Only seven projected starting quarterbacks this year are ranked lower than the Bucs' Josh McCown by ESPN analyst and passing guru Ron Jaworski.
McCown comes in at No. 25, ahead of the Browns' Brian Hoyer (26th), the Jaguars' Chad Henne (27), the Bills' EJ Manuel (28), the Titans' Jake Locker (29), the Jets' Geno Smith (30), the Texans' Ryan Fitzpatrick (31) and the Vikings' Matt Cassel (32).
Three of those quarterbacks (Hoyer, Smith and Cassel) might not win the job in training camp.
In a poll of coaches and executives, nfl.com had McCown ranked 24th among starting quarterbacks. So the consensus is that McCown is rated somewhere in the bottom fourth in the league.
There are two primary reasons to doubt McCown. Start with his age. The Yankee Doodle Dandy turned 35 on July 4. The other reason is his overall lack of production in his career. The Panthers' Cam Newton (1,475) and the Bengals' Andy Dalton (1,630) have more pass attempts entering their fourth season than does McCown entering his 12th (1,337).
McCown has never started more than 13 games in a pro season, and he did that once, for the 2004 Cardinals. The Colts' Andrew Luck has four fewer career touchdowns after two seasons than McCown in his career (50).
The Bucs' faith in McCown is based on coach Lovie Smith's confidence in him and on his terrific season last season with the Bears. Smith brought McCown back into the league after he missed all 2010 and most of '11. Last season McCown went 3-2 as a starter, completed 66.5 percent of his passes and threw 13 touchdown passes, and had only one interception.
Can the Bucs win a Super Bowl with McCown? History suggests it will be tough. Since the Broncos' John Elway won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997-98 at 37 and 38 years old, the NFL has been mostly a young man's game at quarterback. The oldest QB to win a Super Bowl since Elway was the Bucs' Brad Johnson, who was 34 in the 2002 season.
What the Bucs have to hope for is that McCown is a late bloomer in the mold of former Rich Gannon, a career backup until the lightbulb went off with the Raiders in 1999 at age 34. Gannon went to four consecutive Pro Bowls, was the league's MVP in 2000 and lost to the Bucs in Super Bowl XXXVII.
"I don't know if I want to put (McCown) in Rich Gannon's category yet. Josh has a lot to prove this year," said former Bucs tight end Anthony Becht, the team's pre- and postgame radio host.
"It's almost like his rookie year. He's getting a chance right now to kind of get that Rich Gannon-type of start toward the end of his career."
GOOD FORTUNE: The Glazer family has two of the world's top 30 most valuable sports franchises in this year's rankings by Forbes magazine.
Manchester United ($2.8 billion in May) came in third, behind fellow soccer powerhouses Real Madrid and Barcelona. But adidas signing a 10-year, $1.3 billion deal with Man U last week pushes the franchise's "enterprise value" to $3.6 billion, most in the world.
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The Bucs dropped slightly from 28th to 30th in the world, with an estimated value of $1.067 billion, which ranks 17th among the NFL's 32 teams. It's more than five times the $192 million the Glazer family paid to buy the team in 1995.
LOW PROFILE: It could change with flex scheduling, but the Bucs go into the season without an appearance on Sunday night or Monday night, continuing a recent trend. Since the 2005 season, the Bucs have played just one Sunday night game, matching the Dolphins for fewest in the NFL. Since 2005 the Bucs have been on Monday Night Football just four times. Only the Lions and Bills, with three each, have fewer appearances. Detroit opens 2014 on a Monday night.
Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.
. Fast facts
Bucs training camp
When: Players report Thursday
Where: One Buc Place, Tampa
Workout dates (open to the public; admission free; schedule and times subject to change): Friday 4:30-7 p.m.; Saturday 4:30-7; July 27, 2-4:30; July 28, 1-3:30; July 31, 2-4:30; Aug. 1, 7:30-9:30 at Raymond James Stadium; Aug. 3, 4:30-7; Aug. 4, 4:30-7; Aug. 5, 4:30-7; Aug. 10, 2-4:30; Aug. 11, 4:30-7; Aug. 12, 4:30-7; Aug. 14, 2-4:30.