MIAMI — Here at Quarterbacks R Us, the factory inventory is not in short supply.
Even with Jeff Garcia at home and Brett Favre traded to the Jets, the Buccaneers proved what they have stockpiled at the position are quantity and quality.
Four Bucs quarterbacks combined to complete 28 of 40 passes for 204 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in Saturday's 17-6 win over the Dolphins in the preseason opener for both teams.
The best of the bunch was Brian Griese, who slipped comfortably back into the Bucs offense like an old pair of cleats after spending the past two seasons with Chicago.
Taking over for starter Luke McCown in the second quarter, Griese directed a 19-play, 78-yard drive, throwing a 3-yard touchdown to former Chamberlain High star Brian Clark on the final play of the first half. Griese went 10-of-14 for 59 yards during the scoring drive.
Griese, who still holds the Bucs record for passing efficiency, managed the clock to perfection in the red zone with no timeouts.
"It was a base play out of our offense, just one of those plays with six seconds left on the clock," Griese said. "So it's basically a touchdown or you throw the ball out of bounds. I had to make sure I had a guy in the end zone, so I told them all to make sure they got in the end zone. He wasn't really that open. I just kind of put it on his body and he made the catch."
Bucs coach Jon Gruden spent much of last week in pursuit of Favre and ended it praising the QBs already on his roster.
"Griese is really a good quarterback," Gruden said. "I don't want to understate that. He's had a great camp. He's got a great feel for this offense. I think he had a couple balls that were dropped complete, I think he would've almost had a perfect night.
"Luke McCown did some good things. He missed a wide open receiver (Michael Clayton) he normally hits in the red zone. I was pleased with all four quarterbacks and we've got a pretty good quarterback sitting at home right now that will be back on the field Monday in some capacity."
It was also a big game for Chris Simms, who missed the entire offseason and minicamp while trying to force a trade or release. Appearing healthy in a game for the first time in nearly two years, Simms shook off the rust in a hurry. Despite being sacked twice, he completed 8 of 10 passes for 60 yards and got the Bucs into the end zone.
Just the same, you got the feeling the Bucs had operators standing by and a line open in Pinellas if any team wanted to make an offer for Simms.
"My body was ready to get hit," he said. "From that aspect, that was not the concern at all. I think I was more ready to get out there, get blitzed again and get the timing of the game, throw some passes with people around your feet. That was what I was more anxious about than anything."
Even rookie Josh Johnson got into the act, completing his only attempt for 15 yards. Bucs QBs had a combined 90.0 rating.
"I think it pushes everybody to be better," McCown said. "And as a team, as a whole, I think we've got to feel real comfortable with that. Now, we've got to push each other to be the absolute best, because that's what we're going to need on Sundays."
Perhaps just as impressive was that the Bucs did not commit a penalty or a turnover — rare in any game, let alone the preseason.
There were other players who shined. Running back Michael Bennett led the Bucs with 19 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown. That was set up by his 31-yard run, the longest play of the night.
Rookie Dexter Jackson returned a punt and caught his first pass. Cornerback Aqib Talib played smothering pass defense and supported the run. And rookie free agent Clifton Smith had a 30-yard punt return and rushed for 28 yards.
And the Bucs starting defense allowed just three first downs in as many drives. Aside from not being able to cover the fullback in the flat a few times, they swarmed to the ball and didn't leave many open targets for Dolphins quarterback John Beck. Miami had just 198 total yards and converted 4-of-12 third downs.