Bucs Ask the Experts: Which QB?

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Bucsblitz.com presents "Ask the Experts," an occasional feature in which Scout.com experts present their opinions on questions that impact the Buccaneers. Today, Bucs and Scout.com NFL experts debate which quarterback should be the Opening Day starter for the Bucs on Sept. 13. Great news and opinions are inside.

The St. Petersburg Times reported that Luke McCown will be the top QB on the depth chart when Buccaneers training camp starts on July 31 in Tampa. But who will be the starter when the Bucs open at home against Dallas? Will it be McCown, Byron Leftwich or rookie Josh Freeman?

ADAM CAPLAN, Scout.com Senior NFL reporter

I expect the starting quarterback to be McCown based on a few factors.

McCown moves around much better than Leftwich and has much less wear and tear on his body. While new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski will run a high percentage power running offense, the starting quarterback will still be asked to make tough throws from time to time. Leftwich, who is less mobile than most quarterbacks, will likely have a hard time getting throws off on time consistently. McCown shouldn't have that problem.

Leftwich holds the ball too low on his dropbacks which causes him to turn the ball over or to fumble it. All of these issues will be determining factors in why McCown will wind up starting.

Freeman is not going to be ready to start until year two though he may see some playing time late in the season if the team is eliminated from playoff contention.

TYLER FRAZIER, Bucsblitz.com co-publisher

The fact that the Buccaneers have three quarterbacks competing for the starting spot is impressive in itself. Any quarterback race can be intriguing, but a three-way race can be a very rare thing to watch.

The question is who will be the starting quarterback for the Bucs this season. Will is be Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich, or the rookie Josh Freeman?

I think McCown is the right choice.

This is a player and he's been waiting in the wings for four years now. He thought he was going to get his shot on more then a few occasions, but there was always someone in his way whether is be Brian Griese, Jeff Garcia or Jon Gruden.

When given the opportunity in the past, McCown has risen to the occasion and I believe the time is now to see whether he is capable of leading this team.

McCown's most successful year in the NFL came in 2007 when he played in 5 games, including 4 starts for the Buccaneers. That year, he completed 67.6 percent of his passes with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.

He made a great first impression with the fans after leading the Bucs to a 27-23 victory over the Saints in his first start. During that game, he set career-highs in completions, attempts, and passing yards while tying his previous high of 2 passing touchdowns. ‘

That was the high point of his season though as McCown would continue to play well, but lost his next three starts to Houston, San Francisco, and Carolina. Since then, McCown has only thrown one pass in a game.

Adding Leftwich in the offseason was a smart move, but that does not mean he should be named the starter. He is a reliable backup to have on the team in case of an injury. Unless he can prove that he still has the skills and potential to be the same player who was dominant while in Jacksonville, he should remain with the second team.

When the Bucs used the 17th overall pick to select Josh Freeman out of Kansas State, they hadn't planned for him to see the field his rookie season. Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik should stick to this plan. The statistics are against Freeman succeeding as a rookie. While some claim he should use this season to learn on the fly, taking the chance of ruining his confidence is just not worth it if you ask me.

ED THOMPSON, Scout.com NFL Analyst

The Buccaneers spent a first-round pick and sixth-round pick on Josh Freeman, so they obviously believe that he is their future franchise quarterback. But is he their near-future quarterback?

I don't see where Tampa Bay has a choice, quite honestly.

Sure, the team says that Byron Leftwich has looked good during OTAs and that Luke McCown is progressing, but do you honestly believe that either one is a 16-game starting-caliber quarterback in this league?

Luke McCown hasn't done anything yet to prove that he's able to lead the Bucs offense on a consistent basis. After five years in the league, he's appeared in 12 NFL games and has just seven starts, including just three in the last four years. And suddenly he's made the leap to being an NFL starter?

I'm not buying it.

And Byron Leftwich's best days are well behind him. Over the past three years, he's thrown ten touchdown passes against seven interceptions. He's a valuable player as a backup and as a tutor to help Freeman adjust to the NFL, but he's not a 16-game starter for Jacksonville.

That said, I won't be surprised if Leftwich is the starter on opening weekend if Freeman fails to light things up by the end of training camp. But Leftwich isn't likely to hold up physically for 16 games, so I think that it's inevitable that Freeman will get his first NFL start this season.

While some in the organization are saying they'd prefer to let Freeman stand on the sidelines and learn more gradually, he's an intelligent player with enough raw talent and confidence to learn on the job. And you have to think that a talented quarterbacks coach like Greg Olson will do all he can to get his future franchise quarterback on the field rather than having Freeman standing next to him on the sidelines.

I don't see Tampa Bay as a serious contender for the NFC South title this year, so I'd throw the rookie in beginning Week 1 to let him get on-the-job training that will help position him and the Bucs for a better year in 2010.

MATTHEW POSTINS, Bucsblitz.com contributor

Tampa Bay's future is not now, and the Bucs shouldn't let the success of Atlanta's Matt Ryan last year fool them. Freeman is not ready to be the quarterback. He may be one day, but not now.

And Byron Leftwich received a Super Bowl ring for holding Ben Roethlisberger's clipboard last year. That's not an indictment of Leftwich, but this is. He's only completed 60 percent of his passes once in six NFL seasons. Jagodzinski's offense will require accuracy Leftwich doesn't possess.

I'm not sure if McCown is the future of this franchise, but I do like him to be the starter against Dallas on Sept. 13. I've been a McCown booster for a long time. You know this if you're a loyal reader. I've been fortunate to follow McCown's career since high school in Jacksonville, Texas.

The biggest reason I believe McCown should start is his accuracy. In his one season as a starter in 2007 McCown completed 67 percent of his passes.

He isn't just accurate, either. As Adam related, he's mobile. Plus, he has a big arm. I've seen McCown connect with Joey Galloway on 60-yard bombs in training camp and Galloway didn't have to shift his body at all.

Now, McCown doesn't have a lot of starting experience, so Bucs fans can expect growing pains if McCown is the guy in 2009. And there will be plenty of whispers the first moment McCown falters. He may not even finish the season as the starter.

But the question is who starts the season in that role. And my answer is McCown. He's the best choice.

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