Entering the game versus Carolina, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their quarterback position solidified with Chris Simms at the helm. Despite Simms’ poor play through the first three games, the Buccaneers were sticking with their guy. By the end of the Carolina game, the Buccaneers were without their starting quarterback and were getting more questions than they had answers for.  Who would step up for the Buccaneers? How would the team resolve its offensive slump?

The answer to that question lied within a 6-foot-1 rookie quarterback out of Toledo.

Bruce Gradkowski entered the New Orleans game having never started an NFL game. He had seen extensive playing time in the preseason, impressing the coaches with his resolve and unflappable behavior.  With their bye week, the Buccaneers had two weeks to prepare for the Saints and give Gradkowski all the reps as the starting quarterback.

Gradkowski completed 20-of-33  passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns in his debut Sunday. His only mistake came in the third quarter when he fumbled the ball after getting sacked on a third down play. While that play eventually led to a New Orleans score that put the Saints up 17-7, Gradkowski led two consecutive scoring drives to put Tampa Bay back on top.

One of the things that likely attracted the Buccaneers to Gradkowski was his accuracy in college.  Gradkowski was the only quarterback in NCAA history to complete more than 70 percent of his passes in two consecutive seasons. In a West Coast offense, accuracy is one of the highest priorities. Gradkowski completed 64 percent of his passes against the Saints. On a side note, he had no passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.  

While sloppy play and untimely penalties ultimately doomed the Buccaneers against the Saints, the stellar play of Gradkowski provides a ray of hope on a season that seems to be going dark fast.

 


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