Will Jeff Garcia be back with the Bucs?
[Jon Gruden answers questions on Monday. Brian Cassella, Times]
Quarterback Jeff Garcia will ''have an opportunity'' to return next season, but the Bucs also will look at other available quarterbacks, Jon Gruden said during a news conference Monday at One Buc Place.
“I have a lot of respect for Jeff,'' Gruden said. ''Again, we will address all these things later. Jeff will have an opportunity to come back, I am sure; he will be a free agent. We will see who is available. We want to get better at every position that we can and that is our jobs, that is the profession we are in. Despite what people think, I have a lot of respect for Jeff, and I am really proud of what he has done here in his two years here as a starter.”
Garcia started the season as the Bucs' starter but was benched in favor of Brian Griese after a season-opening loss to the Saints. He returned to start 10 of the final 11 games, finishing with a 90.2 quarterback rating, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Garcia has a playoff berth and Pro Bowl appearance to his credit in two seasons with the Bucs.
''Jeff Garcia has done some great things here that rival any quarterback that's ever played here statistically and from a win-loss standpoint,'' Gruden said. "We'll do everything we can to keep him and see who's available to come in and help us.''
Quarterback Luke McCown also will be a free agent. Asked whether McCown would have a chance to compete for the starting spot should he return to the Bucs, Gruden said, "Yes.''
Gruden also said he would like to see wide receivers Michael Clayton (''We like Mike Clayton,'' he said) and Joey Galloway return -- under the right circumstances.
"He's got to be healthy, he's got to be an active participant,'' Gruden said of Galloway, who battled groin and foot injuries this season. "If he is, we absolutely want him back.''
* Gruden was asked whether a 9-7 season should be considered successful.
“I hate not competing for championships, and we are not, so it is not a very good season, not good enough,'' Gruden said. ''Again, I feel like this football team, 16 games this team had a chance to win the game. They were tied or protecting a lead in the fourth quarter 16 weeks. I don’t remember once, feeling like we didn’t have a chance to win, I like that. But 9-7 doesn’t feel good when you are not in the tournament competing for a championship.”
* Gruden would not blame defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's in-season announcement that he will join his son, Lane's, staff at the University Tennessee next season for the defense's late-season collapse.
“It’s been tough,'' Gruden said. ''That’s been tough, because it’s been talked about daily. All I can say is that I love that guy. I really have a lot of respect for him and a lot of appreciation for what he’s done here. It’s been tough, certainly. All I can say is that I won’t use that as an excuse.”
* Financially, the Bucs will be in position to be active in free agency, Gruden said.
"The salary cap, I'm told, will be in great shape,'' Gruden said. "We'll be in a position once again to compete for just about anybody, and I'm told we'll do that.''