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Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris doesn't have it so tough. Check the quarterback choices of Buccaneers past.

Please, no more talk about the difficulty of the decision. Raheem Morris has it easy.

All Morris has to do is watch tonight's preseason game between the Bucs and the Dolphins and pick a quarterback. From the sound of it, volunteers are standing by to help.

Lefty or Luke? This former backup or that one?

What could be easier?

You want a tough decision? Try choosing between two quarterbacks who just finished their brawl in a sand trap. Try looking at the kid from Minot and having to figure out why not. Try looking at two disappointments with the hope that either of them could make people forget about Doug Williams. Try reading in the morning sports section that one quarterback has ripped into the other.

Yeah, choosing a quarterback can be a tougher decision than Byron Leftwich vs. Luke McCown.

If Morris doubts it, all he has to do is ask his predecessors.

Those guys had to solve math problems without chalk.

Over the years, few franchises have had as many odd ducks compete in as many strange circumstances as the Bucs and their quarterbacks. Perhaps it is because that, except for Williams and a short run by Brad Johnson, there really hasn't been a lot of excellence at quarterback over the years. Most of the time, a quarterback battle for Tampa Bay has been a decision of which player might disappoint the least.

Want to talk about hard decisions? John McKay had hard decisions.

In 1977, McKay had such a collection of nobodies that the unforgettable Randy Hedberg from Minot State was his starting quarterback. Sure, much of it was injury — both Mike Boryla and Gary Huff were hurt — but the decision was also fueled by Hedberg's cult status as the star from tiny Minot State. "Why Not Minot?" the T-shirts read.

Why not? Here's why not.

During the first four (of six) preseason games the Bucs played, Hedberg threw only three passes. He completed one for a 4-yard loss. Then, in the fifth game, he hit a 66-yard pass (his only completion in five attempts).

"We are now working on the assumption that Hedberg's our No. 1 quarterback," McKay said.


Hedberg was a disaster. He lost all four of his starts. His completion percentage was 27.8. He threw 10 interceptions and zero touchdowns. His quarterback rating was all of 8.0.

McKay wasn't finished yet. Go to 1983, the season after the Bucs refused to pay Williams. Instead, the Bucs had Jack "The Throwin' Samoan" Thompson and Jerry Golsteyn at quarterback.

The Bucs had traded away a No. 2 draft pick for Thompson, who was supposed to be the favorite. But Golsteyn stole the show in the preseason, hitting 40-of-66 passes for 474 yards and four scores (a 96.1 rating).

Everyone, including McKay, was fooled. But Thompson lost all three of his starts in '83, and his rating fell by 40 points. The Bucs finished 2-14.

"Jerry's a nice kid," McKay said, "but so is my wife, and she's no quarterback."

Want to talk about a hard decision? Ray Perkins had a hard decision.

It was 1987, and Perkins was taking over the Bucs. He had a guy named Steve Young on the roster, but the acknowledged No. 1 draft pick was Vinny Testaverde.

What did Perkins do? He traded Young for a second- and a fourth-round draft pick, proving that it isn't only quarterbacks who throw things away. You can now find Young in the Hall of Fame.

So what if Perkins had let the two compete for the starting job?

You know the answer. Neither one of them would have developed.

Perkins had another tough decision, too. After underpricing Young, he paid far too much to bring in Chris Chandler in 1990. That led the Bucs into their ugliest competition.

Chandler was public about his disregard for Vinny, suggesting he was tougher and that he played harder. At one point, he called Testaverde "totally inept.'' Meanwhile, Chandler was 0-6 as a starter.

Want to talk about a hard decision? Sam Wyche had a hard decision.

Wyche, you see, liked quarterback Craig Erickson in 1994, but he had a No. 1 draft choice in Trent Dilfer. That's always a problem, deciding when to throw a youngster into the fray.

What did Wyche do? He waited until the seventh game, when the Bucs were on the road, facing a powerful 49ers team with one of the finest secondaries in the history of the NFL. Predictably, Dilfer failed. It was the first misstep toward a contentious relationship between coach and player.

Want to talk about a hard decision? Tony Dungy had a hard decision.

When Dungy arrived in '96, Dilfer was the incumbent, but he had been replaced seven times the previous season by Casey Weldon.

Not long before Dungy's first season began, the competition reached its loony point when Dilfer and Weldon threw down in a bunker (The Thrilla at Avila). If they had been better players, perhaps they would have fought on the green.

Along the way, the Bucs have made every possible mistake. They have overvalued game stats, given up too much in trades, and they've had mouthy backups and washed up vets and rookies who played before they were ready.

Morris? All he has to do is pick a guy to keep the seat warm for Josh Freeman.

All in all, there are harder decisions to come.

Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris doesn't have it so tough. Check the quarterback choices of Buccaneers past. 08/26/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:09am]
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