Luke McCown could play key role for Bucs in 2008

Eddie GriffinSenior Analyst IJune 20, 2008

The Buccaneers brought former Bears quarterback back to Tampa Bay assumingly to be ’s backup, but it appears that could beat out Griese as the No. 2 QB.

And when your starter is a brittle 38-year-old, being the No. 2 quarterback could really mean you are 1A.

Let there be no doubt, Garcia is the starter and will stay so if he stays healthy. He made the Pro Bowl last year and led the Bucs to the title. And that nonsense about possibly retiring without a new contract is just that – nonsense.

However, coach wants to develop a quarterback of the future, and that’s not Garcia or Griese. The club drafted Josh Johnson this year, but he’s a fairly long-term project. That leaves McCown possibly in the catbird’s seat.

is a guy who can play, and really play, and he deserves a lot of reps this time of year,” Gruden said before the Bucs closed their minicamp.

And it may be now or never for McCown in Tampa, as he is in the last year of his contract. He has been a Buc since 2005 but went two seasons without taking a regular-season snap. Last season, he was thrust into action in five games, making three starts.

He completed 67.6 percent of his attempts, including an impressive 29-of-37, 313-yard performance at New Orleans in December while Garcia was sidelined with a lower back injury. His QB rating was a good 91.7.

“The promise of McCown is real,” Gruden said.

McCown has been fine-tuning his game this offseason in expectations of more playing time. He generally has been the second quarterback to receive reps after Garcia during offseason workouts.

“I’m being hard on myself about the sacks, about holding onto the ball (too long) and pushing myself to get better in those areas,” he said. “Call it trust, timing — whatever you want to call it. I just wanted to really see every­thing I was throwing into. The more you play, the more you trust that the guy is going to be where he’s supposed to be. … I’m anticipating things a little bit better.”

So while Gruden has a history of turning to veteran quarterbacks first, don’t be surprised if McCown beats out Griese and is a big factor in the Bucs’ season.