Griese's Miscues Concern Gruden
By Roy Cummings | Tribune StaffTAMPA - Bucs coach Jon Gruden never has been a big fan of statistics. He's a bottom-line kind of guy. That's what he threw out as a defense when the play of his starting quarterback came under scrutiny Monday.
Published: September 30, 2008
Published: September 30, 2008
Told that Brian Griese ranks 29th in the league in passer rating, 27th in the league in completion percentage and first in the league in interceptions thrown, Gruden bristled.
"You've got some really good stats there," he said. "He's also 3-0 as a starter, how about that? He's a winning quarterback for us."
It's hard to argue the claim. Dating to 2005, Griese has won eight of his past nine starts as a Buccaneers quarterback. Even Gruden couldn't argue, though, that Griese's play has been a little spotty.
He has thrown six interceptions the past two games, including five in the second half. Cleaning up that area of Griese's play has quickly moved to the top of Gruden's list of priorities.
"Sunday certainly there were a couple of very, very tough plays to swallow," Gruden said. "When you have a commanding lead, a 20-7 lead, you've got to get rid of the ball, throw it away, or go somewhere else.
"So there are some areas, I think, that are very clear and obvious that we need to clean up. And he knows where I stand and where our team stands on turnovers."
Gruden repeatedly has told his players ball security is the lifeblood of winning football. When asked about Griese's ball security issues, however, he staunchly defended his quarterback.
He started by throwing some of the blame on his receivers, saying they need to do a better job running routes and gaining separation from defenders. He also gave credit to the Bucs' last two opponents.
Given the premium he puts on solid quarterback play, Gruden's support for Griese may seem a bit odd. But Gruden has shown just as much, if not more, patience with other quarterbacks.
He stuck with Chris Simms through his early season struggles during the 2005 season and with rookie Bruce Gradkowski through an endless array of problems in 2006.
In both cases, though, Gruden didn't have much choice. Those teams didn't have a healthy backup who had led the Bucs to the playoffs the previous season. This one does, but Jeff Garcia seems a long way from getting back on the field.
Garcia was the team's inactive third quarterback the past two weeks, behind Luke McCown. Garcia has said he needs regular work in practice to be at his best, but with most of the reps going to Griese, it may take an injury, or two, for Garcia to get back in the lineup.
Then again, Gruden said he's much tougher on Griese in private than he ever will be in public.
"What I say publicly and what I say behind closed doors are two different things," he said. "I'm not going to be overly critical publicly, because I've got a lot of respect and confidence in Brian Griese.
"There are three or four throws he's had the last two weeks that have hurt us. But there are also about 35 or 40 throws that have helped us. He made some throws Sunday after the third interception that were big-time plays. They changed the game in terms of field position. He also made some decisions in the running game that were outstanding. So we're going to rally around him and try to improve his strengths and clean up the areas that have clearly hurt us the last couple weeks."
Reporter Roy Cummings can be reached at (813) 259-7979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.