Breaking down the backups

As the Bucs continue to sort through their quarterback situation, I went to's personnel guru, Tom Marino, for his insights on the two players that could replace Jeff Garcia on Sunday and who he would start. Marino has more than 30 years as a NFL scout and you can get his expertise in this premium feature.

Matthew Postins: Tom, talk to me about what you think about Bruce Gradkowski?

Tom Marino: I really think the guy has some stuff that's pretty impressive. I liked him as a college player. The limited view that I had of him, I thought he stood tall in the pocket. He didn't look like he was very tall to me. He seemed almost short. I was surprised that he was as tall as he was or listed as big as he is (6-foot-1). He had a high school basketball background that I thought lent him something that made him a better than average athlete. I thought he could handle most of the stuff underneath. I thought he could throw deep. I had some questions as to whether the ball had enough life with the intermediate routes. It's tough when you're throwing a deep ball. You're laying it out there. When you're throwing a short ball, obviously, you're just flicking it. The ones you have to make are the intermediate throws — the comebacks and the outs and the digs. I thought that he struggled a little bit with that. I thought the game was, at times, a little fast for him. I think that he progressed and got better. They (Tampa Bay) were limited in what they could do with him last year. I don't know how far he's come this year. But they certainly had to limit the offense when he was in the game. When (Chris) Simms got hurt (last year) they had to limit the offense. I think that showed in the record. They were as patient as they could be. They did as many things as they could. When you think about it, he did a better job in the whole scheme of things than some of these other guys that have come in here, like the (David) Carrs who have gone to a new situation with experience and still not done as well. I think they would be OK with him in there. Obviously there's a major drop off with (Jeff) Garcia going down. His experience and his ability — he plays like he's had 10 cups of coffee. He plays with so much enthusiasm. He's hyper. He can do some things. This guy (Gradkowski) is more conventional as a quarterback than Garcia. He's got skills. He's not a guy that I could see as a lead skill guy. But he's going to be a god backup quarterback with the chance to develop into a starter at some point. Will he ever take a team to a Super Bowl? Based on what I've seen, I'd say no. But that doesn't mean anything at this stage because it's a long way from thinking about him doing that. I think he's a good talent, but not a great one. It's going to be a real tough game to win down in New Orleans.

Matthew Postins: What's your assessment of Luke McCown?

Tom Marino: I saw him in college and I know that when he came down here (to Orland) he was impressive in summer camp. He looks athletic, he can move. I thought he had pretty good movement. I thought his arm was a bit unconventional, not quite as smooth and error free as possible. But it's not bad. I thought his accuracy was sporadic. It wasn't great. I though that he could do certain tings. I thought he was someone that could be good. I was surprised that things didn't go better for him prior to this year. I think he was a big surprise to them (Tampa Bay). I think he was there as a guy for camp, as they tried to get Jake (Plummer). They probably would have released him prior to that if they had gotten Jake. So I think he did very well in training camp. I think both brothers (Luke and Josh) did well in camp and it helped them. I don't know if he has anything. He's OK with a lot of things he does. To me, he's more of the third guy there. He's a fill in quarterback. I don't see him having a chance of being a starter in the league. He may have gotten a lot better. But I'd be real hesitant to put him in that game.

Matthew Postins: So if you're in Jon Gruden's shoes, who do you start on Sunday if Garcia can't go? Gradkowski?

Tom Marino: Absolutely. How many games did he start last year? 11 times. They definitely had to bite their tongue and take it on the chin last year. They couldn't do a lot of things and they couldn't expose the guy (to injury). In college you see three or four defenses, a Cover 2, a Man 3, a Cover 3 or Cover 4. You don't see much there. They do so many variations of those things in the pros. They're (the quarterback) looking at the strong safety and seeing what he does. They're taking a first-step read. They're taking a pre-snap read. Then you try and execute the play and try to remember what you're doing. And the game goes so much faster. The window of opportunity closes so much faster in the pros. It's not just the physical stuff. You can't give the kid the entire field. He can't do what Garcia does. It's impossible. It was impossible last year to have him do those things because the game is so fast. The Saints, I'm sure, have hundreds of variations of coverage. You can't possibly have a guy come in there and try to do everything Garcia can. I thought what he did last year in 11 games, he did fine. He did more than you could ask out of a rookie quarterback. He didn't embarrass himself. I thought he performed OK. He wasn't going to take them to the playoffs or the promised land and he may never do that. But a guy that's played and been there gives you the best chance to win.

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