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Luke McCown ready to vie for Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback job

Luke McCown, who threw for 313 yards against the Saints in his lone win as a starter, is excited about a new opportunity.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times (2007)

Luke McCown, who threw for 313 yards against the Saints in his lone win as a starter, is excited about a new opportunity.

Someone is coming. If nothing else, a career spent on the sidelines has taught that much to Luke McCown. Someone is coming. Someone else, someone new and, the NFL being what it is, someone talented. Maybe Matt Cassel, if you believe the rumors. Maybe Josh Freeman, if you believe the mock drafts. Maybe someone else. Sooner or later, however, there is bound to be another professional passer in these parts. Isn't there always? If you are asking, McCown is fine with it. This time, finally, McCown has a chance of his own.

"All I've ever wanted was a chance to compete," McCown, 27, said Wednesday from his home in Jacksonville, Texas. "There is always going to be someone else. That doesn't matter. I just want the chance to prove I can win the job.

"It makes no difference to me (who the Bucs might bring in). I didn't ask when I signed, and I didn't ask when we were negotiating. I feel like I'm going to be the better quarterback. I feel like I'm going to win the position."

Let's be honest: In the past, it wouldn't have mattered. McCown could have completed every preseason pass and scored on every scramble, and he still wasn't going to win the quarterback job. It was Jeff Garcia's job. Or Brian Griese's. Or Chris Simms'. Or Bruce Gradkowski's.

McCown? He was the turn-off-the-lights quarterback, the Last Man Sweating, and he was going to play only if there was no other choice. It was like watching one of those television game shows where the guy with the proper key wins the car. Only McCown never received a key.

Ask McCown what he thinks it would have taken for him to win the job, and he laughs loudly into the phone. "Maybe if I changed my name?'' he suggests.

Yeah, maybe if he changed his name to Favre.

This year, things have changed. The Bucs have a new general manager and a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator. And suddenly, McCown's skills set looks intriguing all over again. He has enough arm. He has good feet. He has a great work ethic. In a league where quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Kurt Warner and Cassel have run a relay race from nowhere, why shouldn't McCown have a chance?

No one, not even McCown, is arguing he deserves the only chance. After all, McCown is 1-6 as a starter (he was 0-4 with Cleveland as a rookie), which is hard to ignore. Still, is an open competition too much to expect?

"I know I have a lot to prove," McCown said, "and I want to prove it. I feel like I have as much or more ability than any quarterback in the league. It's time to go out and put it on the field. I have the ability to lead this team. I'm so excited and amped up to have the opportunity to be the starter."

Who else? More and more, it appears that Garcia will not be among the candidates. That leaves Griese and Josh Johnson on the roster, and a mass of swirling rumors outside of the door.

Would the Bucs really pay two No. 1s for the Patriots' Cassel? That's pricey. Would they draft a quarterback No. 1 such as Kansas State's Freeman, as badly as they need defensive linemen or wide receivers or a running back? That's risky. Would they settle for a Kyle Boller or a Rex Grossman? That's uninspiring.

Someone is coming, of course. It's difficult to believe the Bucs won't go after another interesting name or two before they wind up with the four or five quarterbacks they will take to training camp. Let's hope so, because as a team, the Bucs need a chance, too.

As for McCown? Yeah, it's about time the Bucs got a definitive answer.

Remember 2007? McCown had significant playing time in four of the season's final five games, and he hit 93 of 135 passes for 1,000 yards and a 93.3 rating. You didn't have to be a scout to see the flash of promise. At the time, it was easy to wonder if the Bucs had found a young quarterback worth molding.

Then came last year, and McCown threw all of one pass. It was incomplete. Worst of all was a game down the stretch against Atlanta, when McCown worked with the No. 1 unit all week only to be bypassed on game day in favor of Griese.

When it came to quarterbacks, Jon Gruden was a conservative. He liked older quarterbacks because, by and large, they were more predictable, less prone to mistakes.

Even now, McCown says he harbors no bitterness toward Gruden. He does, however, admit the difficulty of watching from the sideline.

"It was frustrating," McCown said. "As a competitor, you think, 'I'm better than that guy.' Or you look around the league and see guys getting opportunities, and you think, 'What did he do for someone to believe in him? Why won't someone show that kind of confidence in supporting me?' "

Perhaps they will yet. In a league of long shots, perhaps McCown can still win the lottery.

For the first time, he has a ticket.

FAST FACTS

Luke McCown's career starts

Season Opponent Com.-att. Yards TDs Ints. W/L

2007 Panthers (Dec. 30) 21-28 236 2 1 L

2007 Texans (Dec. 9) 25-38 266 0 0 L

2007 Saints (Dec. 2) 29-37 313 2 1 W

2004 Dolphins (Dec. 26) 9-16 161 1 2 L

2004 Chargers (Dec. 19) 11-27 108 0 1 L

2004 Bills (Dec. 12) 8-20 62 1 2 L

2004 Patriots (Dec. 5) 20-34 277 2 2 L

Totals 123-200 1,423 8 9 1-6

Note: 2007 starts were for Bucs; 2004 starts were for Browns

Luke McCown ready to vie for Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback job 02/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 10:58pm]

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