Tampa Bay (0-4) at New Orleans (2-2)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: New Orleans, LA
Temp: 80° F
  • Game info: 1:00 pm EDT Sun Oct 10, 2004
  • TV: FOX
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Chris Simms’ father began a storied career on a struggling team 25 years ago.

Hoping to follow a similar path, the second-year quarterback will try to resurrect the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he makes his first NFL start against the New Orleans Saints.

Simms is the son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms, who went 6-10 for the team in 1979 before helping the franchise to its only two Super Bowl titles. The Buccaneers selected Chris Simms in the third round of the 2003 draft, and the strong-armed left-hander saw his first regular season action in relief of Brad Johnson three weeks ago.

“I’m excited. … It’s a long way from being the last pick of the third round,” the 24-year-old signal-caller said. “I hope I can give us the spark we need.”

Chris Simms, who learned of coach Jon Gruden’s decision Tuesday, replaced Johnson after 15 plays of Tampa Bay’s 10-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 19. Though he led two field goal drives, he fumbled twice—losing one— while committing the other on the Seahawks’ 1-yard line to force his team to settle for three points instead of a touchdown. He also threw a game-clinching interception.

Johnson, 36, led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory two seasons ago, but has lost 10 of his last 13 starts, including six in a row dating to last year.

The Buccaneers were successful moving the ball in Sunday’s 16-13 loss to the Denver Broncos, but the offense struggled to get the ball in the end zone.

Gruden says his team has performed well enough to be better than 0-4, but conceded the players need positive results soon.

“When you date a girl for three or four years, at some point you have to walk down the aisle and say you do. You have to get it done, you have to put the ring on the finger. You have to execute,” Gruden said.

“We have been unable to take one home. It’s a problem right now. We have to break through … and hopefully this is the week. It is a concern, but I think this team knows how to win. We have a lot of winners. We just have to find a way to win.”

The Buccaneers are 7-13 since winning the Super Bowl in January 2003. They’re winless after four games for the first time since 1996, when they dropped their first five and were 1-8 before winning five of their last seven under first-year coach Tony Dungy.

New Orleans acquired cornerback Mike McKenzie from Green Bay on Monday for backup quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan and a second-round draft pick in 2005. Since ending his holdout without retracting his trade request three weeks ago, McKenzie played just nine snaps, all in one game, because of a hamstring injury.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said the injury wasn’t a serious issue.

“Yeah, we’re not going to trade for a guy who’s going to be on the shelf,” he said.

Loomis said it was hard to lose O’Sullivan, but “it’s a chance to get a good player at a position that is hard to find in the NFL. You don’t get the opportunity to get good players very often through trades.”

McKenzie, a starter for Green Bay since his rookie year, has 15 career interceptions. He comes off one of his most productive seasons with four interceptions, 58 tackles (55 solo) and 20 passes broken up.

Saints coach Jim Haslett downplayed an altercation between quarterback Aaron Brooks and defensive end Charles Grant that took place on the team plane on the flight back from a 34-10 loss at Arizona on Sunday.

“What I saw was two passionate guys getting in a verbal match,” Haslett said. “It was not bad. It was nothing more than (linebackers coach) Winston Moss and I got into during the game. Both guys are passionate about winning and they were both upset at the way they played and the way we played, and that was it.”

After Sunday’s loss, Brooks was clearly frustrated.

“I have to sit back and re-evaluate my situation here in New Orleans,” he said after the Saints dropped to 2-2. “I am going to keep fighting until the change comes and I’m going to keep throwing everything I can. I just have to look deep down in myself, I can’t point fingers at anyone.”

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