By Jeff Berlinicke
TAMPA – The clock is ticking on the future of Bucs quarterback Chris Simms, at least as far as his career in Tampa Bay.
Is that fair? You can look at Sunday's 34-14 loss to divisional foe Carolina in two ways, at least as far as Simms is concerned. He seemed to have a coming out party in the first half, virtually unstoppable until the ball got near the red zone. He was clicking with his receivers, showed enough poise to know when to run and when to dump the ball out of bounds, and he looked like a quarterback with an entire city's eyes upon him looking to make a point.
Then, with the Bucs within striking distance down 17-7, Simms made the worst mistake of his young career, throwing a pass into the flat that Carolina's Chris Gamble returned 61 yards for a touchdown that led the beginning of the end and the Bucs' second straight loss.
Simms showed a lot on Sunday. One, that he is capable of being a solid starting quarterback for a team with no other options. Two, that he still has a knack for making the wrong decision at the wrong time.
Bucs coach Jon Gruden admitted that Simms could have been Joe Montana and that wouldn't have been enough to save a Bucs team that was beaten up at the line of scrimmage all day. He refused to blame Simms in his Monday press conference, but admitted that Simms had to pick up the slack missing since the season-ending injury to Brian Griese.
To his credit, Simms took full responsibility even though there was plenty of blame to go around, especially on the offensive line, which forced Simms to throw the ball on the run for most of the game. Simms was booed by the Raymond James Stadium fans for throwing the ball at the feet of his receivers on several occasions, but the blame was often unjustified.
Simms has gotten beaten up in the local media for not picking up the Tampa Bay offense after three years with the Bucs, but that too is unjustified. There's a big difference between Wednesday and Sunday in the NFL. For one, the quarterback wears a red shirt on practice week and no one is allowed to touch him. On Sunday, it's a different story when Julius Peppers is bearing down.
Simms deserves a certain amount of blame, but he's all the Bucs have right now.
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