NFC South: Chris Simms

Jon Gruden on returning to Ray Jay

September, 29, 2011
9/29/11
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There’s a very interesting off-field story to go along with the game between the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

Former Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden will be returning to Raymond James Stadium for an NFL game for the first time since he was dismissed after the 2009 season. This time, Gruden will be there as an analyst for “Monday Night Football."

In this Front Row item by Bill Hofheimer, Gruden discusses his return and several other topics. He even reflected on a 2003 Monday night game in which the Bucs led 35-15 with four minutes left, but somehow ended up losing in overtime.

“We got off to a really good start and had a commanding lead,’’ Gruden said. “Then I got shot by 'The Sheriff.' One of our corners -- Brian Kelly -- tore his pec muscle and we put a backup corner in there and [Colts quarterback] Peyton Manning found him a couple of times. They returned a kickoff after one of our touchdowns down to the eight- or nine-yard line. Next thing I knew it was seven points for the Colts. That game was one of Peyton’s finest hours. When you lose a substantial lead like that with the kind of defense we had, that was tough. The house was packed that night, and I think they all went home mad at me.

But Gruden also talked a lot about happier times. When asked what was his best win in Raymond James Stadium, he pointed to a win over a division rival.

“In 2005, we beat the Atlanta Falcons 27-24 in overtime,’’ Gruden said. “It was Cadillac Williams’ rookie year. We came from behind to get the win and it helped us win the division. We blocked a kick late in the game — Dwayne White blocked a field goal. Chris Simms was our quarterback. That was a great day at Raymond James.’’

Of course, Gruden’s best memory of the stadium involved a game that was played in San Diego in his first season with the Bucs.

“My favorite memory was right after we returned home from the Super Bowl in San Diego,’’ Gruden said. “We went to the stadium and met our fans. It was packed. That was phenomenal. The place was just going crazy. There was a traffic jam all up and down Dale Mabry Highway. We got to the stadium with the Lombardi Trophy and there were people everywhere. To share that moment with the fans was awesome.’’

Around the NFC South

April, 20, 2011
4/20/11
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Time for a swing through the NFC South headlines.

Looks like most mock drafts and analysts are saying the Carolina Panthers will take Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the first overall pick. That all goes with the indications the Panthers have sent out, but they’ve also made it a point to say they haven’t made a final decision yet. I think there will be a final meeting soon and someone’s going to have to make a strong case against Newton for the Panthers to go in another direction. The chances of that are slim because I don’t think there’s anyone in Carolina’s building who is ready to make that argument.

Mike Triplett takes a look at New Orleans’ offensive line situation. He points out that center Jonathan Goodwin and left tackle Jermon Bushrod are potential free agents. The Saints drafted Charles Brown last year as a potential alternative to Bushrod and Brown could be in the plans. But offensive line is somewhat of a need for the Saints and they’ll probably add at least one lineman somewhere in this draft.

After looking at Atlanta’s schedule, Mark Bradley writes the best thing that could happen for the Falcons is for the lockout to wipe out the first five games. Valid point. Every one of those games is against a team that either went to the playoffs or won at least 10 games last season. In their final 11 games, the Falcons face only three opponents who went to last season’s playoffs and two of those are against division rival New Orleans.

“Monday Night Football’’ analyst Jon Gruden and Tampa Bay talk radio host Shaun King have squared off in a war of words. That’s nothing new. When King played quarterback for the Buccaneers and Gruden was the coach, they didn’t get along very well. Funny, but Gruden, who has a reputation for being a quarterback guru, also had rocky relationships with Jeff Garcia and Chris Simms in his Tampa Bay days.

Tampa Bay defensive end Gerald McCoy said his goals for this season are to reach double-digit sacks and for the Bucs to get to the playoffs. When you’re heading into your second season after being taken No. 3 overall in last year’s draft, those goals could be realistic. In fact, you might want to switch them from goals to expectations and make them the norm every year.

Josh Freeman climbing record book fast

November, 17, 2010
11/17/10
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Let’s preface this by recognizing the history of quarterbacks in Tampa Bay isn’t glorious. Now, let’s look at how Josh Freeman is changing all that.

