Bucsblitz.com has started its “Bucs Scouting Report” series, profiling players the Saints could have interest in selecting on April 26-27. Catch up by checking out our reports on Wesley Woodyard, Chad Henne, DeSean Jackson and Tracy Porter.
Jeff Garcia wanted to play for Jon Gruden so long that when he finally signed his contract last spring, Garcia acted like the high school quarterback who finally hooked up with the head cheerleader.
And there was good reason for Garcia to be happy. He always felt Gruden’s version of the West Coast offense was a good fit for him. By signing with Tampa Bay, he finally had the chance to test the theory, borne of late-night dinners in the Bay Area after preseason games between Garcia’s 49ers and Gruden’s Raiders.
The result? Garcia threw 13 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in leading the Buccaneers to a NFC South title and a playoff berth.
Garcia’s performance, most felt, was enough to warrant a contract extension, as Garcia is signed only through the 2008 season. Not a long one, mind you, but certainly one to reward Garcia’s help in pointing the franchise back in a winning direction.
But when organized team activities dawned on Tuesday, Garcia talked to the media and expressed optimism that the new free agents would help keep the Bucs winning football games.
And he talked about his contract extension. Or, more to the point, the lack of a contract extension.
"I don't plan on missing anything, and it's only April, so there's hopefully still time to work things out,” Garcia told the Tampa Tribune. “That's why I'm not getting too caught up in it right now. But it's not where I'd like it to be."
The best description would be stalled. Garcia characterized it as “nothing’s happening with the contract.” Garcia made the same comments to the St. Petersburg Times earlier in the week.
Given the Bucs’ difficulties at the quarterback position since Gruden chose to bench Brad Johnson for Chris Simms after the fourth game of the 2004 season, any hint of an issue at the position becomes major news. Consider the Yo-yo at the position since then:
Simms (injured) was replaced by Brian Griese. Simms later replaced an injured Griese in the 2004 season finale. Griese started the 2005 season, but Simms replaced an injured Griese the rest of the season. Simms started 2006, but Bruce Gradkowski replaced an injured Simms. Tim Rattay later replaced an ineffective Gradkowski. Garcia started the 2007 season, but Gradkowski replaced him after an injury. Luke McCown replaced Gradkowski the next week due to ineffectiveness. Garcia returned briefly before yielding to McCown to end the regular season. Garcia returned for the playoff loss.
Get the idea? The quarterback position in Tampa Bay is the equivalent to a second-rate carnival ride. You know, the one that looked a little too dangerous to ride when you went to the state fair, but you got on it anyway?
It could be that Garcia and the Buccaneers will work something out before training camp. There is precedent for that. The Bucs and cornerback Ronde Barber agreed to a lucrative extension the first week of training camp in 2006. Garcia and his agent told the Tribune they were optimistic something could get done. Sometimes these negotiations are all about patience, so we could get to July and the Bucs and Garcia could have a deal in place.
But there is another scenario one has to consider. Garcia will be 39 years old on opening day. He plays with a reckless style that even scares Gruden just a little bit. That’s what led to his injury against Washington. While Garcia is certainly effective, he isn’t the long-term solution at the position, and that is something the Buccaneers are searching for.
It could be that, as much as the Bucs and Gruden like Garcia, they know the reality — quarterbacks Garcia’s age that play the way he plays don’t last long.
When the Bucs traded for Brian Griese last month, most felt they did so to install a competent, veteran backup behind Garcia. And that’s likely the case — for 2008. But look beyond that for a minute.
Griese will be 33 years old on opening day. He has two years remaining on his current contract after this season. From what we know about Gruden’s history as a head coach, Griese fits the profile of a quarterback that can be successful in his offense. He’s a veteran in his early to mid-30s who is very accurate. Griese has been successful in Gruden’s offense, having completed 69.3 percent of his passes in 2004 and leading the Bucs to a 5-1 start in 2005 before his injury.
Last week in Palm Beach Gruden called Griese a “rare player above the neck,” alluding to Griese’s football smarts.
Perhaps the line of succession has already been installed. Garcia will start this year and fulfill his contract, with Griese taking over in 2009. By allowing Garcia to walk after this season, it could allow the Bucs to draft a young quarterback in the middle rounds this year, develop him for a year and the allow him to take Garcia’s salary spot in 2009.
It’s a scenario that makes sense from a football standpoint, certainly. But that’s if you want to apply cold logic to it. We should know by training camp how the situation has evolved.
But after what Garcia did for this team last year — and after he finally got his opportunity to work hands-on with Gruden — that would be a bitter ending to a partnership that, in the short term, benefited everyone.
Scout.com’s Ed Thompson talked to East Carolina running back Chris Johnson on Tuesday, just after his meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Johnson talked about the meeting and gave Thompson his take of the running backs situation in Tampa Bay. He also gave Thompson an idea of the rest of his meetings leading up to the draft. Find out more on Johnson by clicking here.
Matthew Postins of Bucsblitz.com has released his third Buccaneers Mock Draft of 2008. How did he shake things up this time around? Find out by clicking here.
The Buccaneers played host to Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart this week and he talked to Bucsblitz.com about his meeting, including who he met with and what he thought of One Buc Place. Click here to get the scoop.
It’s the most important time of the year for NFL teams that want to improve their roster for 2008. Are you getting all the analysis you need as the NFL Draft approaches? If you’re not, click here to find out how you can become a Bucsblitz.com insider and become the expert at your NFL Draft party. We’re the only Tampa-based media site providing daily draft and scouting coverage with a Buccaneers slant.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.