Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs name Leftwich starting QB
TAMPA - After pushing the contest and the debate into overtime, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have finally decided that Byron Leftwich is the best man to lead their offense this season. Leftwich was named the Bucs starting quarterback today, two days after he and top challenger Luke McCown turned in sub-par outings in a 10-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium. The announcement really comes as no surprise. Leftwich, signed as a free agent during the offseason, was long believed to be the leader of the quarterback derby. The derby was supposed to last just two preseason games, but it was extended through the Miami game after McCown threw two touchdown passes to rally the Bucs to a 24-23 victory over Jacksonville on Aug. 22.That's the only victory the Bucs have posted this preseason, but Leftwich's 24-22 record and his experience as a starter are two reasons coach Raheem Morris tabbed the 29-year-old his starter. When asked Friday what makes the seven-year veteran and former first-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars a good starting candidate, Morris ran off a series of superlatives about Leftwich. "His leadership ability; the fact he's won 12 games in this league [in one season] before; the fact that he's a big strong-armed guy that can make all the throws," Morris said. "Yeah, he missed a few [throws Thursday] night, but he made a few big-time throws that followed those throws. He has the savvy, the toughness; he's mentally sharp - all the qualities that you look for in a quarterback." Leftwich, who spent last season with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, spent his first four years in the NFL with Jacksonville, which drafted him seventh overall in 2003. He took the Jaguars to the playoffs in 2005, but a series of injuries helped derail his career, and he wound up joining the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, playing three games and starting two. Leftwich has thrown for 300 yards or more four times in his career.
Reporter Roy Cummings can be reached at (813) 259-7979.