Josh McCown latest candidate in Bucs' QB search

There is nothing reassuring about Josh McCown, nothing that puts your concerns at ease, Gary Shelton writes. He is a vagabond quarterback on a franchise that has a history of them. [DANIEL WALLACE | Times]
There is nothing reassuring about Josh McCown, nothing that puts your concerns at ease, Gary Shelton writes. He is a vagabond quarterback on a franchise that has a history of them. [DANIEL WALLACE | Times]
Published June 29, 2014

We want to see what Lovie Smith sees. That's all.

We want to glance into the future and see touchdowns. We want to see big plays. We want to see 10-yard completions on third and 9.

We want to picture Josh McCown, success story.

As a community goes, hey, this one is easy. We are willing to be convinced. We want to see McCown with his fist in the air, celebrating another touchdown. We want to see him dissect the opposition in the final moments of a winnable game. We want to see him pick teams apart with his accuracy, with his efficiency.

Because let's face it. It's about time some quarterback did it around here.

Right now, however, you have your doubts. Of course you do. Despite the offseason grades, despite the growing optimism, the Bucs still have the least-impressive quarterback situation in the NFC South Division.

There is nothing reassuring about McCown, nothing that puts your concerns at ease. He is a vagabond quarterback on a franchise that has a history of them. Doubts and question marks are scattered around him. Even now, you can find an argument that suggests it will be a matter of a few games before Mike Glennon replaces him.

And why wouldn't there be doubts? McCown is a 34-year-old passer who has started only 38 games in 11 years, and he has won only 16 of them. Yes, McCown was very good last year, but from 2008-12, he threw all of 61 passes. Over his career, McCown has watched a great many other options play quarterback.

In other words, the bugles did not sound when he came to town. There were no grand parades. No one looked at the quarterback position and pronounced it filled.

On the other hand, when have they ever?

To a great degree, this is why Tampa Bay is in the "prove it to me'' stage when it comes to McCown. His pedigree is small. So is that of the franchise.

Around here, a good quarterback is only a rumor. As hard as it has tried, and as often, Tampa Bay has only seen greatness at quarterback by opposing players. It has had a promise here, a prospect there, a retread here, a placeholder there. But by and large, the Bucs have gone through one guy after another without a lot of satisfaction.

Sure, there was Doug Williams back in the day. Williams was one of the first leaders this team ever had on offense, a tough guy who managed three winning seasons in five years at a time they were hard to come by. Yes, letting go of Williams was one of the first steps this franchise took into the wilderness.

But was Williams really a great quarterback while he was with the Bucs? His quarterback rating was 66. He completed only 47.4 percent of his passes. He had 10 games when he hit less than 30 percent of his passes. He never made the Pro Bowl. He wasn't Joe Montana or Dan Fouts or Terry Bradshaw or Roger Staubach.

Certainly, Williams was better than the conga line of sad sacks who came after him, but greatness might be stretching it a bit.

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And for a year, there was Brad Johnson.

Granted, when people talk about the pedestrian quarterbacks who have won the Super Bowl, they often include Johnson. That's not quite fair. Down the stretch of the 2002 season, Johnson outplayed almost every quarterback the Bucs faced — and that included Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Rich Gannon in the playoffs.

Ah, but Johnson didn't last very long. By 2004, coach Jon Gruden had gone on to someone else.

So who else you got?

Trent Dilfer? Vinny Testaverde? Josh Freeman?

Bruce Gradkowski? Brian Griese? Chris Simms?

Garcia? Jack Thompson? Byron Leftwich?


There are others, lots of them, but the point is clear. There might not be another city that has come up as empty as the Bucs have at quarterback. Only three (Garcia, Dilfer and Johnson) have ever made the Pro Bowl. None of them has made it twice.

Around here, the legacy of quarterbacks is Dilfer throwing a screen pass into the turf, Freeman throwing a ball to a linebacker, Testaverde being benched for Chris Chandler, who never won a start. It's a horror show that never ends.

Yeah, yeah. There have been a lot of postseason successes by the Bucs, playing for somebody else. Williams won a Super Bowl in Washington. Dilfer won a Super Bowl in Baltimore. Steve Young won a Super Bowl in San Francisco. Chandler got to a Super Bowl in Atlanta. Testaverde reached the AFC title game.

On the other hand, all of them struggled here. Some had bad coaches. Some were on bad teams.

But no quarterback brags very much about his days with the Bucs. Take Young, who is in the Hall of Fame. Does anyone really think he would have gotten there if he had spent his entire career playing for the Bucs under Ray Perkins? Of course not.

This is where McCown enters the picture. Yeah, he has some awfully small shoes to fill.

Consider this: If McCown could win 15 games over the next two seasons, he would vault all the way to sixth on the team's all-time win list for starting quarterbacks. Yeah, that's a little embarrassing, isn't it?

Only two guys have won as many as 30 games: Dilfer and Williams.

And yet despite it all, Tampa Bay keeps the light on for a great quarterback, or even a good one. Other cities find them. Why not this one?

Who knows? Maybe it will be McCown.

Maybe, after all this time, a light has come on for him. Maybe with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, there are enough weapons. Maybe with offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, there will be enough ideas.

Hey, a good quarterback has to play in Tampa Bay someday.

Doesn't one?