Bucs coordinator candidates were told Kyle Trask will get shot to start

TAMPA — Kyle Trask will get his shot to be the Bucs’ starting quarterback. He has waited without complaint or complacency for two seasons and has earned the opportunity.

That’s what the Bucs told at least several candidates who interviewed for the offensive coordinator job that went to Dave Canales. But they also said they plan to add a veteran or two to compete with the former Florida star.

However, the Bucs are $56.53 million over the $224.8 million salary cap, so they admitted during interviews that money will affect which veteran quarterbacks they can attempt to sign.

It’s important to note that Tampa Bay drafted Trask with the final pick in the second round of the 2021 draft. Only the Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence, the Jets’ Zach Wilson and the 49ersTrey Lance, taken with the first three picks, and the Patriots’ Mac Jones, No. 15 overall, went ahead of him.

Trask has been the heir apparent to Tom Brady but couldn’t win the No. 2 spot from Blaine Gabbert in last year’s training camp.

Nonetheless, the NFC South at the moment is fresh out of franchise quarterbacks, so there’s no reason to not let Trask try to see what he can do in Canales’ quarterback-friendly scheme.

Canales, who spent the past 13 seasons coaching in the Seahawks’ offense, believes his system doesn’t require a quarterback to have the most size, the strongest arm or the quickest feet.

Trask is 6 feet 5 and 236 pounds, with only adequate arm strength and functional mobility in the pocket. He has worked hard to lean out and improve his heavy feet. But he has completed only 58.4 percent of his passes in the preseason, with two touchdowns and four interceptions. He went 3-of-9 for 23 yards in his only regular-season appearance with the Bucs, in the 2022 season finale at Atlanta, so his accuracy must improve.

“I like that he’s a worker,” former Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s got stature. His arm strength is better. He’s athletic enough. Smart. He had two years to see how Tom and Blaine prepared. Yes, hopefully we get a veteran to compete (with him).”

The system, Canales said, will handle the rest.

“It’s a style of play,” Canales said. “If I go back to (the University of Southern California) for a bit (where he spent a year as assistant strength coach), you just start rattling off the quarterbacks that came out of there. Going back to Carson Palmer, you had Matt Leinart, then here comes John David Booty and then Mark Sanchez. Matt Barkley falls into that category as well. One guy after the other, highly touted, gets a lot of accolades, when really it’s a system that is friendly for the quarterback.

“I heard (former Saints and new Broncos coach) Sean Payton say this the other day, and I thought it was brilliant. He said, ‘You’ve got to take the quarterback off the high dive.’ … You can’t be leaning on him to make every single play all of the time.”

Brady led the NFL in pass attempts each of the past two seasons. But Bucs coach Todd Bowles hired Canales hoping he could bring the Seahawks’ efficient run game with him.

Seattle tied for fifth in the league averaging 4.8 yards per attempt last season; the Bucs were last with a 3.4-yard average.

“The best way to do it is just to hand it off to your talent in the backfield,” Canales said. “Teaching the quarterback how to win was critical.

“(Seahawks quarterback) Geno (Smith) spent a couple of years sitting behind that (with Russell Wilson starting), watching it like, ‘I can do that. I can manage that.’ And then Geno (starting last season after Wilson was traded) allowed us to open up the playbook a little bit with some of our pass stuff that he was a little bit stronger in. So we just tilted it a little bit this way or that way based upon who the quarterback was.”

Still, just as they did after Jameis Winston’s fifth and final season in Tampa Bay, the Bucs will continue to look to see what’s behind door No. 2.

If Trask wins the starting job, the key will be for Canales to tailor the offense to him. More athletic quarterbacks have operated in this offense, but Canales doesn’t believe it will be a problem for Trask.

“With Kyle, the QB run stuff, QB read stuff won’t be a big feature of what we do,” Canales said. “But as far as everything else that we do in terms of the play-actions and the keeper game, he’s plenty athletic enough. He’s got short-space quickness.

“If you guys remember his Florida tape, the protection wasn’t always great. And he just had a really gritty, savvy way of moving in tight spaces to get the ball gone to his players. So, he’s got plenty of athleticism to run our system.”

Canales said he is working to install a playbook with an efficient number of plays that can be run from a host of formations and variations. Right now, he has only Trask to focus on.

Trask has earned the first bite of the apple. But that’s all he is promised.

“I would say, really right now, the system is the system,” Canales said. “It handles any real type of quarterback. So, it’s not so much that we’re going to be building it through Kyle, it’s just that as I get to know him and study him, the things we’ll do will be in his wheelhouse.

“And it’s going to be about our tight ends, it’s going to be about our backs. It’s going to be about (receivers) Mike (Evans) and Chris (Godwin), Russell (Gage). It’s really the whole thing. When I say system, it’s not so much the plays that are run but it’s the marriage of the run and pass, and it’s the attacking style that we’re going to be in and out of tempos and multiple. So that part, really, you plug and play your talent. The plays become the plays, but it’s the system that is flexible.”

Contact Rick Stroud at Follow @NFLSTROUD.

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