During his first season as a Buccaneer, Brian Griese set a team record with a 97.5 passer rating
For the fourth time since 2005, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have swung a trade to land a quarterback. This time, they've added a prolific passer with whom they are already very familiar.
On Monday, the Buccaneers sent an undisclosed 2009 draft pick to the Chicago Bears in exchange for Brian Griese, an 11th-year veteran with more than 18,000 career passing yards on his resume. Griese was a Buccaneer during the 2004 and 2005 seasons before signing with Chicago as a free agent in 2006.
As a reserve to Rex Grossman in Chicago, Griese played in just 13 games with six starts over his two seasons with the Bears. All six of his starts came last year, as he led the Bears to a 3-3 record during a month-and-a-half at the helm; Chicago was 4-6 in the 10 games he did not start.
Griese's return to Tampa reunites him with Head Coach Jon Gruden and brings him back to the location of one of his best seasons. In 2004, Griese took over the Bucs' starting job after Brad Johnson was benched and Chris Simms was injured, and he proceeded to put up big numbers in Gruden's attack. In 11 games and 10 starts, Griese completed 233 of 336 passes (69.3%) for 2,632 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He finished the season with a franchise-record 97.5 passer rating, beating Johnson's previous standard of 92.9 by a healthy margin.
Griese also established new Buccaneer single-season records for completion percentage and yards per pass attempt (7.83) in 2004.
Griese's highly-rated season in Tampa was no fluke. The 11th-year veteran, in fact, went into the 2007 season with the 17th-highest career passer rating in NFL history, nestled comfortably between Brett Favre (15th) and Jim Kelly (18th) at the time. His all-time mark of 83.6 (through the 2007 season) is built in part on a strong 114-92 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Following his outstanding 2004 campaign, Griese opened 2005 as the Bucs' starting quarterback. Six games in, however, he suffered a season-ending knee injury in a win over Miami, ceding the starting job back to Simms. The Bucs were 5-1 at the time. Simms finished the '05 season strong, leading the Bucs to a division title, and was re-signed by the team before the start of free agency in 2006.
Griese first entered the NFL as a third-round selection (91st overall) of the Denver Broncos in 1998. He spent five seasons in Denver, four as the starter, before being waived in the summer of 2003 and landing in Miami. After one year with the Dolphins, he moved up the state of Florida to Tampa.
In all, Griese has thrown 2,612 NFL passes, connecting on 1,642 of them for an outstanding career completion rate of 62.9%. In 2000, his second year as a starter in Denver, he earned a Pro Bowl nod despite being limited to 10 games by a shoulder injury. In those 10 starts, Griese racked up 2,688 yards, competed 64.3% of his passes and tossed 19 touchdowns against just four interceptions for a career-best passer rating of 102.9. In 2002, he set a Broncos record with a 66.7% completion percentage and put up a career best 3,214 passing yards.
With the acquisition of Griese, the Buccaneers now have five active quarterbacks under contract, including starter Jeff Garcia and reserves Luke McCown, Bruce Gradkowski and Chris Simms. Tampa Bay also owns the rights to former Denver quarterback Jake Plummer, who did not play in 2007. While the position has months to sort itself out – the Bucs carried four quarterback on the 53-man roster for part of 2007 but have most often carried three during the regular season – the team clearly believes that you cannot have too much talent at that position. That opinion has been reinforced by heavy turnover at the position in recent years, largely due to injuries. The Bucs haven't had one quarterback start all 16 games in a season since 2003 and have employed three different starters in three of the last six years.
Though player trades are relatively rare in the NFL, at least in comparison to the other major sports, the Buccaneers have used that avenue to their advantage quite frequently in recent years. They have found it particularly useful in bolstering the quarterback position, having landed McCown in a draft-weekend swap with Cleveland in 2005, Tim Rattay in a deadline-deal move with San Francisco later that year and Plummer in a trade with Denver exactly one year ago. Other important contributors the Bucs have added via trade this decade include wide receiver Joey Galloway and running back Thomas Jones.