Despite the fact that Luke McCown has not had a change of team or contract situation it has been an interesting offseason for the 26-year-old. Tampa Bay traded for quarterback Brian Griese on Mar. 3 making it the second time in his career that he has played for the Buccaneers and head coach Jon Gruden.
"Well I think he's a good player," said McCown of Griese. "He's a good addition to our team. Coach Gruden is going to assemble the best team that he can. He and [general manager] Bruce Allen and the staff, they feel like Brian can come in here and compete and be a good addition to this team. He knows the system. He'll get reacquainted with it. It's been two years. He's been in the system he's a veteran player. He'll help us out."
With Jeff Garcia firmly entrenched as the Bucs' starting quarterback, McCown seemed to have a firm hold on the backup quarterback position prior to the Griese acquisition. Now there will be a competition for the right to back up Garcia, but McCown has his sights on going after more than the backup position. McCown shared his goals with Pewter Report after Wednesday's organized team activity.
"Well you know it's always a competition. Jeff is our starter, but that doesn't keep me from competing to be the starter," said McCown. "I want to be the starter. Right now I'm the number two and competing. That's what were doing right now. We're competing through OTA's. It doesn't matter what you are on the depth chart it's about competing when you get on the field, being prepared, doing what you can to help the team win. And that's the whole point of a team.
"Everybody has a role. Everybody has a part. Whether I'm starting or being a backup I'm going to put everything I can into it, to help this team win. Again it's about preparation and being ready."
One player who is not part of the competition right now is quarterback Chris Simms. After ending the season on injured reserve for the second straight year Simms has decided to work out on his own this offseason. Simms has not been in attendance for the first two OTA's and believes his long-term future is not in Tampa Bay.
"Well I certainly wish Chris all the best. He's a good friend of mine. That's his call I guess. It's really … I guess I don't have more to say about that," said McCown, who went on to speak more about Simms. "He's a great player he's been through a rough time coming back from this injury and I've spoke with him. He said he feels well and he feels like he's doing what he thinks is right. That's all he can do. I wish the best for him. If he decides to come and help us out, he'll certainly be a help to this team."
McCown does not shirk from competition at his position. The draft rumors of the Bucs taking a quarterback like Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm do not bother McCown.
"It doesn't really matter how I feel about that since there's not much I can control about it," said McCown. "Again it's about competition. It's about playing. It's about helping this team win. If they feel that's the direction they need to go to help this team win you can't blame them. That's why we all are here: to win. I feel like I've grown as a player. I'm getting better. I'm competing to be the starter, but I know Jeff's our starter and it's about winning.
McCown showed a big improvement over his last extended playing time, which was in 2004 for the Cleveland Browns. In his rookie year he completed 48-of-98 (49.0 percent) for 608 yards throwing four touchdowns and seven interceptions. McCown did not see any game action during the 2005 and 2006 seasons for Tampa Bay.
That was until last season when McCown started three games and played in two others in place of the injured Garcia. McCown completed 94-of-139 (67.6 percent) of his passes for 1,009 yards and tossed five touchdowns and three interceptions. McCown had a quarterback rating of 91.7 for the season. Aside from his success passing the ball McCown showed off his athleticism running the ball 12 times for 117 yards.
Taking sacks was an issue for McCown last year as he was sacked 15 times in those five games. As a team the Buccaneers took 36 sacks last season and were tied for 18th in the league in that category. He also had three fumbles, two of which were taken by the opposition. McCown discussed improving on that during this offseason.
"Really limiting the mistakes that I had last year. I felt like I played pretty well with certainly some mistakes," said McCown. "Those things we can grow from. I took too many sacks and I pride myself on being an athletic guy, and not just an athletic quarterback, but a very cerebral quarterback. So we got to limit the sacks and get the ball out when we can. Sometimes there's nothing you can do but that's one thing I'm focusing on is getting the ball out a little quicker. And be anticipating a little quicker and that'll help me do better I believe."
If McCown improves over last season in the same leap that he had from his playing days in Cleveland, the Buccaneers will have a great return on their investment, which was a sixth-round draft pick. In many ways McCown may be in the drivers seat for the Bucs quarterback of the future.
Garcia, 38, and Griese, 33, are nearing their final seasons. Simms seems to be at the end of his Buccaneer tenure, and Bruce Gradkowski has yet to prove himself as an NFL starter despite a few opportunities. McCown has shown the NFL starting quarterback ability. It's just a matter of if and when he receives the opportunity to do it again.
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