BUCPOWER.COM INTERVIEW - JEFF CARLSON
This interview took place in April 2011. Jeff played the 1991 season with the Buccaneers and made his only start in the December road game in Chicago having backed up Vinny Testaverde and Chris Chandler during that season. He now works in both the pharmaceutical sales industry and as a sports presenter on Bay News 9 in Tampa. And he took the time to talk to us too.
How did you wind up in the NFL with the Bucs after ending your college career at Weber State?
I was drafted in the 4th round by the Los Angeles Rams and spent the 1989 season playing 10 minutes from my parent’s house, a dream come true!
Coming off my rookie year with the Rams, Coach John Robinson told me they liked me and they wanted me back the following year, but would probably still be third behind Jim Everett and Mark Hermann. I didn’t mind being behind Everett, but I thought there should be some real competition for #2.
I was a free agent and went on visits to places like Detroit, Green Bay, Washington, Minnesota and Tampa. Ray Perkins said that Joe Ferguson was out of the picture and the #2 job was open. A bit of a bidding war started with the Bucs and Rams (all things being equal, I might have stayed in L.A.—my hometown).
Perkins recruited me like it was college, calling me from different NFL meetings, making me feel important to him. The money worked itself out and I was very happy to come to Tampa. I had hopes and dreams of doing what Kurt Warner did for the Rams, but…..
What was it like being with the Bucs in 1991? Most people saw Coach Richard Williamson as a cheap stop-gap after Ray Perkins was fired
Coach Williamson was a good guy and a good position coach, but his personality changed when he became head coach. 1991 was a tough year. There was decent chemistry going in. We were going to do a lot of pre-snap motion and shifting, but I don’t think it accomplished anything strategically, more “window dressing” than anything.
Chris Chandler was making a bit of noise to get a real shot at taking over the starting QB spot when Vinny struggled, but he didn’t create much offense when he got his chance and then made more noise. The Bucs let him go mid-season and it made me #2, so I wasn’t too upset. We were good enough to compete for a while in most games, but when it came down to crunch time, we didn’t really believe in ourselves and let some get away that we should have competed better in.
You were backing up Vinny Testaverde and Chris Chandler. What were they like as team-mates?
I liked both Vinny and Chris very much. Chris and I were very close friends, as he was very much like my best friend from growing up. He was a starter his rookie year in Indianapolis and didn’t like being behind Vinny very much. They had a pretty cold relationship, especially as the 1991 season ensued (I do remember all of us laughing together at times, but not at the end). Chris had made some public comments and that didn’t help the situation.
There was a very public spat between the two of them that saw Chandler released. Any comments on what happened?
Chris wanted to be the starter and said so. I don’t remember exactly how it came out in the media, but he must have said negative things about Vinny’s performance (I don’t think there was anything personal said). It wasn’t nasty, but it made the locker room a less fun place to be. I don’t remember a back and forth from Vinny, it was mostly Chris trying to get the starter’s job.
You made your first appearance in relief of Vinny against the Packers. Can you remember that game?
Actually my first public appearance was in San Diego in 1990. It was significant for me, not only because I got into my first game, but my Grandfather was there. I had a very good relationship with him and he came to many of my games in Utah (from Long Beach, CA) throughout college and when I played for the Rams, he wouldn’t come to my games because he thought the excitement would give him a heart attack. After moving to the Buccaneers, my family made him come to the game and I got my very first regular season playing time.
The game against the Packers came in relief of Chris Chandler and is what probably led to his being let go. He started the game and was so bad that I replace him in the second quarter. If he played well he probably would have become the starter. Instead, he was terrible and I wasn’t much better, so Vinny kept his job and Chris got picked up by Arizona.
And your first start came at the end of the year when Vinny was hurt in Chicago. A tough place to open I guess?
Vinny had been nursing a sore lower back and the game was on Saturday, so one less day to get better. It wasn’t a sure thing that I was going to start until we flew out of Tampa International and Vinny wasn’t on the plane.
The night before we left, Dexter Manley got suspended a final time for a failed drug test. This took significant focus off our game against the division leading Bears. We flew into Chicago on Friday and the weather was quite mild.
