McCown X-Factor in Bucs QB Situation

With Brian Griese entering camp as the incumbent, Luke McCown and Chris Simms will battle it out for No. 2.

By Jeff Berlinicke

He's the X-Factor in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback situation.

The Bucs acquired Luke McCown, a second-year player out of Louisiana Tech, on draft day for a sixth-round pick, a small fee for a quarterback with NFL experience, albeit an unpleasant one with the Cleveland Browns last season.

Still, McCown has the size (6-3, 212) that NFL scouts love and, with the quarterback situation unsettled, McCown has a small window of opportunity to prove his point to the Bucs.

McCown has been a daily presence at One Buc Place and has impressed everyone from head coach Jon Gruden to new quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett. He's proven to be mobile and has a stronger arm than incumbents Brian Griese or Chris Simms. He started four games for the Browns last season and lost each of them, but the Browns didn't give him a chance until the season was over in terms of making a playoff run. McCown was beaten up and sacked 12 times while completing only 49.percent of his passes with four touchdowns and seven interceptions, but no first-year player should have any more expected, especially behind the Browns woeful offensive line.

The starting job is Griese's job to lose entering summer camp, but Gruden is wary of Griese's erratic play down the stretch. Griese was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for the first three quarters of a game last season, but showed the knack for throwing key interceptions at the end. Simms won the starting job from former quarterback Brad Johnson in Week 5 of the 2004 season but was immediately injured. He hasn't made the kind of progress the Bucs had hoped for in his two years in Tampa.

Where does that leave McCown? Well the Bucs recently released Akili Smith, the former No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft only two months after he was signed as a free agent in February. McCown's brother, Josh, is a quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, so McCown has a solid pedigree and has learned quickly how to pick up the Bucs' demanding offensive scheme.

The job is still Griese's to lose and Gruden treasures veteran experience at the top, but McCown could easily give Simms a run for the No. 2 spot, one of the most important roles in football since the starting quarterback rarely makes it through the season alive.

If the Bucs struggle early, don't be surprised if Gruden yanks Griese and goes with the No. 2 guy whether it be Simms or McCown, both with strong upsides for the future. Don't be surprised if it's McCown that comes out on top by the end of the season.

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