QB Jeff Garcia will be making his first Pro Bowl trip as a Buccaneer, but his fourth overall
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be represented in the Pro Bowl after all.
Quarterback Jeff Garcia has been selected to join the NFC team in next month's NFL all-star game, making him the lone Buc to head to Hawaii this February. As the conference's first alternate at quarterback, Garcia got the call after Green Bay's Brett Favre elected to pull out of the game.
The original Pro Bowl teams, announced on December 18, did not include any Buccaneers; in fact, none of the four teams in the NFC South were represented. However, a very worthy Garcia will now keep the Bucs from being shut out for the first time since 1995. The Bucs still will have their smallest contingent at the Pro Bowl since 1996, when linebacker Hardy Nickerson made the trip alone.
This marks Garcia's fourth Pro Bowl nod, as he made it for three consecutive seasons with the San Francisco 49ers from 2000-2002. His return five years later comes in his first year as a Buccaneer and makes him the first Tampa Bay quarterback to play in the all-star game since Brad Johnson in 2002. Garcia also joins Johnson and Trent Dilfer (1997) as the only quarterbacks to earn Pro Bowl bids in Buccaneer history.
As one of the leading overall votegetters in Pro Bowl balloting this year, Favre was slated to start for the NFC in the February 10 game in Honolulu. Now that starting spot will fall to either Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck or Dallas' Tony Romo, with Garcia joining in as the NFC's third passer.
Garcia's all-star nod is a reward for an outstanding regular season in which he posted a 94.6 passer rating, second-highest in team history. Though he played only sparingly over the Bucs' last five games due to a back injury, Garcia completed 209 of 327 passes (63.9%) for 2,440 yards, 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions. His passer rating ranked third in the NFC, just behind Romo (97.4) and Favre (95.7) and just ahead of Hasselbeck (91.4).
Garcia's greatest strengths were his accuracy and decision-making, as he ranked fourth in the NFC in completion percentage and first in interception percentage. With just four picks in 327 attempts, he set a new franchise record with an interception rate of 1.22%. However, that sort of ball security didn't come at the expense of aggressive play; in fact, Garcia also ranked fourth in the NFC in yards per pass attempt, with a mark of 7.46.
Garcia joined the Bucs as an unrestricted free agent in March after one season with the Philadelphia Eagles. He previously played for Detroit in 2005, Cleveland in 2004 and the 49ers from 1999-2003. Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden has long coveted Garcia for his squad, and the two sides nearly worked out free agent pacts in 2004 and 2005. The former CFL star finally landed in Tampa in 2007 after an eye-opening season with the Eagles in which he took over for injured starter Donovan McNabb in the second half of the year and led his team to the playoffs.
Garcia's steady hand guided the Buccaneers to the playoffs as well. One season after finishing 4-12 and in last place in the NFC South, the Buccaneers won the division in 2007 and earned a first-round matchup with the New York Giants.