The fine folks at ESPN Stats & Information just tossed over a very impressive package on Freeman and his spot in Tampa Bay history -- already. Keep in mind, Freeman is only in his second season and didn’t begin starting until the second half of last year.

First off, let’s look at what the four quarterbacks and franchise history have done in their first two seasons when they’ve been in the starting lineup. Doug Williams went 14-12 and that’s the best of the bunch. But Freeman is 9-9 and within reach of catching Williams. Trent Dilfer went 7-11 his first two seasons and Vinny Testaverde was 5-14.

Next, let’s look at those same four guys and see how many touchdown passes they threw in their first two seasons, including games they didn’t start. Williams, again, is the leader with 25 touchdown passes in 26 games. But Freeman is closing in fast. He has 22 touchdown passes in 19 games. Testaverde had 18 in 21 games and Dilfer had five in 21 games.

Now, let’s consider all the quarterbacks to play for the Bucs. They’ve had 22 in their history. The group is less than illustrious and Freeman already is one of only eight quarterbacks in franchise history to play in 19 career games. Dilfer holds the record with 79 games and had 70 touchdown passes while with the Bucs. Testaverde played in 76 games and had 77 touchdowns. Williams appeared in 67 games and had 73 touchdown passes. Brad Johnson played in 49 games and had 64 touchdown passes. Craig Erickson was in 37 games and had 34 touchdowns. Shaun King played in 31 games and had 26 touchdowns.

After that it’s Freeman with 22 touchdowns in 19 games and Chris Simms with 12 touchdowns in 19 games.

Finally, we’ve written a lot about Freeman’s knack for late-game heroics. He has nine NFL wins and six of them have come with him leading a game-winning drive. That already puts him fifth in Tampa Bay history.

Williams holds the record with 16 game-winning drives and Dilfer had 13. Testaverde had nine and Johnson had eight.
When choosing the best draft class in the history of the NFC South (history starts in 2002, when the NFC South started), it was easy to pick the 2006 group brought in by the New Orleans Saints. Guys like Reggie Bush, Jahri Evans, Marques Colston and Roman Harper were big reasons why the Saints won the Super Bowl last season.

But 2007 also was a memorable draft for the Buccaneers and Falcons -- for all the wrong reasons. In fact, I had to have a lengthy debate with myself on if Atlanta or Tampa Bay had the worst class in division history that year.

1. 2007 by Tampa Bay. As I debated the demerits of what Atlanta and Tampa Bay did in this draft, it really came down to the fact that the Bucs hit the trifecta with their first three picks. They took Gaines Adams, Arron Sears and Sabby Piscitelli. You can’t really argue with that. Adams was a non-factor before the Bucs traded him to Chicago, Sears couldn’t play last year because of personal issues and Piscitelli showed last year that he can’t play. Safety Tanard Jackson, a fourth-round pick, has been a bright spot, but not enough to pull the Bucs out of the top spot.

2. 2007 by Atlanta. When the Bucs took Adams, they passed over Jamaal Anderson and the Falcons pounced on him with the No. 8 overall pick. If you don’t hit on a top-10 pick, you’ve got a problem. The Falcons have gotten nothing out of Anderson. They did get a solid starter in guard Justin Blalock in the second round and fourth-round pick Stephen Nicholas became a starter at linebacker last year. But Bobby Petrino and Rich McKay also gave the Falcons cornerback Chris Houston in the second round and receiver Laurent Robinson in the third. Houston started a lot of games for the Falcons, but the current Atlanta regime was thrilled to trade him to Detroit this year. Robinson never came close to being a factor.

3. 2003 by Tampa Bay. Speaking of Petrino, he played a major role in building what almost was the third-worst draft class in NFC South history. I gave very strong consideration to Carolina’s class of 2005. Louisville products Eric Shelton and Stefan LeFors were tremendous busts. Atiyyah Ellison and Jovan Haye showed they can play in the league, but only after they left the Panthers. But I couldn’t quite put Carolina in this slot because first-round pick Thomas Davis has worked out. If you want to see a class that truly flopped from top to bottom look back at the 2003 Bucs. They were without a first-round pick because it was used to help get coach Jon Gruden out of Oakland. But the Bucs jumped in after that and gave you this collection of draft picks -- Dewayne White, Chris Simms, Lance Nimmo, Austin King, Sean Mahan and Torrie Cox. Sad part is Cox, the last pick of the bunch, probably did the most of this group.

