Simms or Griese? Who'll Arrive in 2005

Will Bucs opt for experience or financial matters? Both played well in spurts last season, but does one of them have to go?

Chris Simms or Brian Griese?

That's one of many decisions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face in the off-season and, like most facing the franchise, this could come down to money.

Griese is a free agent this off-season and played just well enough to earn a substantial boost from last season when he started the regular season as the emergency quarterback. He put up big numbers, but didn't come through on the scoreboard. He looked great at times after replacing the injured Simms who replaced the ineffective Brad Johnson just four games into the season.

The rap on Griese is that he tries to force passes and he has the mobility of an anchor. He's been a Pro Bowler and a bust. He's only 30, still young by NFL quarterback standards and he as one major advantage: Bucs coach Jon Gruden likes his quarterbacks experienced.

Griese, however, wore out his welcome after some success in Denver, and barely played when he spent 2003 with the Miami Dolphins. He understands the game and picked up the Bucs offense quickly but made mistakes that cost the Bucs several games.

Simms has the pedigree. Like Griese, he's the son of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, and Simms natural gifts have never been questioned. He gave the Bucs a spark when he relieved Johnson in the season's fourth game, but went out with an injury the following week and received only spot duty the rest of the way.

Simms has a gun for an arm and has some, if not tremendous, mobility, a key factor behind the Bucs porous and yet-to-be-reconstructed offensive line. His limited experience will weigh against him, but he's also tied up to the Bucs for 2005 on a team that is under salary cap Hell. If the Bucs dump Griese's contract, Simms is automatically the man by default since there's virtually no way Johnson will return. He, too, is a free agent.

While the Bucs have all of their draft picks this year, they won't waste one early, but may take a slight gamble on Day Two of the draft. Even if Griese stays, Simms won't be comfortable sitting on the bench once his own contract expires so this might be a season to draft a prospect for the future. This isn't a particularly deep year at quarterback, but a steal could be had late.

The guess here is that, although Gruden has said he wants Griese next year, the team is looking to chop salary everywhere it can to get under the cap. Simms proved to Gruden early in the year that he was ready to start and he outplayed Griese during the 2004 preseason before Griese picked up the offense. Simms also doesn't need the shadow of Griese lurking in the backgrouhg. Remember, the backup quarterback is usually the fan favorite once things go downhill. The Bucs may have to buy a bargain basement free-agent quarterback to sit behind Simms, preferably one with some experience to tutor Simms. Is Mark Brunell available at a decent cost?

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