Tampa Bay Takes QB Simms With Third-Round Pick

April 26 - After adding depth to its defensive line with its second-round pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers addressed the offensive side of the ball in the third round by drafting Texas quarterback Chris Simms. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound left-handed signal-caller is the son of former New York Giants QB Phil Simms, and he finished his career at Texas with a 25-6 record as a starter.

Tampa Bay added yet another quarterback to the mix on Saturday evening when the team selected Texas QB Chris Simms with its third-round draft pick.

"I am really thrilled to play with the Super Bowl champions and Coach Gruden, who I've had so much respect for," said Simms. "I know my father has so much respect for him, too. I've heard nothing but good things about him since my dad met with him. To be around teammates like Brad Johnson, Keyshawn Johnson, Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice and Derrick Brooks, I mean that's just an unbelievable situation."

Simms' 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame along with his college feats, which include a 25-6 record as a starter at Texas and a All-Big Twelve Conference third-team selection as a senior, had some draft gurus projecting him to go in the first round.

Instead, five quarterbacks were taken before him, which came as quite a surprise to the son of former New York Giants QB Phil Simms.

"We had a pretty good idea I was going to go somewhere between 15 and 25 (in the first round) actually, so it's been a lot worse than you even think," said Simms. "It's been frustrating, extremely. I stopped watching the draft two hours ago, really. I'm just glad it's finally over with now and I can go play football now and show all these other people they really have no idea what they're talking about."

While Tampa Bay expressed some interest in drafting a quarterback throughout the offseason, the team didn't think it would have the opportunity to land a player with Simms' resume with the last pick in the third round.

"I was a little surprised that he is a Buccaneer because we did not go into this draft with quarterback on our priority list or our want list," said McKay. "It wasn't part of our master plan. We didn't expect that Chris Simms would be there in the third round at the last pick. But certainly, we like the player. We rated the player high, and we are extremely pleased he was there."

The Bucs even flirted with the idea of drafting Simms with its second-round pick, but decided to take Louisville defensive end Dewayne White instead. But when Simms fell to the Bucs again in the third round, they couldn't help but use 97th pick overall to take him.

"We did talk about him in the second round as one of the guys that were in the mix," said McKay. "We really thought he would go before that. But then in the third round, there really wasn't a lot of discussion. At that point, when you look at your board and if you live by your board in the way that you rate players, he was the highest-rated player going upward by far."

Simms has a strong arm and a quick release. He is regarded as an effective passer with impressive overall accuracy. He has shown consistency in terms of getting the ball to his receivers in the short-to-intermediate areas, and while he isn't a scrambler, Simms has shown the ability to buy time with his feet inside and outside of the pocket. Both of those traits could make him a good fit for Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's version of the West Coast offense.

"He's a guy we selected for a reason, a guy we think has great promise," said Gruden. "We are looking forward to getting this process started.

"He's a big guy that has functional mobility and has won big games in a big arena. The guy's won-loss record speaks for itself. What he has accomplished at the University of Texas is quite impressive."

Simms, a left-handed quarterback, completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2,938 yards and tossed 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a senior, and he posted a 58.7 completion percentage and threw for 7,097 yards and 58 touchdowns during his four-year career at Texas.

With the exception of Greg Zolman, all of Tampa Bay's quarterbacks are right-handed. Gruden said the offense will have to adjust when Simms is under center.

"There's nothing suttle, it's a major adjustment for an offensive football team," Gruden said of having a lefty at quarterback. "It changes the way you do naked-bootlegs and play-action passes. For the most part, you go one way to accommodate your right-handed quarterback. Now it's going to be double-learning for the offensive line and other areas of the offense. It will be a challenge. (Offensive line coach) Bill Muir was the first one to bring that up to me this evening."

Despite his success in college, Simms has his critics who seem to push his impressive statistics aside and focus more on his reputation for not being able to win "the big game".

Simms was 0-3 as a starter against Texas' rival -- the Oklahoma Sooners, and he threw zero touchdowns and eight interceptions in those contests. In addition to those stats, Simms threw zero touchdowns and 14 interceptions against top 10 teams throughout his career.

Tampa Bay's average age between Brad Johnson, Jim Miller and Shane Matthews is 33, which prompted the Bucs to look at drafting a quarterback this year. Despite Simms' adversity at Texas, Gruden feels like he landed a good prospect who could be groomed behind Johnson as the team's quarterback of the future.

"I think we all have egos to some degree, especially at that position," Gruden said. "I'll say this about Chris Simms: He is a good kid, and he's going to have a great opportunity here in Tampa to do the things he is capable of doing. All I can say is we are going to work hard to back this pick up."

Simms said the teams that passed on him in the draft made a mistake, and both he and Gruden will be out to prove them wrong.

"I think that's the great thing I like about Coach Gruden so much is he realizes all odds are against you and all odds have been against me for a long time," said Simms. "Now, I just get to team up with him, a guy just like me. Hopefully we can prove everyone wrong."

With the addition of Simms, the Bucs currently have a total of six quarterbacks on its roster. Zolman will likely be the odd man out, but there's a chance the team could take him along with Johnson, Matthews, Miller, Shaun King and Simms into training camp in July.

Where will Simms fit into Tampa Bay's quarterback rotation? The Bucs are eager to find out the answer to that question for themselves when he and the rest of the team's 2003 draft picks visit One Buccaneer Place next weekend for a three-day mini-camp.

"He didn't have his best stuff against Oklahoma, and neither did other members of the Longhorn football team," Gruden said of Simms. "The guy played 'lights out' against Kansas State, and the guy had some very good moments at the University of Texas. I'm moving on. The 'big fella' is coming in here next weekend, and we'll all see for ourselves what we can get done. But we are excited about the possibilities."

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