TAMPA — At least Raheem Morris finally has the name of the Bucs' starting quarterback in the back of his mind.
He wants to make sure he made the decision with his head and not just his heart.
That's why Morris declined to name his choice between Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown on Friday until after one last consultation with his coaching staff.
After that, Morris said, he would inform the owners, then his team before making the eagerly awaited announcement. Players were off Friday, so an announcement could come this morning.
"We'll have a decision here in the near future," Morris said. "I think we've got to go with who we think gives us the best chance to win.
"I do have my opinion, which I'm not going to share with you right now. No disrespect. But you go back and evaluate all the way from the beginning, from the (organized team activity) days and offseason conditioning workouts, when we started minicamps and when we started training camp, going into the preseason and all the way through (Thursday) night."
All indications are that Morris is leaning toward Leftwich, though neither quarterback was dazzling in the Bucs' 10-6 loss to the Dolphins on Thursday.
"Can my mind be changed? Yes," Morris said. "Because I'm not closed-minded enough to think I have all the answers. … I'm going to take in what all (the other coaches) have to say, and we'll make the decision."
Barring an injury, rookie first-round draft pick Josh Freeman will begin the season on the sideline.
"I didn't want (the starter) to be Freeman," Morris said. "If he forced his hand in the thing, then it could've been Freeman. I'm never going to rule him out because you never know what's going to happen.
"In all likelihood, you want it to be one of the two guys we're talking about, just talking about the plan and how you want to groom Freeman and bring him along."
Morris didn't get a clear-cut winner in the first three preseason games. Thursday, Leftwich was 9-of-17 for 100 yards, converted 4 of 8 third-down situations and staked the Bucs to a 6-0 lead on a pair of Mike Nugent field goals. McCown was 5-of-11 for 38 yards, was sacked twice and was called for intentional grounding.
In the preseason, Leftwich is 21-of-43 for 224 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 72.2. McCown is 15-of-28 for 108 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 86.6.
Morris sang the praises of both quarterbacks Friday but seemed to give a little stronger endorsement to Leftwich:
"If Byron Leftwich is your selection, (it's because of) his leadership, the fact that he's won 12 games in this league before, the fact that he's a big, strong-armed guy that can make all the throws. … He has the savvy, has the toughness, (is) mentally sharp, (has) all the qualities that you look for in a quarterback.
"If Luke is your choice, you're talking about a young man that's hungry, that's waited his turn. You're talking about a guy who's been in the background for years. He's always been the bridesmaid. (He) wants to go out there and make some decisions. (He) can make plays with his feet, can make all the throws. Is a leader, sharp, detailed, and he works his butt off. He's one of the hardest workers on our team."