Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Byron Leftwich shows he's the safe pick for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback

Byron Leftwich, dropping back to pass against the Dolphins, has led the Bucs to one touchdown among 24 preseason series.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Byron Leftwich, dropping back to pass against the Dolphins, has led the Bucs to one touchdown among 24 preseason series.

TAMPA — Say this for Byron Leftwich:

He probably won the starting quarterback job for the Buccaneers on Thursday night.

But he didn't win your confidence. And I doubt if he won your heart.

On a night when his offensive line was stout and his receivers were running free in the secondary, Leftwich played just well enough to earn faint praise. Just well enough to keep Luke McCown wondering where he went wrong.

In the end, you get the sense this is the result Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris wanted. For a rookie head coach, there is comfort in knowing your quarterback has a few scars on his body and a few victories in his past. And so Morris can go into the first regular-season game against Dallas in 16 days with some sense of reliability in the offensive huddle.

But don't assume we've heard the last of this story.

The Bucs can name their starter and declare the competition closed, but the doubts will follow them right into September.

Every three-and-out, every interception will be another opportunity to wonder if a change in QBs is on the horizon.

That's where Leftwich failed against the Dolphins on Thursday. He staked the Bucs to a 6-0 lead in the second quarter, but it should have been much more. Leftwich not only had the opportunity to win this job, but to grab this team and community by the throat. Instead, he missed the target. Repeatedly.

And so now the perception is Leftwich will be playing on an awfully short lease. Which is just how it should be. Even Morris seemed unimpressed afterward and declined to name a starter.

"Obviously, you want somebody to jump up and take it," Morris said. "Did they tonight? We'll have to go to the tape and find out if they did."

Leftwich was like the movie you're not sure you want to recommend. Kind of good in some parts, kind of shaky in others. He hit some nice downfield passes, but he also had enough overthrows to make you wonder about his consistency.

Through three preseason games, Leftwich produced only one touchdown in 12 possessions, and that was on a 24-yard drive in his first series against Tennessee. He's also had four decent-sized drives that produced field goals. Those numbers do not scream juggernaut. I'm not even sure they whisper.

Still, putting aside the stats, Leftwich is the safe pick. He is a proven commodity with a steady hand. On a team that needs direction, Leftwich is the guy who has been down a few roads before.

And that, more than anything we've seen in the preseason, is his greatest argument. Which is sort of like a politician pledging to be honest. It's not much of a rallying cry, but it might be better than the alternative.

Leftwich's history says he can be a winning quarterback if he's surrounded by good enough players. He won 61.3 percent of his starts in his final three years in Jacksonville, which is a pretty fine ratio in the parity-driven NFL. On the other hand, the Jaguars won 58.8 of their games when Leftwich was not in the lineup and that's not much of a dropoff between a starter and his backups.

In other words, Leftwich is a capable quarterback but he is not the type who can carry an offense on his shoulders.

Yet, if all goes according to plan, that won't be necessary. The Bucs have been adamant their plan is to run the ball, control the clock and throw the occasional deep pass. If so, Leftwich can handle that. He's always done a good job of avoiding interceptions, and he's smart enough to know when to take his shots downfield.

That was supposedly his advantage in this quarterback derby, and it seemed to play out that way Thursday night. Even if the deck was slightly stacked against McCown.

By the time McCown got in the game, center Jeff Faine and the starting receivers had already headed to the sideline. Add in a heavy rainstorm, and McCown was facing conditions less ideal than Leftwich had.

Still, McCown did not help his own cause. He threw some of the prettiest passes of the night, but the lasting memory will be his failure to get rid of the ball quickly enough when his protection broke down. McCown was sacked on consecutive plays on his first drive and called for intentional grounding on his second.

For a quarterback competition that went to overtime, the result was neither thrilling nor pleasing.

The more you saw of Leftwich and McCown, the more you wanted to see Josh Freeman.

Byron Leftwich shows he's the safe pick for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback 08/27/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 28, 2009 8:08am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Vikings coach feels better about QB Bradford playing vs. Bucs

    Bucs

    EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford moved with a little more bounce in his step during the 15 opening minutes of Thursday's practice before reporters were booted.

  2. Rays at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. Friday, Camden Yards, Baltimore

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Orioles

    7:05, Camden Yards, Baltimore

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Alex Cobb (11-10, 3.63)

    ORIOLES: RH Ubaldo Jimenez (6-10, 6.57)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Pitcher Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait at Charlotte Sports Park during photo day on February 26, 2014 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  3. Bucs journal: Injury news not all bad

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The Bucs are dealing with injuries and illness as they prepare for their first road game of the season, at the Vikings on Sunday.

    Linebacker Kwon Alexander, left, who had an interception against the Bears before leaving with a hamstring injury, misses his second straight day of practice.
  4. 'Dream big' drives Lightning's Conacher brothers

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Two words: Dream big.

    Cory Conacher includes them every time he signs an autograph for a young hockey fan.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cory Conacher (89) on the ice during Lightning training camp in Brandon Friday morning (09/15/17).
  5. Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

    Bucs

    BOSTON — Tests conducted on the brain of former football star Aaron Hernandez showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and his attorney said Thursday that the player's daughter is suing the NFL and the New England Patriots for leading Hernandez to believe the sport …

    Aaron Hernandez's lawyer says the former New England Patriots tight end's brain showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. [AP photo]