Functional, Efficient: Griese Was 'Da Man'
If you go by dressing time before media interviews - and some of us factor that in - Brian Griese gets our nod over Jeff Garcia as Bucs starting quarterback. Garcia always put his suit on before his postgame. Griese, still wearing his Bucs uniform, stepped to the podium.

He da man. Actually, Tiger Woods is da man. God knows why, but Tiger and Tiger's Knee attended the Bucs' 24-9 win against the Falcons on Sunday. After that, drama fled. It was a functional day.

It was a Get It Done day. It was a Brian Griese day. "I wasn't trying to sway anyone," Griese said after his return as a Bucs starter. "I was just trying to win the football game."

Too late. His coach was swayed. "I'm going to talk to both guys before I say anything," Jon Gruden said. "I think I need to do that."

That lasted about four minutes. Gruden can't help himself. He's a Griese man. "I foresee him being a starter, OK?"

Shocking. It was Griese's job to lose, and though he tried at times, he didn't lose it because his team won and his coach didn't want him to lose it. He did a great job watching the Bucs' defense silence the Falcons and their rookie quarterback, Matt Ryan. He did a fine job handing the ball to Warrick Dunn before Dunn ran 17 yards for a score and later when Earnest Graham took it 68 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.

There really should be a quarterback controversy, but there isn't. I think Jeff Garcia has the chance of making more plays than Brian Griese. Then again, if the Bucs truly commit to the run (doubtful) and the defense plays as it did Sunday, Griese, functional, professional, might be the answer.

Yes, he overthrew a wide open Alex Smith for a sure touchdown. "That first throw, I was a little pumped up," Griese said.

Yes, he later overthrew Antonio Bryant. He also some made more plays on third down than Garcia did last week. Still, you can't say Griese was a bump-up from Garcia. He netted 4.5 yards per pass play on Sunday. I think the Bucs have netted 4.5 yards a pass play the whole time Gruden has been here.

The bottom line is that there will be no discussion. "He managed the game," Gruden said of Griese, who completed 18 of 31 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. "... He won the game as the starter, that's a great accomplishment in pro football. I thought he missed a couple of guys he normally hits, but he managed the football game, made some timely plays on third down. I think he'll get better and better."

Managed the game? Huzzah, huzzah. Gruden went on: "I'm not going to say a whole lot about what Griese did today. I'm going to say what he didn't do - he didn't turn the ball over other than I think he got sacked from the blind side in the red zone. He knew the No. 1 objective was to protect the football. I thought he did some good things."

Translation: Garcia is done. What's that saying?

If you have two starting quarterbacks, you really don't have any. There was no more zip on Griese's throws than there were on Garcia's last week. And remember: Garcia clearly was a difference maker as the Bucs erased that 4-12 2006 season. Maybe Griese won't have to make that difference, by the looks of Graham's running. Maybe all it really needs is a manager.

Eventually, I think it will take more. It might as soon as next Sunday, when Griese returns to Chicago to play the Bears, who dumped him. The Bucs once dumped him, too. The guy never quits. You had to be happy for him Sunday. "I wanted to come out today and get the win, first and foremost," Brian Griese said.

You da manager.

Martin Fennelly, The Tampa Tribune 15 September 2008