger drive to win. On the tangibles side, he’s accurate, has the strongest arm of any signal-caller in the draft, and has won on college football’s biggest stage (the SEC.) And no one has a more complete set of leadership intangibles since Tim Tebow started under center for the Broncos.

He’s passionate. He’s galvanizing. His teammates and coaches love him. He’s a leader.

Evidently, the risk was too great for the Bucs stomach. That’s too bad. In less than 24 hours, he’s already completely revitalized a downtrodden fanbase in Cleveland, and he hasn’t played a down.

The Bucs will rue the day they passed on Johnny Manziel, on 11/2 when the Bucs play the Browns and Johnny “Football,” lights them up, and for many years to come.

In life, you’ve got to have the guts to dare to be great.

Marc Ryan

Follow Marc on Twitter – @MarcRyanOnAir


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