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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rich History

Former NFL MVP Rich Gannon accepted Coach Jon Gruden’s invitation to come to Tampa and share the weight of his experience with Chris Simms and the other Buc QBs


He may have taken a pounding from Greg Spires and the Bucs in Super Bowl XXXVII, but Rich Gannon was one of the most elusive quarterbacks of recent NFL vintage

Rich Gannon strolled out onto the back porch of One Buccaneer Place wearing multiple layers of Tampa Bay Buccaneers garb, even though he was only visiting for one day.

The wardrobe selection was by necessity. Gannon had just soaked in – literally – a two-hour Buccaneers practice conducted under a steady rain on Tuesday morning, and he came inside in need of some dry clothes. The former NFL MVP drew the line, however, at a certain selection of t-shirts printed up about three years ago.

"They tried to slip some Super Bowl clothes on me," said Gannon of his Buc hosts. "I thought that was a little much."

One can understand Gannon's distaste for that line of clothing. His Oakland Raiders were on the losing end of Super Bowl XXXVII against Tampa Bay, which followed Gannon's 2002 MVP season. It's not an evening he's fond of remembering, nor one he could easily escape during his visit to Tampa and the Bucs' headquarters. Several of the large pictures hanging in the One Buc hallways depict Gannon being sacked by Buc defenders, and his stop by the Buccaneers Golf Classic on Monday brought him into close proximity with the Lombardi Trophy.

Despite those predictable reminders, Gannon was more than willing to accept Head Coach Jon Gruden's invitation to come to town and speak with the Bucs' current quarterbacks. It was an opportunity to return the favor to Gruden and Quarterbacks Coach Paul Hackett, who, at various stops in Gannon's 17-year playing career, aided immensely in his development. He learned many lessons during three years with Hackett in Kansas City and three with Gruden in Oakland that he now believes he can pass on to Chris Simms and company.

"Jon asked me just to come down and talk with them a little bit," said Gannon. "I'm going to share some things that have helped me over the years play the position. I got a chance to play 17 years, so I think along the way you pick up some things, some valuable tips and some keys that could help these guys, I hope. I'm happy to do that."

A starter for most of the 1990-92 seasons with his first team, the Minnesota Vikings, Gannon was considered something of a journeyman during the middle part of the 90s when he spent five seasons as mostly a backup in Washington and Kansas City. However, after making 10 starts for the Chiefs in 1998, Gannon joined Gruden's Raiders in 1999 and was transformed almost immediately into one of the league's most prolific passers. Starting all 16 games from 1999-2002 (the last year under Head Coach Bill Callahan), Gannon averaged 26 touchdown passers per season and steadily inflated his passer rating from 86.5 to 97.3. In leading the Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVII, Gannon compiled enormous numbers: 4,689 yards, 67.6% completion rate, 26 touchdowns versus 10 interceptions and a career-best 97.3 passer rating.

Besides such gaudy numbers – he eventually finished with 132 career starts, 28,743 passing yards and 180 touchdowns – Gannon is best remembered for his outstanding mobility, in terms of both running for extra yardage and throwing accurately on the move. It is in this area that he might be of particular use to Simms, the Bucs' starter, particularly if the team continues to build on Gannon's tips throughout the offseason.

"Adding that dimension to his game can certainly help him," said Gannon of Simms. "If it's a point of emphasis, if it's something you work on in the offseason, it's usually something you do better the following season. It means taking care of the football and not turning it over, or helping your football team by pulling the ball down on a couple of occasions and maybe running for some first downs. That's something that can help round out him and make him a more complete player."

Gannon was impressed with Simms during Tuesday's two-hour field session, after which he planned to sit down with all of the Bucs' passers to pass on his hard-earned expertise.

"The thing that really impressed me was just his command in the huddle, his communication between the players and the way he processed the information in the plays," said Gannon. "There's a lot of verbiage in this system and he takes it and he handles it and it seems like it's not too much for him. That's the most impressive thing for me. I mean, physically, you look at him and he's got all the tools. He's a big, strong guy, he can make the throws, he's got good feet, he's good out on the edge.

"I think it's just a question of him getting more and more experience and more playing time, and I think the sky's the limit for him."

One of the main lessons Gannon will look to impart to Simms and the rest of the Bucs passers is that durability is as important as mobility, and that the latter shouldn't jeopardize the former. Though his 4,700 yards and 26 touchdowns probably won him the MVP in 2002, Gannon would probably point to his 16 starts as being the key statistic. Again, over those first four seasons in Oakland he never missed a start, and the Raiders' offense steadily progressed up the league's charts, not coincidentally.

"That's one of the things I'm going to talk to him about," said Gannon. "Your biggest value to a football team as a quarterback is lining up under center every Sunday. If you were to ask 20 people on the street – if you were to ask 20 players in the National Football League – who are the two or three best quarterbacks in the NFL right now, most people would probably say, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, maybe Brett Favre.

"If you look at all three of those guys, what they have in common, they always line up and play every week. Not only that, but they're always out here on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday taking all the reps in practice. That's really your value to a football team to be a consistent performer, a guy who takes care of himself physically and mentally and is ready to play, and a guy who understands not only his strengths but his limitations."

Gannon's own career eventually wound down due to injuries. A shoulder injury cost him all but seven games in 2003, and his final game played was a Week Three win over the Buccaneers in 2004, during which he sustained a season-ending neck injury on a hit by Derrick Brooks.

Gannon is now a NFL game analyst for CBS, and he made it clear on Tuesday that his playing days were over. He also doubts he will give coaching in the league a try due to that profession's rather severe time demands. Gannon enjoys his new gig and feels quite satisfied with his 17 years in the NFL.

Still, there is one night during those 17 years at which he'd like to have another shot. On Tuesday, Gannon chatted with Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin and showed him two pages of notes he had prepared for Kiffin's defense in the Super Bowl. Much of it went unused when the Bucs snared five interceptions and built a 34-3 third-quarter lead.

"I went and showed [Kiffin] some of the things that I had ready for him in the game and I said, 'It's unfortunate we couldn't get to some of this stuff because of how the game went,'" said Gannon. "Jon and I have had a chance to talk about the game and the way it went and the things that happened. Hey, the best team won that night. We did not play our best football. It's unfortunate, but that's how it works sometimes."

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