On Monday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed quarterback Luke McCown before he hit the open market in free agency. According to league sources, the Bucs signed McCown to a two-year contract worth $7.5 million. He received a $2.5 million signing bonus and is scheduled to earn $2.5 million in base salary in 2009. McCown has playing time and playoff incentives that could make the deal worth as much as $14 million over two years.
McCown spoke with Pewter Report after signing his new contract. The following is a transcript of his conversation. The questions from the Pewter Report staff appear in bold.
What is the length of the contract you signed? "It is a two-year contract. It is what we were looking for. I'll get a chance to compete. I'll compete for the starting job, and I'll do everything I can to win it."
Were you given the assurance that you will compete to be the starting quarterback for the Bucs next season? "Yes. I expect to fully be in the mix to be the starter. I'm going to do everything in my power to make this my team – to be the starter and lead this team and get us back to the playoffs."
What has the team told you about signing another quarterback or drafting another quarterback to compete with you for the starting spot? "Forgive me, but I don't know the answer to that. That didn't play a part in my decision to re-sign. They told me they would give me the chance to compete (to be the starter). In my mind it doesn't matter with whom. I'm going to do my best to win the job and be the starter. Be that with Brian [Griese] or Josh [Johnson] or whoever else they bring in. I know my teammates, and they know me. We are going to try and put something together that we can do well with on the field." Have you had a chance to meet with offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski to talk about the new offense? "I haven't. It all happened so fast. The deal was done basically over the weekend. I flew in, and got into Tampa today around lunchtime and signed the deal. I'm going to have lunch with my wife, and after that I'll be sitting down with Coach Jagodzinski and the other staff and we'll get an idea. I understand that in 2006 he was in Green Bay, and coming from some of that kind of a system. Mike McCarthy has run a West Coast system. I think it is going to be a system that is quarterback-friendly." Coach Jagodzinski ran a spread-type offense in college at Boston College. That is something you are familiar with from your days slinging the football around at Louisiana Tech. "Yeah, no question. When I was back in college that was the thing. The more options you can get to throw to the better. Be it five receivers, or four receivers and a tight end, or backs that can catch the better. Usually that makes defenses either have to blitz you, or do they have to play extreme zones which gives me a lot of opportunities to run the ball, so in college that kind of a system was a win-win situation. I feel comfortable in any kind of a spread offense. For me it doesn't matter what kind of offense because I think I can perform and be successful, and we just have to get to work on it."
Pewter Report has learned that the Bucs under new head coach Raheem Morris will be going a more vertical offense in the passing attack, and a zone-blocking scheme on the ground. Is that something you are looking forward to in a change in the offense? "Yeah, I think you have to be able to stretch the field vertically. The thing is defenses are going to do their best to force you to check the ball down. You have to at least present the ability or the option to go vertical. When you have the kind of weapons that we are going to have to throw to, and the scheme that we are going to have to run, certainly I am looking forward to it, and I think we can be really good at it."
You said that doing the new contract was a quick process; we presume that it was new general manager Mark Dominik who called you and got the ball rolling? "That's right."
In free agency there is not a very strong quarterback class this year, and you certainly have some untapped skills and have shown that in the highlights you've put out there. What prevented you from taking the opportunity to go out there on the free agent marketplace and look around? "Well guys, I think number one we love Tampa. My wife, both of our sons, and our third son will be born here in Tampa. We love it here. We enjoy playing here. We love the organization. We love my teammates and the friends that we've made here. We love the community and the fans. That always comes into play. You never want to move when you've been here a place four years and started your family here, and established a relationship base with a lot of people – especially when you love your team and the team that you play for. That is a major factor.
"And I am really excited to play for Coach Morris. I'm really excited to play for Mark [Dominik]. The organization is on the right track this year, and for them to show that confidence in me … also to show the support this early before free agency, and they showed the confidence in me that I've wanted to have somebody show. That meant a lot, and for them to say ‘Look, we know you have the potential to be great.' One of the first things that Raheem said to me was ‘You've got some untapped potential that we want to tap into. We are going to give you the opportunity to compete to be our starter.' That is all I could ask for and all I was looking for. That pretty much sealed the deal for me."
You were a big fan of former head coach Jon Gruden, and voiced that support plenty of times. Yet he didn't give you the chance to start this season. What is your reaction to his leaving the organization? "I enjoyed playing for Coach Gruden. I learned a lot of football from him. (In 2007) he did give me the opportunity to start three games, and he prepared me for those real well and allowed me to show what I can do. After my rookie season when everybody wanted to write me off (in Cleveland), we had 11 starters go on IR, he traded for me and wanted to give me a new start. For that I'll always be grateful and thankful, that he did show that kind of confidence in me. I don't have anything bad to say about him. I really don't. He gave me a lot of opportunities. Last year was what it was. Maybe there were a few things I didn't agree with, but what it boils down to is the organization – led by the Glazers – did what they think is best. I'll take everything that I've ever learned under Coach Gruden and continue to apply it this year and make myself a better player."
Can you address the rumors or accusations that your leadership ability is not that great? And as a backup, is that really your role? "No it is not. You have to be careful. You have to understand your role on the team, and as a backup quarterback, you still have to be a leader. They still have to know that you're there, that you're ready, that you're working hard, and you still have to be prepared. To be real vocal or real boisterous in the locker room, you could create some division doing that. I know that happened with my brother (Josh McCown) when he was in Arizona with a couple of guys that were there. When he was their starter, he felt like they were trying to take his legs out from underneath him basically. You have to be careful. There are roles and positions that you play on the team for a reason. The competing and the leadership you show your teammates in the weight room, pushing your hardest, when you're running a sprint you try and beat everybody out there.
"In a leadership role I think we can speak louder by leading by example then being a rah-rah kind of guy. I've never been a rah-rah kind of guy. Jeff [Garcia] was, and that is how he led and that is great. I'm not that way. Tom Brady is not that way. There are a lot of great quarterbacks that aren't. I think Joe Montana wasn't that way. There are guys that are going to do everything that they can to win a game. They are going to work their hardest, and do everything they can to get their teammate's trust. That is more important, to me, then being a cheerleader and a rah-rah kind of guy. I think that maybe some people would say, 'He's not a good leader because he doesn't jump up and down and scream.' That's just not me. I'm going to be myself. I'm going to lead by example and work harder then anybody, and hopefully they'll follow." Have they give you any indication about if Jeff Garcia may be brought back? "I don't know. I don't pretend to be in their meetings or try and read anybody's minds. They told me that I'll have the chance to compete, and whoever it is that I'm going to compete with, I'm going to do my best to make sure that I'm the one playing."