Luke McCown: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Starting Quarterback?

Oliver EllisCorrespondent IMarch 23, 2009

Under the new regime of Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers new offense under Jeff Jagodzinski is set to be more aggressive, smash-mouth, and full of big-play, down-field threat.

Such a system requires a certain kind of quarterback, and the Buccaneers have something of a quandary at the position, as it is less than apparent in who will lead the team on opening day.

Though nothing is set in stone for the 2009 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 27-year-old Luke McCown feels he is definitely part of the plan.

"We are getting rolling with the offense," said McCown. "I'm looking forward to the opportunities. We are getting acquainted with the offense and [Jeff Jagodzinski], and his way of doing things. There is a lot of open, real good communication going on right now as far as the offense and his installation of it, and how we the players perceive it.

"Having been through [Jon] Gruden's offense for five years and having that ingrained, there needs to be that communication of translating things. I think of the guys that are here, the receivers, the running backs, have done a really good job. We've have had some time together to pick up on his philosophy of offense."

The Bucs re-signed McCown to a two-year, $7.5 million contract before the free agent signing period began in late-February. The decision to re-sign McCown was one of the factors that led to the decision to not re-sign Jeff Garcia, whom McCown backed up for the majority of the 2008 season.

Moving away from former head coach Jon Gruden's version of the West Coast offense, McCown likes the concepts of Jagodzinski's system.

"Yeah I think so, everybody talked about the complexity of Coach Gruden's system and it was at times, but the volume of it was what made it tough to grasp sometimes," McCown said.

"It was how much he had going into a game plan, and from the installation that we've had with coach Jags we kind of get an understanding that the volume as far as game plans, and overall, is going to be cut down. We can still do all the same things that we did. We can still match up personnel wise in the same ways that we did in previous years. It is just the verbiage and the volume of memorization is not going to be as much, and I think that is going to help."

McCown has a 1-6 record as a starter in the NFL (1-2 in Tampa) and has a career quarterback rating of 75.2. However, he owns a 91 QB rating in the seven games (three starts) with the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay currently has three quarterbacks on its roster in McCown, veteran Brian Griese and untested Josh Johnson, but head coach Raheem Morris and Jagodzinski plan to bring four signal-callers to training camp. 

Tampa Bay could still draft a quarterback in April, but McCown feels the Bucs are allowing him to compete for a starting job in 2009. While the Bucs haven't expressed much interest in free agent quarterbacks, they have been linked to rumors and reports that suggest Broncos QB Jay Cutler is on his way out of Denver.

"All anybody ever needs is a chance," McCown said. "A lot of people wanted to cut Matt Cassel after the preseason last year and go with Kevin O'Connell, the guy they drafted, as the two. All he needed was a chance, and he did a hell of a job last year, so all anybody is ever looking for is a chance.

"I feel as much or more skill, athletic ability, ability to throw the ball, and accuracy as anybody in the league. I just need that opportunity to grow into being a proven experienced guy. You can't go out and buy it. You don't get it coming out of college.

"You have to wait your turn, if that is sitting on the bench for five years, six years, then that is just kind of the way it goes. I'm ready. I feel like I'm ready, if I'm not ready now after six years, I don't know when you will be ready. I'm going to take my lumps as everybody does, but I'm going to get better through them."

Despite the Jay Cutler saga, McCown is not disheartened. He feels he is the man to lead the new-look Bucs.

"My job is go out and prove that I'm the franchise guy," McCown said. "I have a year or two to prove that. What they feel like they need to do is what they feel is best for the organization. I love the Bucs. I love being here. I'm glad to be here. I want the Bucs to succeed.

"Mark wants to be the best [general manager] that he can be, Raheem was to be the best head coach that he can be, they have to do their jobs and their jobs is to put together the best team that they can put together.

"If they feel like that is another option, I can't blame them for it. I wouldn't agree with it. I have the opportunity to prove now that I'm the franchise guy that they are looking for. The guy that is going to be the quarterback here for the next seven, eight, nine years, and I'm going to do my very best to prove that."