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Brian Griese vs. Chris Simms
Griese signed a five-year contract, which included a $3 million signing bonus, with Tampa Bay during the offseason, and that large chunk of change along with his impressive stats (69.3 percent completion percentage, 2,632 passing yards and 20 touchdowns) basically guarantee Griese the starting job heading into 2005.

However, Tampa Bay is still very much interested in seeing third-year QB Chris Simms earn the right to become the team’s future starting signal caller, and he may be on his way to doing just that.

Multiple sources from One Buc Place recently told Pewter Report that Simms had an outstanding offseason, even better than the one he drew praise for this time last year. Simms has been working closely with new quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett in an effort to remedy the problems he had with the quarterback/center exchange last season.

Hackett basically started over and revisted fundamentals with Simms, who threw for 467 yards and tossed one touchdown and three picks. The one thing Simms has really tried to improve this offseason and will continue to work on during training camp is his accuracy, which was sorely lacking last season when he completed just 57.5 percent of his passes in five games (two starts). If Simms is going to be head coach Jon Gruden’s starting quarterback in the near future, he must become more accurate as this is a necessity for any successful quarterback who has and/or will start in the West Coast offense.

Don’t look for Simms to beat Griese out for the starting job this season, but with Tampa Bay’s young and inexperienced offensive line likely to struggle in the early part of the season, don’t be surprised if Griese misses some playing time due to injury. That’s one of the reasons why Gruden asked Griese to add about 10 pounds of bulk this offseason, which he has done. Should Griese go down with an injury, Simms will once again get his shot at proving he was worth more than a third-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

Although Tampa Bay traded a sixth-round pick for him, Luke McCown doesn’t appear poised to push Simms for the No. 2 job. Because he came to the Bucs in late April, McCown is behind in terms of learning the offense. Tampa Bay loves McCown’s potential, but he’ll be focused on beating Jared Allen out for the No. 3 job while Simms attempts to challenge Griese for the starting gig. However, the only way Griese sees the bench this season is if he suffers an injury or he makes a habit out of throwing interceptions for touchdowns, which happened a few too many times last season.

This is a really big year for Simms. He’s scheduled to become a restricted free agent at the end of this season, and with Hackett likely to stay in Tampa Bay for just one year, the Bucs have made a point to let Simms take a good portion of the snaps this offseason. In fact, look for Simms to get a significant amount of playing time in preseason. If Hackett, who has a proven track record with quarterbacks, can’t improve some parts of Simms’ game, Gruden might figure that nobody can, and will likely look for another future quarterback in McCown, the draft or in free agency in 2006.

Nobody will be pulling harder for Simms to succeed this season than Gruden, who admires the young quarterback’s work ethic. Bucs general manager Bruce Allen structured the 30-year-old Griese’s contract in a way that makes him expendable at the end of each year on his contract. Although they like Griese and feel he’ll benefit from being in his second year in Gruden’s system, the Bucs wouldn’t mind seeing Simms emerge as the starter this season, even if it’s by default. This would ultimately allow the Bucs to make an educated decision on what to do with him and perhaps answer their question as to whether or not to attempt to sign him to a long-term contract during the ’06 offseason. More importantly, it would allow Gruden to know who his long-term quarterback is going to be.

ADVANTAGE: Brian Griese

This story is intended to be read by PewterInsider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers. Be sure to read the latest issue of Pewter Report on-line in PDF format on Buccaneers merchandise in the world.

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