Former Buc Rice shreds Gruden

January, 27, 2009
1/27/09
9:21
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- The folks at Sirius NFL Radio just passed along a transcript of an interview with former Tampa Bay defensive end Simeon Rice from earlier Tuesday.

  Rice

To make a long story short, Rice didn't hold anything back when talking about recently fired Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden.

"You get what you deserve," Rice said. "That's what Jon said. He got it now. Everybody gets what they deserve."

Rice then was asked if he was surprised general manager Bruce Allen also got fired. He didn't really answer that question and went straight back to bashing Gruden.

"Bruce, I don't know about that situation," Rice said. "But I'm talking about Jon. You look at what he did when Chris [Simms] damn near died on the field, he wanted to release him right when he got injured. I get hurt, my shoulder's torn off the bone. This dude releases me. You know what I mean? I'm your guy. The list goes on.

"Keenan McCardell, that situation was a debacle. Keyshawn Johnson, another situation [that] was a debacle. Joey Galloway, which was his man, was in the doghouse all year because he got injured, broke his ankle or whatever. Brad Johnson, that situation was bad. Brings Jeff Garcia in here, oh, he's going to change things. I helped recruit him [and he] released me, kept Jeff and then put him in the doghouse. Gets rid of Brian Greise, brings him, starts a controversy. It was chaotic. I'm giving you facts."

All that was pretty much a warmup before Rice started calling Gruden some nasty names.

"I'm just giving you facts," Rice said. "I'm not giving you how I feel personally. How I feel personally? I could tell you that, too. I think he's a scumbag. I think he's a scumbag personally. That's when he's telling you one thing and ... You know what he told me? 'Simeon you'll be here in the next five years.' I got injured [and] this man's never said one word to me. I won a Super Bowl for you. I got 13 sacks, 12, 15 every year for you. I balled. I got injured [and] you let me go like it was nothing."

Rice then went on to praise just about every other coach he worked with in Tampa Bay, starting with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who just left for the University of Tennessee.

"Monte was the truth, man," Rice said. "Monte's a great, classy coach. Rod Marinelli, he's my favorite guy of all time. Mike Tomlin, great coach. Now they've got Raheem [Morris] who is a great person. I already called Raheem [and said], 'Listen, I'm ready to come back and let's do this.' You've got a lot of interns at my spot right now. They had some interns a couple of years. Now they need to come back and upgrade that spot, get the real deal, put him in the game and let him go! That's how I feel!"

Tampa Bay edition of the mailbag

November, 28, 2008
11/28/08
5:40
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Time for the final installment of today's team-by-team mailbag. That's the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Hellfire in Tulsa writes: Ok it is time to ask this. What is going to happen to joey galloway?Are we talking retire? Or are we talking trade?

Pat Yasinskas: A very legitimate question. Age and injuries finally caught up to Galloway this year and he's become something of a forgotten man in Tampa Bay. I'm sure Galloway sees that and wonders about his future. Retirement certainly would seem like a possibility and I could also see a scenario where the Bucs might just release him. They've got Antonio Bryant now and I'm sure they're going to try to lock him up with a long-term contract. I also suspect they'll be heavy players for receivers in the draft or free agency. As far as trading Galloway, I think that would be heading down a road similar to Chris Simms. The rest of the league knows Galloway's not a big part of Tampa Bay's plans, so why give up a draft pick for him?


Noah in Lakeland, FL writes: Hey Pat, I was looking at an SI article that projected that the Saints would win the South and that the Bucs, Panthers, and Falcons all would not make the playoffs. Isn't this a bit ridiculous? The Saints defense is terrible, and they've only beaten one team with a winning record, and that was a 4 point win against the Bucs when Jeff Garcia wasn't himself. Am I the only one that thinks these projections are a little off?

