Bucs weave a tangled QB web

TAMPA — Follow the daisy chain of Bucs quarterbacks during the past few years.

Tampa Bay terminated the contract of Brian Griese, who signed with Chicago, to make Chris Simms the starter. Then the team had no use for Simms after Jeff Garcia became the starter, winning the division and taking his team to the playoffs. Now the team is benching Garcia to make Griese the starter again.

Does that about cover it?

Griese will be under center today against the Falcons. If he wins, he will be the quarterback next week at Chicago, where he spent the past two seasons.

Forget about Garcia's ankle, calf and pinkie injuries. He was well enough to practice last week and play today, although it's more likely he will be listed as the inactive third quarterback.

In some ways, Griese is the perfect match for coach Jon Gruden's offense. He won't improvise too much. He has limited scrambling ability, so the ball will be out of his hand when he hits his back foot on three- and five-step drops.

After last week's 24-20 loss at New Orleans, Gruden is looking for some rhythm in his passing game, and Griese will provide it.

"They're different quarterbacks," Gruden said. "We all have to agree that no two guys are the same at any position.

"Yeah, it'll be different. It's never the same. The guy has — forget about everything else — played well here for us since he's been a Buccaneer. That goes for '04 and '05, and if you've seen him here in '08, he looks pretty darn good. So we're going to let him play, try to do the things he likes to do. If we can protect him and convert some third downs and play to our capabilities, I'm confident he'll play well."

But what if he doesn't? What if the experiment fails and the Bucs lose today or next week at Chicago?

You have to believe that Gruden would go right back to Garcia.

Then what? It's a slippery slope.

Should the Bucs then lose at home against Green Bay on Sept. 28 and/or at Denver on Oct. 5, Gruden might go to third-string QB Luke McCown. That's potentially three quarterbacks in five or six weeks.

You can almost hear Gruden talking up McCown's athletic ability, how he hit his first 15 passes at New Orleans last year and will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Look, if Gruden truly believes Garcia is too old or too beat up to continue, you can't begin to blame him for making the move. He gets paid to make the tough decisions. But it's awfully early in the season to start playing musical quarterbacks.

Already, the speculation has begun on Garcia's future. One report said Tampa Bay is shopping Garcia. That's very unlikely for now, especially because he has more value to the Bucs than any other team. If Tampa Bay traded Garcia and Griese went out for the season, that would leave the team with this backup quarterback: rookie Josh Johnson.

"I don't combat any of that, okay? I don't listen to it," Gruden said of the Garcia trade talk. "No disrespect. Football talk, political talk. I like action. You know what I mean? I like first-hand knowledge. Other than that, I can't comment on talk. I respect the people that do it because they have a job to do, but rumors are rumors."

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@sptimes.com.

Bucs weave a tangled QB web 09/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 2:47pm]

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