Never In Buccaneer History

Published: June 30th, 2007
By Atop the Crow's Nest

I am not referring to the ominous fact of never returning a kickoff for a touchdown.  The Bucs have never had the same starting offensive line two years in a row.


That makes Trent Dilfer’s string of consecutive starts from 1996-1999 a little amazing when you consider the revolving door on the Bucs front five.  Garcia may not be “winning” much and Simms could come out the true winner as the latest patchwork OL is assembled. The starting QB at the beginning of the season may not be the starter at the end of the season.  Moreover, if the former starting QB is highly paid… he may be looking for a new employer in the spring.


Look what happened in 2004.  The Bucs start out losing with Gruden’s predictability in play calling just as much to blame as Johnson’s ineffective play.  Simm’s opportunity to be an NFL starter lasted less than 30 minutes thanks to a “Look Out” block from Todd Stuessie on Simm’s blindside.  In steps Brian Griese.  He has initial success in “Leading” the  Bucs to a 4-7 record, and “Earns” a fat new contract as the starter for 2005 instead of  being cut for having too high of a contract to be #2 or #3 on the depth chart. 


Next look at the 2005 season.  The Bucs start out 4-0.  However, anyone watching those games realized that running Carnell Williams shoes and gloves into the Hall of Fame the first 3 games and favorable calls that could go either way from the officiating crews, overcame Griese’s fumbling & interceptions.  Then Gruden could no longer rely on the running game, primarily because he physically wore out Williams, and needed to rely on the passing game and protection of the QB.  Griese goes down with an injury; once again from poor pass protection.  Simms returns to the starting role, the Bucs finish 11-5, Simms is declared the starter for 2006, Griese is released since his new fat contract is too costly for a backup.


The 2006 season arrives and the merry-go-round continues.  The new retooled OL can’t block, Williams in ineffective making tacklers miss or creating his own holes, Gruden is predictable in his play calling and the QB is ineffective.  This time Simms, instead of Griese and Johnson in the preceding years, gets the first ride on that merry-go-round.  Simms gets injured and Gradkowski is named the starter.  Being a rookie, Gradkowski’s successfulness lasted only for about 6 quarters.  The same old ineffectiveness at the QB position jumped up.  Rattay’s brief period of sunshine as QB at the end of 2006 sheds some light into 2007. 


First off, someone was smart enough NOT to give Rattay a fat contract just because he finished up the season as the starter with some degree of success. 


Any veteran QB can look good initially as defenses game plan for the known aspects of the offense.  As the unknown factor in the offense, the new starting QB should shine even if the team loses the game.  The defense was not trying to shutdown the QB.


Once teams get film on tendencies between the play caller, the QB, and the other key components, difficulties set in for the QB.  The QB now must now beat the defense with the weakest part of his abilities.  Defenses tend to ignore those weaknesses and game plan against his strengths.  Going into the teeth of the defense is difficult for even the best of QBs.  It is during these period that coaches learn who is a starting QB and who is merely a good backup that succeeds when the defense’s need to worry about game planning against the other key elements of the offense.


In Cleveland during 2004, Garcia led the Browns to a 3-3 record in the first 6 games.  All three wins came at Cleveland, but after those 6 games there was plenty of game film on Garcia.  No more wins for the QB, Garcia is benched and looking for a new employer in the spring.


Garcia was not even that fortunate in Detroit the following year going 1-4 as a starter.  With sufficient film on him and his former play caller from Garcia's playing days in San Francisco, there came only victory for Garcia in a 13-10 game against the Browns.


So what is on the horizon for the Bucs in 2007?


One only needs to ask if the 2007 Bucs offensive line will more resemble the 2003 49ers, 2004 Browns and 2005 Lions or the 2006 Eagles to judge how long Garcia remains the Bucs starting QB.  


Garcia should start out successful during the month of September and resemble the QB that finished the season for the Eagles, simply because the opponents will not know how Gruden intends to use Garcia’s mobility.  With early games on the road at Seattle, Carolina, Indianapolis and a home game against New Orleans, Garcia's initial success may not necessarily transfer to wins on the scoreboard.  A 1-4 start over the first five games is just as likely as a positive 3-2 start.


However, after sufficient game film on the personnel groupings Gruden uses, Gruden’s play calling with those groupings and Garcia’s scrambling tendencies when pass protection breaks down, look for production at the QB position to deteriorate and wins along with it. 


Can Gruden stay with Garcia at QB for the next four games until the Bye Week?  A 3-2 mark allows Gruden to stay with Garcia since 3 of the next 4 games are at RJS.  And Gruden will figure he's looking at going into a Week 10 bye with a 7-3 or better record.  On the other hand, a 1-4 mark and a 5-4 record at best going into the bye will cause pressure from both the Glazers and Bruce Allen to bench Garcia.  Even if Garcia remains healthy and the starter for the first nine games, a 4-5 record means he's bench in favor of Simms for the final 7 games.


With 4 divisional games remaining, Simms will have an opportunity to move the Bucs up in the standings.  However, Simms will have a tough task, with 4 of the 7 games are on the road.


I see the Bucs finishing 8-8 at best, Gruden and Allen fired, Garcia released and the new coaching staff and the new GM retaining Simms for the final year of his contract.  With the Glazers wanting a "proven winner" at head coach and an improved offense in Detroit, I see Mad Mike Martz taking over both roles as GM and head coach in 2008.  Martz’s style of offense is a better fit for Simms.