Garcia isn’t the Bucs’ future, but McCown might be

By Chris Cluff  |   Monday, December 10, 2007  |  Comments( 0 )

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Jeff Garcia will return as Tampa Bay's quarterback this week, bumping Luke McCown back to the bench. And Garcia will be the Bucs' quarterback as long as he is healthy through the playoffs.

But next year could be, as they say, a whole 'nother story.

Garcia is a smallish 37-year-old who likes to run and therefore takes a major pounding throughout the season -- a fact that was illustrated over the past three weeks as Garcia missed time with a bruised back. Garcia makes his living on the move, and when he loses his mobility, he loses his effectiveness.

He signed a two-year deal worth $5 million per season last March, and his play in 2007 has been a major reason the Bucs have taken control of the NFC South and will return to the playoffs for the second time in three years and third time in Gruden's six years in Tampa.

But what happens after next season, or if Garcia can't make it through next season? McCown might have shown the Bucs a glimpse into that future with his play over the past couple of weeks.

Briefly the babysitter of the Cleveland Browns' quarterback position as a rookie in 2004, McCown came to Tampa Bay in a trade in 2005. He didn't play for the Bucs that season, then had knee surgery in the spring of 2006 and didn't return to the active roster until late that season. So he went two years without seeing the field.

But once he finally did two weeks ago, coach Jon Gruden was impressed. Starting against the New Orleans Saints, McCown completed 29 of 37 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns, including the winning score with 14 seconds left, in the best game of his brief career.

McCown didn't fare quite as well against a stouter Houston defense that sacked him four times Sunday, but Gruden said the 26-year-old passer's play has made the coach more confident in the Bucs' QB situation.

"Clearly there were seven or eight plays in the game that weren't as good as the others," Gruden told reporters of the 28-14 loss to the Texans, "but I'm really pleased with what he's done. There's still plenty of room to grow, but I think what we all see is a big, athletic guy that has promise and potential to be outstanding."

McCown has the primary ability Gruden covets in quarterbacks - being able to throw on the run. That fits the style of all of the current quarterbacks, including Bruce Gradkowski, who did not play well when he replaced Garcia against Washington in Week 12. Now it looks as if McCown has surpassed Gradkowski as the No. 2 guy.

Garcia will return this week and lead the Bucs into the playoffs. And he might even do it again next year. But if he can't, maybe McCown can.
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About Chris Cluff

Chris Cluff spent 10 years as an editor and sportswriter for The Seattle Times. He was a key figure in the newspaper's coverage of the Seahawks, particularly during their Super Bowl run in 2005. He also has written two books on the Seahawks: "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Heart-Pounding,...
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