Quarterback Jeff Garcia is undoubtedly in the shadows this week as the Bucs head to Indianapolis to face future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and the Colts on Sunday. Garcia’s stats can’t stack up against the recent Super Bowl-winning quarterback and he isn’t even close when it comes to commercial endorsements.
Garcia, however, is closer to the talent of Manning than many think and this week is a perfect opportunity for him to show the Colts and the league all of his talents. The three-time Pro Bowler has been flawless in running the Bucs offense so far this season and his fiery play is rubbing off on his teammates with every snap.
As much as Manning and Garcia are different, they both have similar traits that might not be so evident. Manning has been with the same team his entire career, while Garcia is playing on his fifth team in the last five years. The nine-year veteran uses his feet and mobility to make plays when the pocket breaks down compared to Manning, who is a traditional drop-back, pocket passer.
This season, Manning has gotten off to his normal hot start completing 86-of-120 pass attempts for 1,066 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception. He has orchestrated an offense that is averaging better than 32 points a game and has completed a pass to nine players so far this season. For his career, the Tennessee alum is completing 64.1 percent of his passes for 38,652 yards with 283 touchdowns and 140 interceptions.
Manning has been able to play for the same coordinator – Tom Moore – for the majority of his career and has been in the same system. The 10th year quarterback hasn’t had to deal with changing systems and learning new terminologies along with the audibles that come with a new system. He knows the offense so well that he has the freedom to change any play at any time.
“He’s [Manning] the whole deal. He’s been fortunate – I think he’d even tell you that – that he’s had the same coordinator for a long time,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s played with some of the same star-studded skill members for a long time. There’s nobody that out-works him. What he does on game day at the line of scrimmage, from the films I’ve seen and the game’s I’ve been in, is unprecedented. It’s a no-huddle attack. He has a lot of freedom to pull the trigger on whatever he feels is right for the Colts offense. He’s got the ability, the courage and the whole persona to pull it off. We’re looking forward to the challenge, what can I say?”
Even though Garcia has stayed in the West Coast system for most of his career, he’s played for different coordinators who run the system their own way. Playing in Detroit and San Francisco with Steve Mariucci, Garcia ran a different West Coast style than he did in Philadelphia with Andy Reid and this season with Gruden. The former 49ers quarterback mentioned several times during training camp that Gruden has added at least 25 percent to the West Coast systems he had run in the past.
Garcia has completed 58-of-90 pass attempts this season for 771 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Number seven has completed more than 64 percent of his passes in the first four games and hasn’t had to throw the ball all that much in the last three victories. The Bucs have been able to get early leads in wins over St. Louis, New Orleans and Carolina and use their running game to take time off the clock.
In his nine-year career, Garcia is completing 61 percent of his passes for 21,156 yards with 138 touchdowns and 73 interceptions.
The similarities of both quarterbacks come in the fact that they are both accurate quarterbacks and don’t make the big mistake that can hurt their respective teams. Both veterans are smart enough to realize that an incomplete pass isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Manning and Garcia stay out of trouble and have the ability to move their respective offenses down the field at any time.
“To me, it’s probably the confidence that he is allowing the other guys to play with,” Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy said about Garcia. “He’s doing the right things, taking care of the football, getting the ball to the right guys, but more than anything else he’s just given them confidence that when they need a play on third-and-4, he’s going to make it. I think that has allowed their defense to play better and I think everyone else is feeding off of him.”
Even though the spotlight will be on the Bucs defense and how they contain Manning and the Colts explosive offense, the Colts defense has their hands full with Garcia as well. The San Jose State alum, however, doesn’t see this as a battle of quarterbacks, but believes in his abilities with the ball in his hands.
“I don’t feel like I need to compete with that, I feel I just need to go out and take care of my own business,” Garcia said. “I think everybody knows and understands that he is a great quarterback. I feel that I’m a very good quarterback myself and I feel like if I just go out there and handle my business and lead my team that quality things will happen.”
Cornerback Phillip Buchanon was limited in practice on Thursday with a foot injury and wide receiver Ike Hilliard was limited as well with an ankle injury. Defensive end Greg Spires (ankle) was able to participate in practice with no limitations along with Brian Kelly (groin) who practiced for the second consecutive day.
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