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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Gannon puts hurtful past aside to aid Bucs QBs
By JOANNE KORTH
Published May 17, 2006
[Times photo: Bill Serne]
Ex-NFL quarterback Rich Gannon, right, in town to help Bucs quarterbacks, chats with Jon Gruden, his former coach.
TAMPA - Retired quarterback Rich Gannon still hasn't gotten over the beating the Bucs gave his Raiders, and him especially, in Super Bowl XXXVII. Nor has he forgotten the hit by Derrick Brooks that essentially ended his career.
But he's here to help.
Gannon, who ran Jon Gruden's version of the west coast offense with precision in Oakland, is spending two days in Tampa tutoring the Bucs' crop of young quarterbacks. Gannon attended meetings and a light practice Tuesday and will do so again today as the team continues with offseason workouts.
"It's good to be here and good to get a chance to work with the quarterbacks a little bit," said Gannon, who played 18 seasons before retiring in August 2005.
"Jon asked me to come down and talk to them a little bit and share some things that have helped me play the position over the years. You pick up valuable tips and keys that can help these guys, I hope. I'm happy to do that."
Gannon has more NFL experience than the five quarterbacks on the Bucs bloated offseason roster combined. Starter Chris Simms, whose father, Phil, was a Super Bowl MVP, values Gannon's insights because Gannon excelled in Gruden's offense.
"It's awesome," Simms said. "If there's anybody who's perfected this offense in the last 15 years, you'd probably say him and Steve Young. It's just tremendous to hear his view on things and I look forward to picking his brain because he has so much to offer."
Gannon, 40, played three seasons under Gruden in Oakland and three under Tampa Bay quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett when Hackett was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City in the 1990s. Those ties were enough to overcome any discomfort he felt being at One Buc Place.
"I walk in the building and there's pictures of me getting sacked in the Super Bowl," Gannon said. "It will always be a sore spot. ... But it's funny, I was just showing Monte Kiffin my notes from the game. I told him it's unfortunate we couldn't get to some of this stuff because of the way the game went."
A journeyman until he signed as a free agent with Oakland, Gannon was an instant success with Gruden. He threw for more than 3,400 yards and went to the Pro Bowl three straight seasons. In 2002, Gannon was named league MVP for leading the Raiders to the Super Bowl, but they were soundly beaten by the Bucs with Gruden on the opposite sideline.
Gannon retired because of a neck injury sustained in a regular-season game against the Bucs in 2004 during a helmet-to-helmet collision with linebacker Brooks. Gannon was scrambling for positive yardage and slid into Brooks. He never played again.
Gannon said he has no intention of reviving his playing career as a veteran backup for the Bucs or in becoming a coach, prefering the schedule of his current job as CBS analyst to an 80-hour work week.
Among the points Gannon is emphasizing with Simms, Luke McCown, Tim Rattay and sixth-round pick Bruce Gradkowski is the importance of staying healthy. A big part of that is knowing when, and how, to scramble, something that made Gannon effective.
"Your biggest value to a football team as a quarterback is lining up under center every Sunday," said Gannon, citing the durability of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Brett Favre. "That's really your value to a football team, to be a consistent performer and be a guy who takes care of himself physically and mentally, a guy who understands not only his strengths but also his limitations."
Impressed with Simms' physical tools, grasp of the system and command of the huddle, Gannon suggested Simms could round out his game by becoming more elusive in the pocket.
"Adding that dimension to his game can certainly help him," Gannon said. "If it's a point of emphasis, something you work on during the offseason, it's usually something you do better with the following season, whether it's taking care of the football, not turning it over, or helping your football team by pulling the ball down on a couple occasions and maybe running for some first downs. That can make him a more complete player."
In sharing insights gained during his 18 NFL seasons, Gannon was glad to return favors to Gruden and Hackett for the positive impacts they had on his career. He drew the line, however, after a rainy morning practice when he was offered dry clothing.
"They tried to slip some Super Bowl stuff on me," he said. "I thought that was a little bit much."