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The firing of Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski does not surprise Pewter Report – only the timing of it.
Pewter Report had been hearing rumblings of a split offensive staff dating back to April, but could not ascertain if this was simply sour grapes on the part of some of the holdovers from the Jon Gruden staff – quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, wide receivers coach Richard Mann and assistant wide receivers coach Tim Berbenich – or if the concerns were valid. It turns out the validity of the concerns led to Jagodzinski’s departure, but we did not have enough concrete information to report the rumors we have been hearing for months.
Had it turned out the rumors that suggested Jagodzinski was incompetent were baseless – nothing more than sour grapes – and Jagodzinski’s offense lit it up in 2009, our reporting would have been flat out wrong.
First, this was not a power grab by Olson. Others within the organization aside from the Gruden holdovers had their concerns with Jagodzinski’s competency as an NFL offensive coordinator. One of the biggest issues revolved around the fact that Jagodzinski had never called plays before.
When he was the offensive coordinator at Green Bay, head coach Mike McCarthy called the plays. When Jagodzinski was at Boston College, Bucs running backs coach Steve Logan, who was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator at the time, called most of the plays.
In fact, some members of the Buccaneers organization were surprised at how much advising Logan was doing with regards to playcalling, and some saw the hiring of Logan as a crutch for Jagodzinski because the two have coached together in stops at East Carolina and Boston College. This is what Raheem Morris meant when saying that Jagodzinski didn't have the necessary direction with regards to the offense.
Clearly, there was a divide on the work ethic issue involving Jagodzinski. Pewter Report had heard that his offensive meetings were more like briefings, and that Jagodzinski’s playbook was more like a pamphlet. This really concerned some members of the coaching staff, who were used to working longer and harder hours coming up with plays, correcting mistakes and installing game plans. One source said that Jagodzinski appears much more suited to coach college than pro football.
The team was concerned that it had made a mistake by hiring Jagodzinski after the first mini-camp because there was a lack of attention to details. It sensed no improvement in Jagodzinski’s attention to details throughout training camp and the preseason and decided to make a radical move now rather than doing it in-season.
Through three preseason games, the Bucs quarterbacks are completing 50 percent of their passes through the preseason. Byron Leftwich, the team’s starter, is completing just 48.8 percent of his passes. Backup Luke McCown, who is a career 59.7 percent passer, has completed just 53.6 percent of his passes. Josh Freeman, the team’s first-round pick this year, is only completing 46.9 percent of his passes, while second-year QB Josh Johnson leads the team with a 55.6 completion percentage.
Under Jon Gruden’s offense last year through three games in the preseason, Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks were collectively completing 67.3 percent of their passes. At this point in the preseason two years, the Bucs were still completing 61.8 percent of their passes, which is a far cry from completing 50 percent of their passes this year.
Despite what some have speculated, Tampa Bay's decision to fire Jagodzinski was not related to the team's decision to start Byron Leftwich over Luke McCown. Morris said this afternoon that the entire coaching staff, Jagodzinski included, was on board with the decision to start Leftwich.
Don’t buy the fact that Jagodzinski was offered the quarterbacks coaching job, either. That was a token public relations move and would have been a slap in the face of Olson, who is considered one of the best QBs coaches – if not the best – in the league. He wouldn’t have stood for it. It was a nice, public gesture made by the team, but they also released it was never going to happen.
Bucs fans should be encouraged by the fact that this move does not disrupt the offensive system in any way because Olson had a hand in shaping it during the offseason. The zone-blocking scheme is still being installed by offensive line coach Pete Mangurian. Tampa Bay will still be a run-first team that will continue to take shots down the field and have more of a vertical element in the passing game than in years past. The scheme won’t change with Olson taking the reins of the offense, only the down-in and down-out play-calling will experience change.
Olson was upset that he did not a chance to become the offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay back in January and that the team went in a different direction, but outwardly has been a good soldier despite being passed over the first time. That type of team-first attitude is not only what got him elevated to succeed Jagodzinski, but also consideration to be the team’s offensive coordinator beyond this year.
Olson, whose contract is set to expire at the end of the 2009 season, will be offered a contract extension to stay on as the team’s offensive coordinator past this season. Pewter Report believes that extension will get done. The Buccaneers want continuity in the offensive system, and coaching for the development of rookie quartebrack Josh Freeman. Olson stood a good chance to land an offensive coordinator position elsewhere after the season, and Freeman would have to get used to a new coach as he was being expected to crack the starting lineup.
Sources from inside the organization had pointed out that Jagodzinski is given more credit for developing Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan than he deserves. Jagodzinski was with Ryan for one season as his head coach, but did not run Ryan's quarterback room or call plays at Boston College that season.
Olson is viewed within the organization as a talented quartebrack developer. As a collegiate assistant he coached two All-Americans, Drew Brees and Jon Kitna, who made it as NFL quarterbacks, and identified and recruited quarterback Kyle Orton to Purdue as well. In the professional ranks Olson coached Marc Bulger and Jeff Garcia to Pro Bowl seasons. Olson's strengths are evaluating, developing, and coaching the quarterback position, and Tampa Bay wanted to be sure to have him perform those duties with Freeman.
Ironically, one of the offensive coordinator candidates the Bucs were originally targeting, Chan Gailey, never wound up being released from Kansas City upon the firing of Herman Edwards and the hiring of new head coach Todd Haley – until this week. Yet, the Bucs are committed to having Olson work with the quarterbacks and call the plays and will not pursue Gailey in any fashion.
Read Morris' comments on the firing of Jagodzinski by clicking here.