Saturday, the wind was blowing back and forth with 40 mile an hour wind gusts. The wind chill was -12 degress, which, I believe, ranks in the top two coldest games in team history. It was a nightmare for throwing. Singletary, Dent, The Fridge, Hampton and the rest of the Bears defense was a nightmare as well. Keep an eye on this summer’s Hall Of Fame induction for Richard Dent, I will probably be starring in his highlights!
You moved on to New England after leaving the Bucs - how did that go?
I only left the Bucs because Sam Wyche mismanaged Plan B Free Agency in 1992. He lied to me and others about what they were offering different players. Some players lied to him, but I didn’t.
After visiting the Giants, Jets, Browns, Chiefs and Cardinals, the Giants became the most interested. I got one of the highest Plan B contracts that year and I was very happy to go to the defending Super Bowl Champions, with the hopes of taking over in a few years from Jeff Hostetler.
The Giants took Dave Brown (a Spurrier product from Duke) in the supplemental draft—which made him a first round pick. That sealed my fate before training camp opened. I got picked up by the Patiriots because Dick Coury was my QB coach with the Rams and was their offensive coordinator.
What did you do after leaving football? What do you do now?
In the off-seasons I worked an informal internship with NewsChannel 8 in Tampa. After retiring in 1994 from the Broncos, I worked for Channel 8 doing sports reporting and anchoring. It wasn’t a “real” position, they created it for me through the football season, so I needed to figure out what to do.
I looked at my broadcasting options and wasn’t willing to move around the country just to be on TV, so I got into pharmaceutical sales back in the Los Angeles area. My wife and I stayed there three years and had a son (now almost 14). We decided to move back to Tampa and I stayed with the same drug company.
I’m on my third pharmaceutical company now and after hosting the weekend sports shows at Bay News 9 for a number of years, I am still commentating on the high school football games for Bright House Sports Network. I also run QB clinics every week for youth and high school players at AmericasBestQB.com.
Any good or bad memories, any regrets on your career?
I’ll answer the last part first. I have no regrets at all. I wish certain things went differently both on and off the field, but the simple opportunity to play football in the NFL was so special it still seems like a dream sometimes.
I have great memories (less and less all the time though as I get older). My rookie year with the Rams we went to Tokyo, Japan to play the 49ers in the pre-season. It broke up training camp and was an incredible trip. I paid for my parents to come with us on the team plane and stay at our hotel (team made it a good rate). It was my thank you to them for all the support over the years.
We played the 49ers that year four times, the last one in the NFC Championship game, Montana’s last Super Bowl win. That was the game that got Jim Everett his “Chrissy” nickname by Jim Rome. He saw Charles Haley coming around the end—he was about 4-5 yards away and he went down to the ground without being touched. I was on the sideline watching.
It wasn’t a good day for us, but the weekend before we beat the N.Y. Giants in overtime as Flipper Anderson caught a TD pass and ran right into the tunnel and never camp back! We also beat Randall Cunningham and the Eagles on the road in a foggy, rainy day in Philadelphia.
Spending the summer in New Jersey with the Giants was both great and terrible all at once. I knew I was going to get cut because of the supplemental draft pick, but after two training camps at the University of Tampa, New Jersey was like heaven. Also, rooming with Phil Simms was great.
The craziness of practical jokes between Hostetler and Simms and other guys was awesome! While we were having combined practices with the Cleveland Browns, Bernie Kosar came to practice with “Hotstuff” in his jockstrap. After a couple minutes of being at practice, he had to take an extended timeout to take care of a personal matter, if you know what I mean.
There was a lot of late night craziness the whole training camp. One night I was sleeping on the second floor by the window. About 2 in the morning, an army-fatigued and ski-masked guy crashes through the 2 inch metal blinds on top of me. Kent Graham (Ohio State) was asleep in the other bed and tackles him to the ground. It was Jeff Hostetler, the starting quarterback of the New York Giants who had climbed a ladder in the middle of the night to tear blinds off the wall and risk his life! It was a great summer and I did get cut at the end of training camp.
And if the Bucs UK needed a quarterback to take on the Chicago Bears UK fans at Wembley this October, could we convince you to come out of retirement?!
Let me ask my agent on that one! My wife says no, unless she can come too, then sure!