Make us your home page

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

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Luke McCown may have to continue his waiting

JACKSONVILLE — He has waited. Waited through five seasons and two franchises.

Waited behind Kelly Holcomb, Chris Simms, Brian Griese, Bruce Gradkowski and Tim Rattay. Waited behind Jeff Garcia in Cleveland and then again in Tampa Bay.

And on Saturday night, Luke McCown offered his best argument yet to go into a regular season as the starting quarterback of an NFL team. And, still, it may not have been enough.

Minutes after Tampa Bay's 24-23 victory against the Jaguars, Bucs coach Raheem Morris said he is planning to name either McCown or Byron Leftwich as his starting quarterback sometime before Thursday's preseason game against Miami.

"We have to make it now, man. This is when we decided we wanted to make the decision," Morris said. "It's only fair for those guys to make the decision this week, and let those guys move on, and move on as an organization and get ready to play."

There were no hints from Morris. No suggestions that he was leaning one way or another. And, yet, the scales seem to be leaning in Leftwich's favor. The mood in training camp suggests his hands had the tightest grip on the job.

Maybe that is justice. Maybe Leftwich has been that much better than McCown through the minicamps, the offseason workouts and the two-a-days of training camp. But if you were grading strictly on preseason games, this competition would still be going.

Because the problem is neither quarterback has done enough to win the job outright. Truth is, the offense has been a few heifers short of a stampede under both of them. The longest drive under either McCown or Leftwich has been 45 yards.

McCown has had six possessions, and the Bucs have averaged about 20 yards and scored a total of 14 points. Leftwich has had eight possessions, and the offense has averaged 22 yards with a total of 13 points.

"I think we've both stated our cases, and now it's up to them," McCown said. "It's just going to come down to who they feel is the best fit for the offense. The quarterback who best suits this team to help us win games."

Technically, McCown began the preseason as the No. 1 quarterback. The job supposedly was his to lose.

Realistically, he was probably playing from behind even before training camp began. He was in trouble the moment the Bucs decided their offense was going to be built around a control-the-clock, run-oriented philosophy.

That type of offense needs a quarterback who knows how to manage a game. A quarterback who has been around the league and won't make silly mistakes. A quarterback more like Leftwich.

McCown may have a big arm, he may be more elusive than most quarterbacks, and he may even have some attractive improvisational qualities. But the reality is no coach has had enough faith in his decisionmaking to hand over an offense to him in September.

Which is why the most impressive pass McCown threw all night may have been the one that was farthest from any receiver. On first-and-goal from the 8, McCown was scrambling backward out of the pocket when he threw the ball out of the end zone. He didn't take the sack, and he didn't try to force a pass he could not complete. In other words, he showed the type of savvy he is supposedly lacking.

Two plays later, the Bucs scored a touchdown.

"That's something I've worked extremely hard on," McCown said. "I've put a lot of mental focus on that through (organized team activities) and training camp. I need to get the ball out quicker and play with a little faster clock in my head."

If you were ignoring their resumes and basing the decision completely on their play in the first two preseason games, you might even say McCown has looked more like the veteran. After all, Leftwich is the one who ran himself into a 17-yard sack against the Titans.

And, if you consider third down to be a barometer for a sharp quarterback, McCown has performed better. He is 4-of-7 for 24 yards, one touchdown and three first downs, while Leftwich is 1-of-6 for 17 yards and one first down.

So you can analyze, scrutinize and theorize all you like, but it's still hard to come out with a winner from these two preseason games.

Which means the decision will be based on other factors. On performance on the practice field. On savvy in the meeting room. On the comfort of a veteran hand.

And if that's the case, Leftwich will probably win.

And McCown will continue to wait.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Luke McCown may have to continue his waiting 08/22/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 23, 2009 7:20am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Hechavarria active, Robertson sent down


    UPDATE, 3:26: And the Rays indeed have Hechavarria at SS and Beckham at 2B. Also, with no DH Dickerson is in left.

    Rays lineup:
    Smith cf,
    Dickerson lf,
    Longoria 3b,
    Morrison 1b,
    Souza rf,
    Ramos c,
    Beckham 2b,
    Hechavarria ss,
    Cobb p

    The stellar view from the press box at PNC Park.
  2. Cal Foote was picked 14th overall by the Lightning in the NHL Draft.
  3. Jones: Serena Williams, and all women, deserved better from John McEnroe


    John McEnroe might be the best sports analyst in broadcasting.

    Serena Williams makes a backhand return to her sister Venus during the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in January in  Melbourne, Australia. [AP photo]
  4. Joe Maddon: What my time in Tampa Bay meant, and still means, to me

    The Heater

    Editor's note: The Rays next week in Chicago will meet up for the first time with former manager Joe Maddon, who is in his third year leading the Cubs after nine with the Rays. In advance of the Tuesday-Wednesday series, we asked Maddon to share his thoughts in a column on what his time in Tampa Bay meant to …

    Joe Maddon waits to greet B.J. Upton after Upton's home run in Game 2 of the ALCS in 2008 at Tropicana Field. [Times files (2008)]
  5. Jameis Winston held his pro day at Florida State's indoor practice facility. His pro team will be getting one soon.