TAMPA, FL. – In the Bucs’ 2020 season opener at New Orleans, Tom Brady became the 19th Week 1 starting quarterback in the team’s history. Should he retire, general manager Jason Licht and coach Bruce Arians will need a 20th.
The list of 19 includes eight first-round selections of the Bucs or other teams, as well as three Heisman winners.
1976 Steve Spurrier
Nearly a decade after being selected third overall by the 49ers in 1967, Spurrier returned to his home state when he was acquired from San Francisco by the expansion Bucs. In the team’s first game, a 20-0 loss to Bum Phillips’ Houston Oilers in the Astrodome, Spurrier, then 31 and playing his final season, completed 8-of-21 passes for 90 yards. He threw two interceptions and was sacked three times.
1977 Randy Hedberg
An eighth-round pick by the Bucs that spring out of Minot (N.D.) State, Hedberg completed 10-of-25 passes for 66 yards (no picks) and was sacked five times in a 13-3 loss in Philadelphia. Five years later Hedberg, who threw 10 interceptions and no touchdowns in his lone season in the NFL, became the head coach at his alma mater and has been an assistant at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State since 2014.
1978 Doug Williams
As the 17th pick in 1978 out of Grambling, Williams was the first black quarterback selected in the first round of an NFL draft. His debut, a season-opening Saturday night at Tampa Stadium against the Giants, was brief thanks to a first-quarter injury. Williams completed one of his five passes and threw an interception that Giants corner Terry Jackson returned 32 yards for a touchdown in a 19-13 loss.
1983 Jerry Golsteyn
Golsteyn, who was the Giants’ starting QB in Williams’ NFL debut, attempted only two passes the previous four seasons. He threw for 120 yards (no picks) in an 11-0 defeat to the Lions in the 1983 opener at Tampa Stadium. Golsteyn would play in four more games (two starts) with the Bucs that season before retiring.
1984 Jack Thompson
The Thowin’ Samoan, who the Bengals selected third overall in 1979 and who took over for Golsteyn and during the 1983 season, completed 4-of-17 for 105 yards, a touchdown (74 yards to Gerald Carter) and four interceptions in a 34-14 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field. Thompson started two more games that season before retiring.
1985 Steve DeBerg
DeBerg, who took over for Thompson and started 13 games in 1984, got off to a hot start in 1985 by throwing three first-half touchdown passes to give the Bucs a 28-17 lead over the Bears at Soldier Field. It was all Chicago thereafter as Tampa Bay fell, 38-28. DeBerg threw for 160 yards and two picks to go with his trio of TDs.
Selected first overall out of Miami in 1987, Testaverde started the final four games of his rookie season. He threw five interceptions in the 1988 opener, a 41-14 loss to the visiting Eagles in a game the Bucs trailed 34-0 at the half. Testaverde completed 21-of-45 for 324 yards and two touchdowns.
1994 Craig Erickson
Erickson, another former Hurricane, became the starting QB in Week 2 of the 1993 season when it was clear DeBerg’s second stint with the Bucs was not the way to go. In a turnover-free 1994 opener, Erickson threw for 197 yards in a 21-9 loss at Chicago. That season would be his last of three with the Bucs.
1995 Trent Dilfer
Selected sixth overall by the Bucs in 1994 out of Fresno State, Dilfer spent his rookie season backing up Erickson. In opening the 1995 season with a 21-6 win at Philadelphia, he threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Horace Copeland was on the receiving end of five of Dilfer’s 11 completions for 155 yards.
2000 Shaun King
King’s only NFL season as a full-time starter began with a 21-16 win at New England, which had rookie Tom Brady inactive. King threw for 167 yards and a touchdown, eight yards to Reidel Anthony with 31 seconds left in the half to give the Bucs the lead for good.
2001 Brad Johnson
Johnson’s plunge into the end zone from a yard out early in the fourth quarter was the difference in the Bucs’ 10-6 win at Dallas. Making his Tampa Bay debut after signing as a free agent, Johnson threw for 195 yards and one interception. He helped lead the Bucs to their first Super Bowl the following season.
2005 Brian Griese
Griese’s two second-quarter touchdown passes to tight end Alex Smith highlighted a 24-13 win at Minnesota. He threw for 213 and two interceptions. Signed as a free agent in 2004, Griese started 16 games in two seasons for the Bucs before signing with the Bears, who traded him back to Tampa Bay in 2008.
2006 Chris Simms
Simms, who started 12 games for the Bucs over the previous two seasons, opened 2006 with three interceptions (133 yards) in a 27-0 loss to the Ravens at Raymond James Stadium. Simms would start two more games before giving way to Bruce Gradkowski.
2007 Jeff Garcia
Signed as a free agent, Garcia helped lead the Bucs to a division title in his first of two seasons with the team. While his numbers were solid (201 yards, no picks, 91.7 rating) in his Bucs’ debut, the offense could not get the ball in the end zone during a 20-6 loss at Seattle.
2009 Byron Leftwich
The first of only three games (all starts) with the Bucs, Leftwich threw for 276 yards and one touchdown in a turnover-free effort during a 34-21 loss to visiting Dallas. Leftwich, taken seventh overall by Jacksonville in 2003, was benched by coach Raheem Morris prior to Week 4 and never took another snap for the Bucs. He became Bruce Arians’ offensive coordinator in 2019.
2010 Josh Freeman
Freeman, who the Bucs took 17th overall out of Kansas State in 2009, started nine games as a rookie. In the 2010 opener, his 33-yard touchdown pass to Michael Spurlock with 6:45 remaining in the fourth quarter lifted the Bucs to a 17-14 win over the Browns at RJS. Freeman, who started 58 games over five seasons with Tampa Bay, threw for 182 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick.
2014 Josh McCown
In Lovie Smith’s Tampa Bay coaching debut, McCown threw for 183 yards, two touchdowns and two picks in a 20-14 loss to visiting Carolina. McCown started 11 games that season before being released the following March.
2015 Jameis Winston
The No. 1 pick out of Florida State opened his career opposite the No. 2 pick out of Oregon, the Titans’ Marcus Mariota. Winston threw for 210 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 42-14 home loss. Winston played five seasons for the Bucs and his team records include 19,737 passing yards and 121 passing touchdowns.
2020 Tom Brady
The Bucs’ second Super Bowl-winning season, and Brady’s debut with the team, opened with a 34-23 loss at New Orleans. Brady threw for 239 yards, two touchdowns, two picks and he was sacked three times. His two-yard TD run midway through the first quarter opened the scoring.