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Bucs coach Gruden still confident in QB Griese

“I can’t make those mistakes,” quarterback Brian Griese says of his recent interceptions.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

“I can’t make those mistakes,” quarterback Brian Griese says of his recent interceptions.

TAMPA — Jon Gruden never had much tolerance for his quarterbacks throwing interceptions.

But on Monday, the Bucs coach put more spin on the situation than one of Brian Griese's wayward passes.

In the past two games, Griese has thrown a league-worst six interceptions. He is 29th in the NFL with a quarterback rating of 62.5 and 27th in the league with a completion percentage of 55.5.

"You got some real good stats there," Gruden said. "He's 3-0 as a starter, how 'bout that?

"I don't know how much latitude (he gets). Again, what I say publicly and what I say behind the doors are two different things. I'm not going to be overly critical publicly. I've got a lot of respect and confidence in Brian Griese."

Despite the turnovers, Griese has won eight of his past nine starts for the Bucs dating to 2005.

On Sunday, the Bucs had a 20-7 lead before Griese's three interceptions in the second half — including one returned 62-yards for a touchdown by cornerback Charles Woodson — left his team trailing 21-20.

Griese had a 36.0 quarterback rating after completing 15 of 30 passes for 149 yards and the three picks in the Bucs' 30-21 win over the Packers.

The Bucs have taken advantage of good field position created by their defense. Tampa Bay has 48 points off turnovers this season, scoring at least seven points off takeaways in every game.

Playing against a Packers secondary riddled with injuries, Gruden said, Griese made a "good decision" on his first interception, which was tipped by receiver Michael Clayton into the hands of cornerback Tramon Williams. On the second pick, intended for receiver Antonio Bryant, Griese "missed the throw a little bit," Gruden said, and he credited safety Nick Collins with "a superb play."

Woodson simply read Griese's eyes on the third interception. "I think Brian telegraphed it a little bit," Gruden said.

But the criticism of Griese was not nearly as sharp as it has been for other Bucs quarterbacks. By contrast, Jeff Garcia, who started the first game at New Orleans, threw just four interceptions all of last season.

"There's three or four throws he's made the last two weeks that have hurt us," Gruden said of Griese. "And there's about 35 or 40 throws that have really helped us. He made some throws (Sunday) after the third interception that were big-time plays, that changed the game in terms of field position. He made some decisions in the running game that were outstanding. So there are some areas that are very clear and obvious we need to clean up. He knows where I stand and where our team stands on turnovers. We've got to clean that up, and we're going to work … this week to get that done."

Gruden did acknowledge that backup quarterbacks Luke McCown and Garcia could get some repetitions this week in preparation for Sunday's game at Denver.

"We're going to try to split the reps up and get all three guys some work," Gruden said.

And he said he believed the Bucs would need all three quarterbacks at some point during the season, including Garcia, who has been the inactive third quarterback the past three games.

"Garcia was our starter and might be our starter again at some point in time," Gruden said.

Even Griese acknowledged he can't continue to turn the ball over and expect to win games.

"I can't make those mistakes, and I have to eliminate those things for us to continue to win," Griese said. "Thankfully, we were able to win the past two weeks, but I have to fix that."

Bucs coach Gruden still confident in QB Griese 09/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 10:54am]
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