Pat Yasinskas: We don't criticize other media outlets here. But I will tell you the Saints, who I picked to win the division at the beginning of the year, would be the last team I'd pick to win it right now. They're in a situation where they have to run the table or come very close to that. Is it impossible? No, they've got plenty of talent. But they've been inconsistent all year and just won back-to-back games for the first time. It's a little difficult to see them suddenly putting it all together. As for the rest of the teams, I think you have to say the Bucs are the favorite right now because they've got a better schedule than Carolina. Atlanta's only a game behind those two and I'm not counting the Falcons out of anything.


JC in Longview Tx writes: Tell me do you think the Bucs can win the number two seed in the NFC and if so do you think Thay can go on and beat the Giants ?

Pat Yasinskas: The Bucs are in the No. 2 spot right now and a decent schedule might make them the favorite to stay there. They definitely have a shot at the second seed. But, can they go into the Meadowlands and beat the Giants? That's a tough one to picture.


Shill in St. Petersburg: With the recent release of Shaun Alexander from the Redskins, do you think it would be wise for Tampa to pick him up for the eleventh hour and playoff run to use as a veteran backup. I think Warrick and Smith are doing good and I expect Williams to be productive, but I worry about injury to one of the RB. I would think a playoff caliber team as Tampa would like to have a verteran back up as opposed to Noah Herron. Do you think it would be fruitful to pick him up?

Pat Yasinskas: The Bucs are a team with a history of taking shots on veteran guys. But I don't see them going for Shaun Alexander unless they have another injury at running back. They seemed poised to take their chances with Warrick Dunn, Cadillac Williams and Clifton Smith. The key, obviously, is Williams. He's coming back from a major knee injury and nobody knows how he'll hold up. But the Bucs were very encouraged by his performance in Detroit last week. He showed he can handle some carries and I think Williams gained some confidence from the coaching staff. As far as Alexander, I think the fact that he's out there is probably a pretty good indication that he's not anything close to the back we remember from his Seattle days.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

 
 Larry French/Getty Image
 Jeff Garcia is out as the starter as Jon Gruden makes another switch at quarterback.

TAMPA, Fla., -- Brad Johnson gave him a Super Bowl ring. Chris Simms gave him his spleen. Jeff Garcia gave him a division title and a contract extension.

So what did Jon Gruden give those three quarterbacks in return? The heave-ho in the case of Johnson and Simms and, at very least, the heave for Garcia. Yes, Gruden is playing musical quarterbacks again -- this time yanking the chair out from under Garcia, who had grabbed it about the same time Brett Favre started singing "New York, New York.''

Garcia, who went to the Pro Bowl last season, got pulled in favor of Brian Griese because Gruden doesn't think he is the same guy who went to the Pro Bowl last season.

All around Tampa Bay, which is a region and a body of water, not a city, the conspiracy theories are flying.

Some will tell you Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen are furious at Garcia for not keeping his mouth shut. He had the gall to ask for a raise and a contract extension after he lost out on a few million dollars in incentives last year. He made that crack about Gruden dating, but not marrying quarterbacks in training camp. And, just a few days ago, Garcia made some comment to a local columnist about how difficult it is to be prepared when you've missed almost the entire preseason.

That all got read by the people in the big offices at One Buc Place. They read every word and they're not above being vindictive.

But others will tell you Garcia has a right to be a little hurt -- and we're not talking about his lightly sprained ankle or the calf injury that held him out of most of the preseason. If you believe in loyalty and perfect worlds, Garcia should have gotten a nice raise and an extension that would have paid him until he's about 43. And he sure shouldn't have gotten what he did in training camp.

Garcia was left twisting as the Bucs, without a thought to Garcia's feelings or team chemistry, chased Favre for a couple of weeks. A lot of other teams probably thought Favre was better than their quarterback, too, but they didn't go after him because they thought about the fallout if they got him -- or didn't get him -- in the middle of training camp.

That was Gruden's only mistake as he wooed Favre and dragged Simms -- the guy without a spleen -- through another training camp. If you're going to jump into the fray for Favre, you better get him.

