Jon Gruden had a message for Bucs fans and Chris Simms, during Friday’s Tampa Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The Tampa Tribune reports that the Bucs coach all but declared Jeff Garcia the starting quarterback for the upcoming season. He made it clear Friday that Garcia is the No. 1 quarterback heading into training camp, a day after being asked about Garcia following a workout at One Buc Place and being non-committal.
“Right now, Jeff Garcia is clearly the leader in the clubhouse,” said Gruden, who mentioned Garcia’s name several times before bringing up Simms’ name during the luncheon. Simms, the starter last year for three games before a ruptured spleen ended his season, signed a two-year contract with the Bucs last fall under the assumption he would be the starter in 2007. But the Bucs signed Garcia as a free agent in March, creating competition and controversy.
At the beginning of the offseason workouts, Simms got the majority of the work with the first team while Garcia learned the offense. Throughout the workouts, though, Gruden has noted how quickly Garcia has picked up the system. As the workouts continue, Simms will probably take a back seat to Garcia. The Bucs have a mandatory minicamp June 19-21 and training camp opens in Lake Buena Vista on July 26.
Gruden’s first mention of Garcia on Friday came in response to a question about the additions to the Bucs offense this offseason. Though he didn’t call him by name, Gruden said one of the additions was a “quarterback I’m very excited about.” When the Bucs coach was asked about the addition of the shotgun formation, he acknowledged it is something the offense is working on.
“Jeff Garcia deserves to have an offense that works with his skills and the shotgun will definitely be a part of it,” Gruden said. Garcia, who operated out of the shotgun with the Eagles, was a consistent theme during the luncheon. Simms wasn’t completely ignored as Gruden mentioned him while addressing the competition at quarterback. “That’s not to say Chris Simms won’t make things interesting at training camp,” Gruden said.