The St. Petersberg Times’ Gary Shelton reminds us “Tampa Bay always has been a sucker for a fresh face, particularly one holding a football, which explains how quickly Bucco Bruce Gradkowski (above) has become a cult legend.” That said, Shelton doesn’t think Gradowski is ready to claim the backup clipboard from Tim Rattay or Jay Fiedler.
History is filled with training camp sensations who are now selling insurance. Remind yourself: Gradkowski’s success has come in practice games against players who aren’t going to make the Jets roster and who aren’t going to make the Dolphins. They have come in mop-up time against vanilla defenses at home. And though that is preferable to not having such moments, it doesn’t turn a sixth-round draft pick into Earl Morrall, super sub.
Have you paid attention over the years to how many horrible things the Bucs defense has done to young opposing quarterbacks? So you really want to see the Panthers point Julius Peppers at him? Or the Falcons with John Abraham or the Ravens with Ray Lewis or the Giants with Michael Strahan?
So think about it. If Simms were to grab an ankle in pain, whom would you put in? If Simms slumps – and let’s face it, he has only 12 NFL starts to his name – whom would you play?
When talking about a backup quarterback, most teams tend to favor the savvy and the steady – an older guy, maybe a former starter who has lost a little off his fastball but who can win a game on his smarts. You know: a guy like Brad Johnson or Jon Kitna or Mark Brunell. That’s the problem with the NFL: All of the good backups are still starters.
Still, there is nothing wrong with popularity. There is an old football story that when Paul Brown coached the Cleveland Browns, he had a backup named George Ratterman.
Once, with a game well in hand, the fans started chanting Ratterman’s name. And, eventually, Brown pulled the Rat over to his side.
“The fans want you,” Brown supposedly said. “So why don’t you go up there and sit with them for a little while.”
Giants Commandant Tom Coughlin tells the NY Post’s Paul Schwartz, “I don’t have a chip on my shoulder, I don’t have a big ego.” I’m pretty sure Doug Neidermeyer said the same thing, once upon a time (before his own troops killed him in Vietnam).