Last Modified: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 6:55 PM
Darnell Lee has a decision to make.
The Swashbucklers head coach must choose between a trio of quarterback candidates to start the team’s playoff opener Monday night.
At stake, a chance at pulling off an upset and beating the Richmond Raiders.
Earlier this week Lee sounded like a man who wasn’t ready to commit too soon.
“We will see what happens this week in practice,” he said.
Lee is likely to choose between veteran Freddie Harrison, who is solid but has been far from spectacular since rejoining the Bucs in the week’s second season.
Harrison came out of retirement to save the Bucs when injuries and an early season departure of yet another quarterback forced them into desperation mode.
Lee seems to believe in Harrison in part because he is a coach on and off the field. His full-time job is that of head football coach at Washington-Marion High.
And he is also the last quarterback to lead the Bucs and Lee to an indoor championship.
But Harrison doesn’t provide the wow factor that Chris Mayabb did last Saturday night against Alabama.
In his first half as a starter while subbing for Harrison, Mayabb looked every bit the part of a starting and even starring quarterback.
He was cool, confident and took the offense by the horns. His first seven drives ended in touchdowns, six by passing.
McNabb finished the night 19 of 26 for 289 yards and eight touchdown passes. He also left an impression on everybody who witnessed his coming-out party.
“He turned some heads,” Lee said. “He played his way into the mix.”
When asked moments after the game, Lee said, “Freddie is our starting quarterback, but you have to have noticed and been impressed with what Chris did.
“Considering what he had to come into, and making his first start, you could not have asked him to do any better.”
McNabb’s first three passes went for touchdowns.
If Lee sounds like a man sitting on the fence, he likely is.
He has a history of success with Harrison, but clearly his eyes sparkled at the sight of his new toy, Mayabb, who is like that brand-new car on the showroom floor waiting to be taken out for a test drive.
Meanwhile, Harrison is still sitting in the driveway, ready to take Lee where he wants to go.
And we haven’t even mentioned season-opening starter Alvin Bartie, who appears to be the odd man out despite being healthy now.
Bartie missed a good portion of the season with both head and knee injuries. He hasn’t played since early April and putting a rusty quarterback into a playoff game when you have not one but two other solid options seems unlikely at best and a major reach in reality.
The real question for Lee is with all these options, can he be completely committed to the starter?
One thing he doesn’t want is to go back and forth between Harrison and Mayabb once the game begins. His decision on who to start and how much lease to give him must be decided when the team steps off the bus in Richmond.
“Every quarterback wants to start,” said Mayabb, “but you have to do what is best for the team. All we can do is prepare and leave the rest up to the coaches to make that decision.”
It is one that Lee is likely to wrestle with all through that long two-day ride to Virginia.
And we will find out if Lee is a gambler, willing to roll the dice when the season is on the line, or if he is more like a slow poker player, keeping his options open until he is finally ready to lay down his cards.
All this with a season on the line.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at email@example.com