The Bucs didn't and the Jets did.

Maybe Gruden lost Garcia during the whole fiasco. You can almost understand it except for one thing. Gruden has been Gruden for a long time and any quarterback who comes to play for him knows exactly what he's getting into.

Gruden is always going to be looking for someone better. Is that really a fatal flaw in a football coach? Garcia is a big boy -- he's 38 and knows the NFL isn't the real world.

The bottom line is Gruden's the coach and he's going to do whatever he wants to do. That is why he got as far away from Al Davis as he could. Gruden might have done more than anyone to create this mess but, if he thinks Brian Griese gives the Bucs a better chance to win Sunday's game against Atlanta, he's got the right to make that choice.

Garcia didn't look like himself in a loss to the Saints. The fact he was sidelined by a calf injury for most of the turbulent preseason and has been bothered by minor injuries in recent weeks might be mitigating circumstances in the eyes of a lot of coaches.

Not Gruden.

Maybe Gruden is being sincere when he says he wants to give Garcia a week off to get right "physically and emotionally." Gruden is on the practice field every day and he obviously thinks Griese gives the Bucs the best chance to win now. He might be right and, if Griese beats the Falcons, Gruden may have even bigger problems.

It's hard to yank a quarterback after a win and Griese, much like Garcia when he's right, is a proven veteran who probably isn't going to look horrible. If Griese cruises along, it would be awfully hard to turn things back to Garcia. We may never see him on the field for Tampa Bay again, although a league source said the Bucs have no intention of trading Garcia. However, Garcia's contract is up at the end of the season and he's sure to walk if he doesn't get off the sideline.

Then again, it's Gruden and quarterbacks we're talking about. Griese is what he is -- a veteran with no upside. Third-stringer Luke McCown is third string for a reason -- he couldn't jump over Garcia and Griese in the preseason. Rookie Josh Johnson is a project, nowhere near ready to play in an NFL game.

Gruden's still dating. If Griese, or even McCown, isn't stunning, the Senior Prom is coming up and Garcia could start looking pretty good one more time.

Time for Bucs, Garcia to move on

September, 11, 2008
9/11/08
2:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

GrudenGarcia

Jeff Garcia says his relationship with Jon Gruden is not fractured. Sorry, beg to differ.

This thing's broken and the parts are scattered up and down Dale Mabry Highway. The Bucs might as well go ahead and trade Garcia -- if they can get anything for him. Here's an idea: Trade him to the Titans for Chris Simms. Or, seriously, just release him and hand him a check for the $2 million or so he's guaranteed.

As we said yesterday, this is a flat-out benching. It's not about Garcia's sore ankle. This situation has been building for months. You can assign blame to Garcia or Gruden, but it's past the point of arguing -- there are many points that can be made on both sides -- whether the Bucs slighted their quarterback or he slighted the team.

Time for both sides to move on.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

It started as a verbal heavyweight bout with Warren Sapp, Kris Jenkins and Brentson Buckner arguing about who was the best defensive tackle in football. They're all gone, but that trio helped create the best rivalry in the NFC South.

Sure, everything's relative in a division where the four teams haven't been around forever and none of them have a very gaudy history, but the rivalry between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is very strong and very real.

It started with some training camp words from Buckner, who endorsed Jenkins as the best interior lineman in the league in 2003 and Sapp took exception. Things only escalated when the Panthers went down to Tampa and blocked three kicks in an overtime game that was one of the most physical contests in recent memory.

Through the years Carolina defensive lineman Kavika Pittman essentially had his career ended by what teammates said was a cheap block by Kenyatta Walker and Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms eventually lost his spleen after being hit front and back by Jenkins and linebacker Thomas Davis.

Oh, by the way, no account of this rivalry would be complete without mention of one of the more infamous stories of the last few seasons. Early on the morning before a 2005 meeting between these two teams, two members of Carolina's cheerleading squad were arrested after an incident in the restroom of a Tampa nightclub.

