Chris Simms' ultimate three-wide receiver set: Joey Galloway, Jerry Rice and Lynn Swann
(Note: The following story was featured in Volume 1, Issue 3 of Buccaneers Review, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' ground-breaking new game program. Buccaneers Review has reinvented the game program with magazine-style presentation, in-depth and current analysis of both teams and dozens of pages of fresh content every issue. For the season opener last Sunday, every fan in attendance was presented with a free copy of the new program.)
It's his huddle now. No questions asked. Last season, he showed a strong arm, control of the offense and even a flair for the dramatic in leading the Buccaneers to the NFC South title and the playoffs. This season, Chris Simms is ready to do it all over again.
Did your approach change in the offseason knowing that you were going to be the starting quarterback this season?
"I don't think I really changed my approach a whole lot. Of course, it's great to know that you are going to be playing from game one, but I've always prepared the same way. I really have tried to change nothing, just work hard, be here everyday and practice hard. The rest just follows suit."
What has been the biggest difference from your first training camp, as a rookie out of Texas, to now, being the starting quarterback?
"My rookie year, there were just so many questions in my mind. Being a young kid, not saying that I'm old now, but there were just so many 'what ifs' and 'what's it going to be like.' I was extremely nervous my rookie year going into camp, probably as nervous as I've ever been in my life. Each year it's become less and less nerve racking. This year, in my fourth year, I played a lot last year and I know I'm going to play a lot this year, I was extremely comfortable and felt ready to go."
You grew up with your father playing in the NFL and you saw first hand what it took to be successful at this level. Even with that experience, has there been anything that has surprised you about the NFL?
"I think the media attention. I didn't think it would be quite the way it is. I went to Texas and, of course, they are a big time college program, but still I don't think it's comparable to anything you can prepare for in the NFL. It's just on a whole bigger scale. As much as you say, 'O.K., we'll do media, fine, fine, fine,' it still takes a big part of your day that you have to be prepared for."
What is it about this offense that excites you the most heading into the season?
"I think what excites me the most is our possibilities. We have so many guys that can do so many different things. We have three tailbacks, Mike Alstott, Michael Pittman and 'Cadillac' who are all very versatile. The receivers we have between Ike Hilliard, Joey Galloway, Michael Clayton, Edell Shepherd and David Boston, that's a strong group there. And we have two tight ends, Anthony Becht and Alex Smith, who are very versatile as well. I'm just excited to be part of a team that has a lot of options and hopefully we can get them the ball."
How would you describe your relationship with Coach Gruden?
"We have a great relationship. He's a very easy to talk to guy, and I think I'm pretty easy to talk to as well, so it's a very open relationship. Good or bad. We are never afraid to say what's on our minds to each other. I think that's a healthy thing."
What do you think the biggest misconception of you is?
"People think I'm a lot shorter than I am. Everyone is always shocked how tall I am. That, and I guess the knock on me in college was that I couldn't win the big game. So those are two things that I hear more than anything, and we'll dispel both of those rumors over time."
Who are three receivers, past or present, that you would love to have in your huddle for one drive?
"Joey Galloway. I'll take him any day of the week in any huddle. I think he's the fastest receiver in the history of the NFL. So he can be in the huddle, always. I would take Jerry Rice, of course, because he's the ultimate perfectionist. He can do it all. He can go deep or run all of the short routes. And the third one, I'd have to go old school and say Lynn Swann. Some of the acrobatic catches I've seen him make on old NFL highlights are unbelievable and I know that he could make some big plays."
What are your personal goals for the season?
"I really don't have personal goals. I just want to play as well as I can every week. I want to continue to work hard week in and week out. As a team, I think we all know where we want to go. We all want to be playing in Miami in early February, but again, I don't think we can get too caught up in that. We just need to take it week-by-week."
Has there been one moment, since you have been in the NFL, when you knew that you could, not only become a starter in this league, but be a successful starting quarterback and win games?
"I think the first Carolina game last year was that moment for me. Even though we lost the game 34-14, I did some good things in that game and did some bad things. But when it was over, and even during the game, I was completely confident that I could play in the NFL."
What is it going to take to lead this team back to the playoffs this season?
"Consistency on offense. Our defense is always going to play well, they are one of the best defenses in the NFL. I think on offense we just need to do our part. Whether that's win a game 13-10, or if the defense is having an off day and we need to pick up the slack and win a game 35-31, we just need to be ready for whatever the challenge in week in and week out."
Chris Simms At a Glance
The Young Gun From being the last player taken on the first day of the 2003 NFL Draft to leading the Buccaneers to the playoffs, Chris Simms has come a long way in his first three seasons in the NFL. Now, in his fourth year, Simms is looking to add to his growing list of memorable moments on-and-off the field.
A Long Wait, But Well Worth It In the 2003 NFL Draft, Simms had to wait until the final pick of the third round (97th overall) to hear his name called by the Buccaneers. He was the sixth quarterback taken in the draft behind Carson Palmer (Cincinnati), Byron Leftwich (Jacksonville), Kyle Boller (Baltimore), Rex Grossman (Chicago) and Dave Ragone (Houston).
Coming of Age, Part I On November 13, 2005, the Buccaneers trailed the Washington Redskins by seven points with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter. Simms took the huddle and drove the Bucs 54 yards on five plays, capped off by a 30-yard touchdown strike to WR Edell Shepherd to pull Tampa Bay within one point. FB Mike Alstott then plowed in for the two-point conversion to give the Buccaneers a 36-35 come-from-behind win.
Coming of Age, Part II A week after leading the Buccaneers past the Redskins, Simms worked his magic again, this time on the road against the Atlanta Falcons. With Tampa Bay trailing 27-20 midway through the final quarter, Simms engineered an 11-play, 71-yard drive that culminated with a nine-yard Carnell Williams touchdown run. On the ensuing possession, the Buccaneers defense forced an Atlanta turnover to set up a 45-yard game-winning field goal by K Matt Bryant.
Simms in the Community Chris, who regularly participates in Buccaneers community relations events, is also known to quietly and spontaneously help kids in Tampa and New York. Since working a youth football camp in New York a couple years ago, he has "adopted" two of the campers and each year sends the boys football equipment and clothing prior to the start of the season. Additionally, on his drive home following Buccaneers games, Chris often stops by neighborhoods near the stadium unannounced to visit disadvantaged kids and pass out Buccaneers memorabilia.