King for a Day....or More?

February 20 – After Tampa Bay signed quarterback Brad Johnson to a five-year, $28 million contract last year, Bucs starting QB Shaun King didn't really stand a chance of keeping his job. But with head coach Jon Gruden implementing his offense around Tampa Bay's current player personnel, King may actually get a fair chance to compete for the starting position next season.

Shaun King had to hand over his starting quarterback role to Brad Johnson last year after Tampa Bay signed the veteran quarterback to a five-year, $28 million contract. But with a new coach in town, the roles could reverse, again.

"That (the quarterback position) will be one of the most important things that I endure here in the next six to eight weeks," said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. "I'm looking forward to meeting Brad Johnson and Shaun King. I'm looking forward to finding more quarterbacks that can come in here and compete. It will be a position that we scrutinize very carefully and we'll work to cultivate as many arms as we can in our program here."

Although Gruden's offense doesn't have a nickname, it is said to be diverse and similar to the West Coast offensive scheme, which he learned from his coaching days with the San Francisco 49ers (1990) and Green Bay Packers (1992-94).

"Everyone has seen the offenses that I have been a part of the last seven or eight years knows it's not a West Coast offense," said Gruden. "I see the West Coast offense as a slick back type of system. We're not the San Francisco 49ers in 1981 or 1982. There are certain variables in our offense, I'm sure that have West Coast roots. We're going to be as creative as we can be to make first downs, score touchdowns and win football teams. People can call it whatever they want."

One of the reasons Gruden's offenses in Oakland ranked among the league's elite was because of Raiders QB Rich Gannon. Not only did Gannon move the ball with his arm, he was also able to make plays with his legs.

Johnson didn't have a stellar outing in his first season as a Buccaneer, and a lot of his woes can be attributed to former offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen's play-calling and the offensive line's inability to consistently protect him. But some blame can be placed on Johnson, too.

Johnson, who led Tampa Bay to a 9-7 regular season record in 2001, threw for 2,956 yards, 13 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and completed 60.8 percent of his passes. Johnson was sacked 45 times, and many of them were because he held onto the football too long and due to the fact that he is not a very mobile quarterback. But Gruden does feel Johnson brings somethings to the table that a quarterback like Rich Gannon may not.

"I think it's a winning edge (having a mobile quarterback)," said Gruden. "The more things you can do, the more dangerous you are. I realize Brad Johnson might not be the reckless scrambler Rich Gannon is, but there are certain things Brad Johnson can do maybe a little better than Rich Gannon."

In 2000, King threw for 2,769 yards, 18 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and completed 54.4 percent of his passes. King also rushed 73 times for 353 yards (4.8 avg.) and five touchdowns. But King, who is entering his fourth year as a pro and has a 14-7 regular season record as a starter, seemed to benefit from playing under former offensive coordinator Les Steckel's play-calling.

With Johnson's high salary, it would be difficult for Gruden to make a change at the quarterback position, but pay close attention to the quarterback battle during the mini-camp, training camp and preseason. Gruden could make a change if he feels it is what's best for his offense.

"I really like Shaun King," said Gruden. "When I was with the Raiders, I studied him carefully coming out of Tulane. He was the quarterback of an undefeated team and he enjoyed great success here as a winner. He's from Tampa. I think he's got some intangibles about him that are exciting. He's young, he's athletic and he makes creative plays. He's got a certain vibe about him that I respect. I'm looking forward to working with him. He's a guy that could make this whole situation real interesting."


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