+ INTENSITY RATING: 2 (Have 911 on your cellular phone's speed dial)

Buccaneers: cutdown analysis

August, 30, 2008
8/30/08
10:26
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Biggest surprise: The Bucs traded up to draft defensive tackle Dre Moore in the fourth round. Only a starter through about half of his college career at Maryland, Moore was more about potential than production. The potential never showed through training camp and the preseason and Moore was released.

No-brainer: Back in the offseason and as recently as a couple days ago, the Bucs were telling other teams they had trade offers for Chris Simms. It now seems obvious they must never have had any solid offers for Simms, who they ended up releasing. Simms had begged out of Tampa Bay months ago and the Bucs insisted on dragging him through training camp even though it was apparent he never was in their plans. What did they get out of that whole charade? Nothing. The end of this scenario wasn't that difficult to see because Simms hadn't played in a regular-season game in almost two years and the rest of the league knew Simms had no chance of sticking in Tampa Bay. The Bucs came off looking really bad in this situation and it could have been avoided if Tampa Bay had shown a little decency and Simms was given his release a lot earlier.

What's next: Kicker Matt Bryant had a tough preseason, but the Bucs are sticking with him because he's been solid in the past. But the Bucs aren't known for their patience. Bryant's going to be under the microscope. If he struggles at the start of the season, the confidence the Bucs have in Bryant could be lost. There are a lot of veteran kickers available and Bryant will start the season on a short leash.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

One way or another, the Chris Simms saga should be coming to an end soon.

The Bucs are telling other teams they have trade offers for Simms, according to a personnel executive for another team. Maybe they do have offers, but they haven't taken any of them yet. Or maybe the Bucs are just playing poker and trying to bluff other teams into thinking they have offers for Simms.

That's not unheard of as teams try to drive up potential trade values. But Simms, who hasn't played in a regular-season game in nearly two years, isn't likely to have much value. If the Bucs can get anything for him, they should take it.

If they can't, they'll have to fold their hand and cut him by 4 p.m., Saturday when rosters have to be down to 53 players. Then again, the way the Bucs have handled this whole situation, it's not out of the realm of possibility for them to put Simms on the 53-man roster. That would force any team interested in Simms to stop waiting for him to be released.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Simms
Simms

When the Bucs trimmed their roster to 75 players earlier today, Chris Simms' name wasn't mentioned.

Man, this is just plain cruel. Barring a miracle -- like some team suddenly getting desperate enough to part with a seventh-round draft pick -- the Bucs are going to drag Simms right down to the wire. They'll cut him Saturday afternoon, which is what Simms has been begging for the last few months.

So why the dog-and-pony show of making Simms go through training camp and play in a couple of preseason games when its obvious keeping him wasn't really an option? The Bucs are ruthless, but they're not stupid.

They had an investment in Simms, who was their starter, until he lost his spleen following a 2006 game. They figured they might as well try to get something in return for him, even if it meant creating an awkward situation for Simms and the team.

That hasn't worked so far. Unless a potential trade partner finally flinches or some team has a quarterback injury in the final preseason game, the Bucs will have to cut Simms on Saturday.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The Saints and Panthers made some moves today in anticipation of tomorrow's deadline for cutting rosters to 75 players, but there weren't any surprises.

The Saints released fullback Kevin Dudley, receiver Todd Blythe, center Rob Hunt, safety Curome Cox and punter Waylon Prather. The Panthers placed receiver Jason Carter on the injured reserve list and released quarterback Lester Ricard, cornerback Curtis DeLoatch, defensive end Casper Brinkley and tight end Chris Conklin.

Not much exciting there, so let's go ahead and take a look at one interesting question for each NFC South team as the cut to 53 players comes this weekend.

SAINTS

Who will be the kicker? The Saints have a big choice to make between veteran Martin Gramatica and rookie Taylor Mehlhaff. Gramatica's made some big kicks in the past and has lots of experience. But he hasn't always been consistent and he doesn't have a big leg. Mehlhaff does have a big leg, but has never kicked in the NFL.

