TAMPA — It was only hours before Jeff Garcia headed off to vacation with his 6-month-old daughter, Presley, and wife Carmella, who is pregnant with the couple's second child. The destination was Cleveland, where his in-laws could provide babysitting relief for the weary parents.
At 38, Garcia is a late bloomer as the family guy. Now look at him. He only wishes the Bucs offense could grow up as quickly.
Even with his team at 6-3, Garcia offered a sobering assessment of the Bucs doing anything in the postseason, if they get that far. Tampa Bay has not won a playoff game since 2002, the first year under Jon Gruden.
"We're not playing good enough football right now that can take us to be a real competitive playoff-type football team," Garcia said. "We need to — week in and week out — continue to step up and become better. We're not doing the necessary things right now that we need to do in order to be a real solid team. And yet, we're in a good position because we've won six games. Now, if we can turn things around and be better as an offense … that's what I need to concentrate on."
More specifically, Garcia said that Gruden needs to trust him to make more plays downfield in the passing game. That's what happened in last week's 30-27 overtime win at Kansas City.
Garcia suggested the most important play of the season, a shot downfield to receiver Antonio Bryant that resulted in a 24-yard touchdown that helped send the game into overtime.
"I made a suggestion, and Coach said, 'Okay, go for it,' " Garcia said. "And it was something we talked about during the game based about how their safeties were squeezing the inside lanes, the inside receivers. And in the Cover 2, corners don't generally get as much depth. …
"All I wanted was a little bit of time, a lane to be able to step in and somewhat give a little fake into Ike (Hilliard) to hold everybody inside so I could go outside. It was one of those plays that worked how we'd like it to work. He made a great grab on the sideline."
It was the biggest comeback victory — down 21 points — in team history. And it was the second overtime victory on the road despite committing four turnovers, including two in the red zone against the Chiefs.
Tampa Bay has scored just 12 touchdowns in 35 trips inside an opponent's 20. Turnovers have been an issue. The Bucs have thrown nine interceptions and lost seven fumbles.
"Had we not pulled through against Kansas City, it would've been a very negative situation going into the bye week, especially coming off a tough loss in Dallas," Garcia said. "And we realize we're capable of being so much better as a team."
Entering the bye week, the Bucs are a half game behind Carolina (6-2) in the NFC South. All four teams in the NFC East own a winning record, so a wild card could be out of the question. The good news is the Bucs have one of the easiest schedules in the league down the stretch, with only two teams (Atlanta and Carolina) that now have winning records.
Getting players back such as Warrick Dunn, B.J. Askew and Arron Sears will help. So will the growing trust between coach and quarterback.
"I don't think we put ourselves in a position to make enough big plays just because of a certain approach at times," Garcia said. "But I think we're getting to that point. It's all about trust. And the main trust has to come from (Gruden). He has to trust in us that we can make the right decisions, that we can make the play down the field. I think that's something that's building, it's a process. It's becoming more evident that we do have some guys who can be those types of players. I mean, this is the NFL. Everybody has playmakers. But you have to give yourself opportunities to do those things, and I think coach will give us those opportunities to do it."