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Tampa Bay Buccaneers


A day after his 29th birthday, quarterback Brian Griese signs with the Buccaneers, giving the team two of the top 12 rated passers in NFL history


QB Brian Griese owns a career completion percentage of 61.8% and a TD/INT ratio of 76/59

The available spots in Jon Gruden's QB School are filling up rapidly.

On Friday, Gruden's Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed seventh-year veteran quarterback Brian Griese, formerly of the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos. It is the team's second passer acquisition of the week, following the signing of 12th-year veteran Jason Garrett on Monday.

Griese signed on just in time to begin work with Gruden and the rest of the Buccaneer quarterbacks on Monday. During this time of the year, the Bucs head coach, a noted developer of quarterbacks, spends a significant amount of his time with the team's passers, indoctrinating them in Tampa Bay's offense.

The Bucs now have four signal-callers under contract, including incumbent starter Brad Johnson and second-year man Chris Simms, a 2003 third-round draft pick. According to General Manager Bruce Allen, potential signees were informed that Johnson is the team's starter; nevertheless, Griese's extensive starting experience is a valuable commodity for Tampa Bay, as are his well-demonstrated passing talents.

"He's a guy that's thrown for 67 percent in a single season and led the AFC in passing efficiency one year with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions," said Gruden. "He's got some background into the style of football in which we play."

Griese, who signed with the Bucs the day after his 29th birthday, has played in 58 career games with 56 starts, most of them with the Broncos from 1998-2002. A third-round draft choice out of Michigan in 1998, he played sparingly as a reserve behind John Elway and Bubby Brister, but became Elway's successor in 1999. After a strong first season under center, Griese put together a sparkling 2000 campaign, leading the NFL in passer rating (102.9) and earning a Pro Bowl berth.

Two injuries to his right (throwing) shoulder in 2000 limited him to 10 games but he still threw 19 touchdown passes against just four interceptions, as recalled by Gruden above. He also completed 64.3% of his passes (216-336) for 2,688 yards, and was sacked just 17 times. The second shoulder ailment, a separated AC joint, cost him five games in November and December, but he showed tremendous courage on the night he sustained the injury, a 27-24 Monday Night Football Victory over the Oakland Raiders. Griese hurt his shoulder during the second series of the game but returned in the second quarter and completed 25 of 37 passes for 262 yards, one touchdown and one interception, eventually constructing the game-winning drive.

Griese started 28 more games for Denver in 2001 and 2002, but was released prior to 2003 and signed by the Dolphins to compete with Jay Fiedler. Last year, he started five games for Miami, compiling a 3-2 mark as a starter. He is 30-26 as a starter during his career.

Griese is the son of former NFL quarterback Bob Griese, who played 14 seasons in Miami and helped lead the Dolphins to three Super Bowl appearances and two NFL titles. Gruden, who has a profound respect for the game's history and its most accomplished performers, certainly appreciates Brian Griese's lineage. The Buccaneers, in fact, employ two sons of former NFL passers, as Simms' father, Phil Simms, was a Super Bowl-winning passer for the New York Giants.

Griese and Simms are two of only five father-son quarterback combinations in NFL history.

The Bucs' roster also now includes two of the top 12 men on the league's all-time passer rating chart. Johnson ranks 10th with a career rating of 84.1 while Griese stands 12th with a mark of 83.0.

Griese's work in limited playing time last year marked the first time, discounting his three-pass rookie season, in which he has compiled a rating of less than 75.6 or thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. Overall, he has strong career numbers in completion percentage (61.8%) and touchdown-interception ratio (76-59), and has passed for over 3,000 yards on two occasions.

Griese's career numbers include 1,118 completions in 1,808 attempts for 12,576 yards, 76 touchdowns and 59 interceptions. He has also rushed for 516 yards and five touchdowns.

Griese was a four-year letterman at Michigan (1994-97), leading the Wolverines to a 12-0 record and a share of the national championship in his senior year. That season, he was a finalist for the Davey O'Brien Award, given to the nation's top quarterback, after passing for 2,293 yards and 17 touchdowns. He hails from Miami.

The addition of Griese marks the 14th free agent the team has signed or re-signed in just 16 days on the open market. So far, a majority of those players have been on the offensive side of the ball, including four starting-caliber offensive linemen, Derrick Deese, Matt Stinchcomb, Matt O'Dwyer and Todd Steussie. Other offensive signees include Garrett, running back Charlie Garner, fullback Greg Comella and tight ends Rickey Dudley (one of the Bucs' own unrestricted free agents) and Dave Moore. On the defensive side, the team has inked cornerback Tom Knight and linebackers Keith Burns and Jeff Gooch. Burns and Gooch will also help the Bucs on special teams as will the signing of punter Josh Bidwell.

Even with all of this activity, the Bucs are probably not close to being finished.

"You're trying to assemble the best group of guys you can to take to Orlando, Florida, for training camp," said Gruden. "That's what we're going to continue to do and if someone has some redeeming qualities that we think will help our team, by God we're going to try and get him in here and work with him."

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