Buccaneers quarterback Josh Johnson is competing for the starting quarterback position as the Bucs players continue their voluntary offseason workouts. Johnson met with Pewter Report Wednesday and updated his status in the competition for the vacant starting quarterback position. Johnson was asked if he is in fact in competition to be next season's starter with Luke McCown and Brian Griese.
"Most definitely," said Johnson. "That's what all of last year was for, for me to learn and come into this season ready to compete for the job. That's why I came in early everyday and studied film with Coach Olson. Once I picked up on the playbook, it was time to understand defenses. It helped going against our defense in practice, but watching film I can make the right calls and understand what I'm seeing from the defense. That's why I'm just as much a part of this competition as anybody else. A lot of people outside of this organization might not understand that, but in time people will get a chance to see what I can do.
"From my understanding we're all competing. If you're on the roster you're competing. Coach [Jagodzinski] gave all of us our expectations together. He and I are building a relationship right now. I told him, ‘Coach, whatever you feel like I need to work on to help me become a better quarterback, please tell me.' He was the same way, ‘When you guys have suggestions bring them to me.' As of right now he gave us a very good understanding of what he expects from the quarterback position."
At this point, the competition seems to be relegated to just McCown and Johnson. The two of them have been in Tampa Bay working with new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson. McCown and Johnson have been learning the new offense, and have been on the field with teammates going through the new plays. According to Johnson, the veteran Griese has not been at the facility up to this point of the offseason, but Johnson's tone emphasized that would not hold Griese back later on.
"Griese has other things going on," Johnson said. "When I've been here he hasn't been here. Coach Olson has talked to him a lot, so I'm pretty sure he'll be around. He's been doing it for so many years. He knows. He is so smart, and he understands the game of football. I'm pretty sure he's going to learn this playbook in a day. We'll see him next week when mini-camp starts. I don't know the whole situation, I haven't talked to Brian, so we'll see."
The Bucs re-signed McCown to a two-year, $7.5 million contract before the free agent signing period began in late-February. The decision to re-sign McCown was one of the factors that led to the decision to not re-sign Jeff Garcia, whom McCown backed up for the majority of the 2008 season.
McCown owns a 1-6 record as a starter in the NFL (1-2 in Tampa Bay) and has a career quarterback rating of 75.2, but he owns a 91 QB rating in seven games (three starts) with the Buccaneers. In 2007, McCown appeared in five games for the Bucs. He completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 1,009 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Griese recently turned 34, and started five games for Tampa Bay last season. He threw for 1,073 yards with five touchdowns and seven interceptions with a rating of 69.4. Griese has seen action in 93 games in his career, and has much more experience than other two quarterbacks. Johnson spent the majority of 2008 as the emergency third quarterback, but says that all the quarterbacks are on an equal footing in terms of competing for the starting job.
"From a playbook standpoint we are on equal footing now," said Johnson. "Those guys have been in the league a lot longer obviously, and I still have a lot to learn, but I've learned enough to where I can compete now. Being on the field, it's kind about going out there and playing as opposed to last year when I was thinking so much. They do have six or seven years on me, but I feel like I've prepared and learned enough in the past year to go out and compete to the best of my ability and try and win the starting job."
With four quarterbacks in the preseason last year, Johnson only saw extensive action in one game: the final contest at Houston. Johnson completed 8-of-13 passes (61.5 percent) for 85 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Johnson rushed once for a loss of two yards and had a fumble that was recovered by the Texans. That was only extensive playing time for Bucs fans to get a look at Johnson last season. The second-year pro Johnson acknowledges that with more established veterans in the competition he can be the forgotten man at times.
"It's understandable when you consider I was a fifth-round draft pick," said Johnson. "A lot of people weren't at practice last year a lot to see me in practice and my development as an NFL player. It's understandable, but that's the whole point of me proving it on the field. People can say whatever they want, but it all boils down to what you do on the field, and I'm looking forward to getting my opportunity."
Johnson is focused on improving and making the most out of the opportunity to compete for the starting quarterbacks position. The second-year pro is not worried about out-performing the other quarterbacks but still being a backup.
"I can't control all that," said Johnson. "I just want to make sure I go out and do the best I can when the opportunity presents itself. I'm getting the opportunity to compete, and that's all I can ever ask for."
Look for more from Johnson's interview with Pewter Report in a few Pewter Insider columns coming out in the days to come. Johnson discusses the new offense, the weapons the offense has and the potential for a vertical passing attack. He also discusses how he fits in the new offense coming from Jon Gruden's system, how he developed over his rookie season, and his pursuit to become a more accurate and consistent quarterback.