BUCS

What quarterbacks stay? After going through much of the offseason with six quarterbacks on the roster and making a run at Brett Favre, the Bucs are down to a mere five quarterbacks. Mercifully, that number finally has to dwindle. The question is if they'll carry three or four quarterbacks. Throw Chris Simms out because he'll either be cut or traded. That leaves Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown and rookie Josh Johnson. Garcia's safe and Griese should be, too. It's tough to carry four quarterbacks and the Bucs may have to decide between McCown and Johnson. Then again, Jon Gruden's love for quarterbacks means it's possible the Bucs could pluck one -- or two -- off the waiver wire.

PANTHERS

How many quarterbacks will they keep? Coach John Fox and General Manager Marty Hurney have shown a willingness in the past to go with only two quarterbacks and Jake Delhomme and Matt Moore are automatic. That leaves Brett Basanez on the bubble. But recent history may be on his side. The Panthers had to play musical quarterbacks last season because of injuries and ineptitude and that didn't work out well. Basanez is a guy the Panthers like and they'd be wise to hang onto him because he has some upside. Besides, if they cut Basanez and have another injury at quarterback, who are the going to call? Vinny Testaverde?

FALCONS

Will veteran receiver Brian Finneran stick? He's trying to make a comeback after suffering major knee injuries the last two years and Finneran is making the most of his opportunity. He seems to have moved ahead of Laurent Robinson for the No. 4 receiver spot. Robinson seemed ticketed for a starting job at the start of camp, but has fallen out of favor. Finneran's durability remains a question, but his ability to contribute on special teams could help his stock.

Around the NFC South

August, 25, 2008
8/25/08
9:43
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Time for a quick trip around the NFC South. 

PANTHERS

Fantasy football players, take your pick. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart each rushed for 100 yards Saturday night. It's looking more and more like coach John Fox will have to split the carries on something close to a 50-50 basis. But Stewart probably will get the goal-line carries.

FALCONS

Mark Bradley writes that the Falcons could start the season 2-1, thanks to a favorable early schedule. But he realistically forecasts a five-win season.

BUCCANEERS

Quarterback Chris Simms doesn't think he'll be traded. More likely, the Bucs will have to release Simms because his trade value is minimal and the rest of the league knows Tampa Bay won't be keeping him on the roster.

SAINTS

The team spent the offseason trying to overhaul the defense. The results are starting to show. It looks like rookie Tracy Porter will earn a starting spot at cornerback.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- If you're looking for a quarterback controversy from the Bucs, stop.

Despite a disappointing debut by Jeff Garcia, he's still ticketed to be the starter. Garcia, who survived the Brett Favre rumors, missed the first two preseason games and most of training camp with a calf injury.

Garcia looked out of synch, throwing two interceptions in his first preseason action. He finished with 11 completions on 18 attempts for 79 yards and did hit Michael Clayton with a 10-yard touchdown pass in a 23-17 loss to Jacksonville.

"This is a game you've really got to be out there and play with your teammates,'' Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said. "He'll get better because of what happened tonight.''

Backup Brian Griese, who entered the game in the second quarter, was sharp. Griese finished with seven completions on 11 attempts for 71 yards. Luke McCown finished the game and completed 11 of 19 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. But McCown was sacked once and threw an interception.

Garcia is known for his efficiency, but Gruden didn't sound like a coach about to make a change because of one bad outing.

"It was not trademark Jeff Garcia,'' Gruden said. "I think he tried to do a little too much a little too soon. We've got to get him back on the practice field. We've got to get him in the fold here in terms of his reps and things of that nature. He'll be ok, but there were some situations he tried to get way too much out of.''

If the starting quarterback job isn't in doubt, everything else is at the position. Griese may have the edge for the backup job, but the Bucs remain high on McCown. That doesn't mean the roster is set with those three quarterbacks. Rookie Josh Johnson has played only very briefly in the preseason, but the Bucs believe he's a project and want to find a way to keep him. That could mean carrying four quarterbacks on the roster.

Perhaps the most certain thing about the quarterback position is that Chris Simms won't be with the team for long. He didn't play Saturday night after being showcased in the first two preseason games. The Bucs will look to trade Simms shortly. If that doesn't happen, they'll have to release him.

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