Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris has reviewed the film from the team's 10-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night, but isn't ready to make a decision on who his starting quarterback will be in 2009.
"I still have to talk to my ownership, my team, our team and our coaching staff," said Morris. "You guys will be third to know. I promise."
Tampa Bay initially planned to announce its starting quarterback immediately after its second preseason contest, but Morris extended his own deadline because the competition between Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown was too close to call.
Although he gave no timetable on a decision to name the starting quarterback, Morris suggested he had his own opinion, but wanted to hear from others at One Buc Place before making a final decision and announcement.
"We probably could have made the decision last week if we wanted to," said Morris. "It's basically the body of work. Last week, we wanted to go another week. I want to hear from all my people, all the people that I trust, that I want to have an opinion. I'm going to give them the opportunity to give their opinion. We'll meet and then I'll come back and let you guys know."
Leftwich, 29, is believed to be the frontrunner to win the starting job at this point. He has completed 21-of-43 (48.8 percent) of his passes for 224 yards and tossed one touchdown and no interceptions while being sacked twice. His quarterback rating through three preseason contests (two starts) is 72.2.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Leftwich has completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 9,624 yards and tossed 54 touchdowns and 38 interceptions in 46 career starts with Jacksonville, Atlanta and Pittsburgh, and the former first-round pick's playing experience is one of the things Morris likes about Leftwich.
"If Byron is your selection, he's a leader, he's won 12 games in this league before, he's a big, strong-armed guy that can make all the throws," said Morris. "He missed some throws last night, but he made a few big-time throws to follow those up. He has the savvy and has the toughness. He's mentally sharp. Those are qualities you look for in your quarterback."
Leftwich's playing experience is significantly more than that of McCown's. McCown, 28, has completed 59.7 percent of his throws for 1,617 yards and nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions in seven career starts in the NFL.
McCown (6-3, 217) has completed 15-of-28 (53.6 percent) of his passes for 108 yards and tossed two touchdowns and no interceptions while being sacked three times. He has also rushed five times for 20 yards and earned a team-high in the QB rating department (86.6) thus far in preseason.
Morris feels McCown, who re-signed with the Bucs during the offseason in hopes of earning the starting job in Tampa Bay, brings some attributes to the QB position that Leftwich doesn't possess.
"If Luke is your choice, you're talking about a young man that's hungry and has waited his turn," said Morris. "He wants to go out there and make some decisions. He can make plays with his feet. He can make all the throws. He has the ability to stand in there and do some positive things. He's sharp, detailed and works his butt off. Those are some of the qualities that could potentially make Luke McCown the starting quarterback for the Buccaneers."
Although he had no announcement to make in terms of Tampa Bay's starting quarterback, Morris did indicate that first-round pick Josh Freeman would not start vs. the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 unless Leftwich and McCown suffered injuries.
The starting quarterback job was on the line when Tampa Bay hosted Miami on Thursday night, but neither Leftwich nor McCown capitalized on the opportunity while playing a quarter and a half each.
Leftwich completed 9-of-17 passes for 100 yards while McCown completed 5-of-11 passes for 38 yards. Neither player threw a touchdown pass, but Leftwich did engineer two scoring drives that ended with field goals.
While some might consider it a weakness, Morris expressed confidence in Tampa Bay's quarterback position.
"I feel better about our quarterback competition than anybody in the National Football League. I have confidence in both of these guys," said Morris. "We're talking about two players that played well and practiced well. I feel great about the leadership and great about the direction. We're talking about a new offense and new coaches. They really haven't had all their weapons, but they've still gone out and been productive.
"It's easy to see the flaws on the field last night, but those are emotional decisions. I went back and looked at the tape last night. Going into it I thought Leftwich missed three or four throws. But after watching the tape it was really one or two. Same with Luke – you think it's a bad decision on the intentional grounding penalty, but there was a missed blocking assignment. You have to scratch some of those things off of the emotional decision you would have made last night. That's why it's important to get with everybody in the building so you can put everything in a pot, pull out what you need, make a decision and run with it."