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 name Byron Leftwich as starting quarterback

TAMPA — Boos cascaded down on Byron Leftwich, the Bucs' 29-year-old hired gunslinger.

He had just missed wide-open tight end Kellen Winslow, one of several poor throws by Leftwich on Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins. Or so it seemed.

What wasn't so obvious is that Winslow was supposed to run a skinny post but bent the route across the middle of the field.

"You had no idea that the receiver ran the wrong route by the body language of the quarterback," coach Raheem Morris said. "That's part of it."

Morris summoned Leftwich and Luke McCown to his office early Saturday to declare a winner in the quarterback derby. "It was almost like you were going to see the principal," Leftwich said.

The coach chose Leftwich, the guy Morris says has "a Magic Johnson smile," to be the starter.

According to Morris, Leftwich outplayed McCown in the offseason and training camp, although neither was particularly consistent in preseason games. In the end, the fact that Leftwich has been through the fire was as important as his ability to throw smoke with his right arm.

"We're going to run the ball. We want to be a heavy play-action team," Morris said. "That kind of fits the mode of what he does, play-action, throwing the ball down the field in chunks, trying to get big plays, trying to generate big plays," Morris said. "That's what he showed he can do in the preseason, and that's what he went out there and did.

"Luke did a great job competing. I think we've seen the most aggressive Luke McCown throughout this camp that we've seen in years. The guys used to pick with him all the time, calling him 'check down McCown,' and he wasn't that. … He took chances and had some success doing it. We just thought Leftwich was the better guy, and we're going with Leftwich right now."

For Leftwich, it's the first time since 2006 he will begin the season as a starting quarterback. He was released by the Jaguars nine days before the start of the 2007 season. After a failed stint in Atlanta, where he suffered an ankle injury, he resurfaced last year as Ben Roethlisberger's backup for the Super Bowl champion Steelers.

"I'm very excited. …" Leftwich said. "When I get home, I'll probably scream in the living room and let all my emotions out. I've been holding them in. To work my tail off to get back to this point again to be a starter on Week 1, that's what I wanted, and I'll take full advantage of it, and I think there will be a lot of good things for the Bucs this year."

McCown, who forfeited free agency to re-sign a two-year, $7.5 million deal with the Bucs, couldn't mask his disappointment after five years of being a bridesmaid in the QB race.

"Yeah, a little bit (surprised) I guess," McCown said. "You have to continue to believe you did everything you were asked to do. I still believe that. But like I've said all along, once they name the starter, it's about whatever is best for this team to win ball games. Byron's the starter. And I'm going to do everything I can to help him be the best starter he can be. And at the same time, prepare and be ready to play if I'm called upon."

Players didn't take sides, but it was obvious from the first time Leftwich walked onto the field in March that his arm and leadership ability was special.

"He's a guy who's been through the fire," receiver Michael Clayton said. "I think that's one of the main components that allowed him to get this job — not to mention his ability to get the ball down the field. He's one of the strongest-armed quarterbacks I've played with."

Leftwich answers questions every day about his long, slow release and plodding feet in the pocket. "To be honest with you, that release is probably not going to change," he said. "It is going to be that way, and I have to do a better job of finding ways to make it work."

McCown will serve as the No. 2 quarterback, and first-round pick Josh Freeman will begin the season No. 3.

Eventually, the job will go to Freeman, the Bucs' proclaimed franchise player.

Leftwich said he will do everything to help develop him. He just doesn't want to give the Bucs a reason to play Freeman this season.

"I'm used to leading a bunch of men, and I actually like being in that position," Leftwich said.

Times staff writers Joe Smith and Dave Scheiber contributed to this report.

Fast Facts

QB scorecard

Totals from three
preseason games

Byron Leftwich

21-for-43, 224 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions

Series: 1 touchdown, 4 field goals, 7 punts, 0 turnovers

Luke McCown

15-for-28, 108 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions

Series: 2 touchdowns,
0 field goals, 5 punts,
1 turnover, 1 missed field goal, 1 end of half

Tampa Bay Buccaneers name Byron Leftwich as starting quarterback 08/29/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 30, 2009 7:12am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No. 12 FSU, freshman QB James Blackman struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State


    TALLAHASSEE — Whatever was left of No. 12 Florida State's College Football Playoff hopes suffered a massive, likely fatal, blow Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  2. Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off


    SOMERSET, N.J. — Stephen Curry and President Donald Trump agree on one thing: The Golden State star is not going to the White House anytime soon.

    Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry poses for photos during NBA basketball team media day Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. [Associated Press]
  3. For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing another old friend in Jeremy Hellickson


    UPDATE, 3:29: Here is the Rays lineup, with Duda at 1B and Morrison the DH:

  4. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium


    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.
  5. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem


    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national anthem …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]