Top 10 Tampa Bay Bucs' QBs of the Decade
As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wrap up their final season of the 2000s and move into the next decade of football, let's take a look back at the men who led the Buccaneers to three division championships and five playoff berths during one of the most successful decades in franchise history.
Fourteen men started games for the Bucs during this decade, but let's see who was the best...
10. Tim Rattay, 2006
In the forgotten 2006 season, Tim Rattay was the forgotten man, languishing at third string, getting few reps or even consideration when starting quarterback Chris Simms went down with an injury to his spleen.
After Bruce Gradkowski went 3-8 as the Bucs' starter, Rattay relieved Grads after another abysmal effort by the rookie QB on the road in Chicago.
All Rattay did was throw for 268 yards and three touchdowns against the vaunted Bears defense, leading the Bucs into a comeback and forcing overtime before losing.
Head coach Jon Gruden would start Rattay the next two games, where he'd go 1-1, throw for 784 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions, leaving Bucs fans wondering what might have been if Tampa Bay had started the more experienced quarterback over the rookie the entire season.
9. Josh Freeman, 2009
Freeman was the first quarterback drafted in the first round since Trent Dilfer in 1994.
It was apropo that Freeman, like Dilfer, Vinny Testaverde, and Doug Williams before him would make his first start in classic Buccaneer orange.
And what a start it was...Freeman threw for 205 yards and three touchdowns against the heavily-favored Green Bay Packers, leading the Bucs to their first win of 2009.
Since then, Freeman has had good days and bad days but has shown enough to make many Bucs fans believe they may have their franchise quarterback for the next decade.
8. Rob Johnson, 2002
Known as "Robosack" to many of the Buccaneers' fans, Rob Johnson was a sack waiting to happen in the NFL.
Amazingly though, he was a key figure in 2002 for the Buccaneers' Super Bowl run.
When starter Brad Johnson went down with an injury, Johnson came in and led the Bucs to two victories, completing 64.8 percent of his passes and a touchdown while posting a 75.8 QB rating.
7. Luke McCown, 2006-'09
Luke McCown was always the forgotten man.
Drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2004, McCown started the last four games of the season for Cleveland and wouldn't start again until 2007.
McCown finally got his opportunity in Tampa Bay when starter Jeff Garcia got banged up.
McCown stepped up for the Bucs, winning his first start in dramatic fashion, throwing for 321 yards with a late touchdown pass to beat the New Orleans Saints on the road.
McCown wouldn't be as fortunate in his next two starts, losing both.
McCown had his chance to become the Bucs full-time starter in 2009, but lost a training camp battle to Byron Leftwich and was ultimately traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars where he again languishes on the bench.
6. Byron Leftwich, 2009
Leftwich opened the 2009 season as starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He actually played pretty well in the first game, tossing 276 yards and a touchdown against Dallas.
Unfortunately, it went down hill from there, culminating in one of the worst offensive performances in Buccaneer history against the New York Giants.
Leftwich would be benched after his third start, 0-3, but posted decent numbers——543 yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions, for a 71.2 QB Rating.
5. Chris Simms, 2004-'06
Simms was supposed to be the future of the Buccaneers, and he started out pretty well.
After getting a few garbage starts at the end of the 2004 season, Simms lost a training camp battle in '05 to Brian Griese.
Griese led the Bucs to a 4-1 start, but was injured in Week Five against the Miami Dolphins.
It opened the door for young Simms, who would lead the Buccaneers to the playoffs for the first time since the Super Bowl year, while throwing for 2,035 yards, 10 touchdowns, and seven interceptions.
His hold on the starting gig would be short-lived as the "son of Phil" suffered a career-threatening spleen injury during the third week of the 2006 season, costing him that season and all of 2007.
Simms tried to come back in 2008 but failed to make the Bucs roster.
He's had stints in Tennessee and Denver, starting a couple games but never reaching what he was in that 2005 year.
4. Shaun King, 2000-'03
As the new decade dawned, Shaun King was a rookie sensation, taking over the reigns of the Buccaneers.
Coming off an amazing rookie season in 1999 where he was pressed into action after a season-ending injury to starter Trent Dilfer, King led the Bucs to the NFC Championship game.
In 2000, King started every game for the Bucs and led the Buccaneers to a 10-6 record.
King threw for 2,769 yards, 18 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions that season.
Still, he was regarded as the weakest part of a championship-caliber team and would be replaced in 2001 by high-priced free agent Brad Johnson.
King would make just three starts the rest of his NFL career, leaving many wondering what could have been.
Why was King replaced?
Some say it was because he grew lazy and thought he "had arrived." Others felt he just wasn't good enough.
3. Brian Griese, 2004-'05, 2008
It says a lot about your quarterback prowess for the decade when Brian Griese is your third-best quarterback.
Griese, however, thrived in head coach Jon Gruden's offense.
Starting 21 games for the Buccaneers over two separate stints in Tampa Bay, Griese was 12-9 as a starter, threw for 4,841 yards, 32 touchdowns, 26 interceptions, and posted a solid 85.5 QB rating.
2. Jeff Garcia, 2007-'08
If you were to ask which quarterback had the top QB rating and best winning percentage of the decade for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his name would be Jeff Garcia.
Garcia came to Tampa Bay in 2007, thriving in the Jon Gruden offense.
Garcia led the Bucs to back-to-back winning seasons but couldn't sustain full seasons due to injuries.
He'd finish with 24 starts with the Buccaneers, going 14-10 as a starter.
Garcia threw for 5,152 yards with just 25 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.
Unfortunately, he failed to lead the Bucs to any playoff victories during his tenure and only one playoff appearance.
His second season in Tampa Bay was rife with "diva-ism," as Garcia was miffed the Bucs were considering bringing in Brett Favre.
As Gruden was fired, Garcia would not return for the Bucs in 2009 and has bounced around the league this season as a backup.
1. Brad Johnson, 2001-'04
While statistically not one of the best quarterbacks for the Bucs during the decade, Brad Johnson was the QB for the Buccaneers' best season in team history.
Johnson took over in 2001, leading the Buccaneers to a 9-7 season, starting every game——the last Buccaneer quarterback to do so——and a playoff berth.
As that season ended in a loss in Philadelphia, costing head coach Tony Dungy his job, Johnson would have one of his best seasons statistically under the new coach, Jon Gruden.
Johnson's 2002 season, where he threw for 3,049 yards, a team-record 22 touchdowns, and six interceptions, culminated in the Buccaneers' Super Bowl victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Johnson was back in 2003, starting every game, throwing for 3,811 yards, and breaking the record he set the previous season with 26 touchdowns.
Johnson would struggle at the beginning of 2004 and would be benched for Brian Griese, never starting another game in Tampa Bay again.
Johnson would finish his Tampa Bay career starting the most games of any starter this decade, 49, was 26-23 as a starter (3-1 in the playoffs), threw for 10,940 yards, 64 touchdowns, and 41 interceptions.
Even though it ended poorly, everyone will remember "Big Bad Brad" as the quarterback of the decade for Tampa Bay.