After losing to the New Orleans Saints 23-20 in their season finale on Sunday (Dec. 28), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earned the #1 pick in the 2015 draft.
The Bucs went into the fourth quarter of the game with a 13-point lead, but would ultimately lose while playing several back-ups, leading to questions about whether the team “tanked” to land the #1 overall pick in next year’s draft.
Despite questions, coach Lovie Smith denied that his team intentionally blew the lead, reports ESPN.
“It had nothing to do with substitutions,” Smith said. “You look at how we played. To me, I’m going to go back, we’re moving the ball fairly well even in the second half. They played a lot better. We played a lot of guys the first half also. Vincent Jackson only played a few reps. That happened in the first half also, and the team we put on the football field had a chance to win right up until (the end).
“Yeah, we didn’t have some of our best players there right in the end. But the guys we had in there, we felt like we could move the ball and be able to win.”
The Bucs played in the final quarter with three young, non-starting offensive lineman and without their starting wide receivers.
With the first pick, many are speculating that the Bucs will draft Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Bucs general manager Jason Licht said on the team’s pregame radio broadcast that he plans to attend the Rose Bowl, which will feature both quarterback prospects. Coach Smith may also make the trip to California.
The last time the Bucs had the #1 was back in 1987, when they selected Vinny Testaverde.