Camp Battles: Tampa Bay QB
Garcia has Gruden's blessing; can Simms reclaim job?
Posted: Tuesday July 10, 2007 12:55PM; Updated: Tuesday July 10, 2007 12:55PM
When Buccaneers players descend upon Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex on July 26 for training camp, all eyes will be fixed on the team's quarterback spot, where several players are expected to compete. But assuming Grizzly Adams (err, Jake Plummer) remains 'retired' and Bruce Gradkowski falls to the wayside, the battle for the starting gig will essentially boil down to a two-horse race between Jeff Garcia and Chris Simms.
The team gave both players two-year deals essentially worth the same amount of money, so arguments about financial concerns are moot here. Instead, the debate between Simms and Garcia comes down to who is the better player, and which player is better for the future of the franchise.
Why Garcia will keep the job: First, consider the competition. As sharp as Simms has looked, the simple fact is he is coming off of a season in which he completed 54.7 percent of his passes, tossed one touchdown and seven interceptions in three starts (all losses). And as for Gradkowski and Luke McCown, they will be in camp, but they are hardly competition.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden is a fan of veteran quarterbacks. Rich Gannon guided Gruden's offense masterfully in Oakland, and, of course, Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl a few years back. Since Garcia's arrival, Gruden has done nothing but praise the 37-year-old, going so far as to state that Garcia had a "big lead" over the rest of the quarterbacks in camp. Said Gruden in June of the quarterback battle, "I do believe Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski can make it interesting, and Luke McCown is doing some good things. But Garcia is clearly the leader in the clubhouse right now, and we are excited about that."
Garcia could help the Buccaneers utilize the shotgun, and his mobility could help offset Tampa Bay's inability to create time in the passing game. And for those who question how much Garcia has left after having spent eight seasons in the NFL and five more in the CFL, his fine play in Philadelphia last year is proof that there is still plenty of gas left in the tank. After stepping in for an injured Donovan McNabb in Week 11, Garcia threw 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions the rest of the way.
Why Simms will win it back: This is not the same Chris Simms who made a habitat out of choking in his yearly battle against rival Oklahoma. Those Longhorn days are over. And the talk about Simms' mechanical problems, please! It's a non-issue. Simms is more accustomed to Gruden's system (started 16 games in Tampa Bay) and he isn't that far removed from the magic he displayed during the second half of 2005 (eight touchdowns and three interceptions in the final eight games that year, resulting in a 6-2 record). The ruptured spleen that ended his 2006 season is now fixed and Simms is finally back to full health. And, call it a hunch, but Gruden's public display of affection for Garcia might just be a ploy to set a fire under Simms. Bottom line: Tampa Bay is not ready to win anything this year, and Garcia is too old to build around. The Buccaneers have no choice but to go with Simms, because if the franchise turns its back on him now, it jeopardizes ruining his confidence for good.
Who fantasy owners should pull for: Garcia.
By himself, Garcia is nothing more than a fantasy backup. But his ability to sustain drives and work the clock will bode well for Williams. Garcia's experience in San Francisco working the short passing game and his proven success working with tight ends, bode well for the Buccaneers receiving corps and tight end Alex Smith. Speaking to the local media in June, Smith said of Garcia, "He's a leader and we can see his knowledge and experience coming through."
Mike Beacom is the senior editor of Pro Fantasy Sports.