TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Chris Simms will make his first pro start at quarterback for the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week, replacing Brad Johnson.
"I hope I can give us the spark we need," Simms said Wednesday, when the Bucs (0-4) began preparation for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints (2-2).
The second-year pro is the son of former New York Giants star Phil Simms. The Bucs selected him in the third round of the 2003 draft, and the strong-armed left-hander saw his first regular-season action in relief of Johnson three weeks ago.
Simms learned of coach Jon Gruden's decision on Tuesday.
"I was ear to ear, smiling all day. I'm excited. ... It's long way from being the last pick of the third round," the 24-year-old quarterback said.
Simms replaced Johnson after 15 plays of Tampa Bay's 10-6 loss to Seattle on Sept. 19. Although he led two drives to field goals, he fumbled twice - losing one, while committing the other on the Seahawks 1-yard line and forcing his team to settle for three points instead of a touchdown - and tossed a clinching interception.
Johnson, 36, led the Bucs to Super Bowl victory two seasons ago, but he has lost 10 of his last 13 starts, including six in a row dating to last year.
Tampa Bay's offense has struggled to get the ball in the end zone, ranking next to last in the league in points. The unit, which is missing holdout receiver Keenan McCardell and several injured players, began the season with a stretch of 11 quarters without a TD.
Johnson has completed 65 of 103 passes for 674 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in four games.
Simms was the emergency quarterback during last week's 16-13 loss to Denver, and was inserted into the game to throw a desperation pass on the final play. He is 21-of-33 for 175 yards, no TDs and one interception.
While some may view the move as a sign Gruden has given up on this season and is looking to the future, Simms and his teammates say nothing is further from the truth.
"We're trying to win now," Simms said. "Who's to say we can't win four in a row. No one's given up."
Rookie receiver Michael Clayton, who leads the club with 19 receptions for 240 yards and one TD, agreed.
"There's still time to do great things this season," Clayton said.