Bucs head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht took over a 4-12 football team following the 2013 season and after a flurry of free agent signings, a brand new staff and a draft class to work with, fingers were crossed that the team would see a marked improvement. But instead of making a run at the playoffs, most everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. But maybe nothing derailed the direction and fortunes of the Bucs more than when offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford fell ill during the preseason and ended up never calling a single game for Tampa Bay.
Finding a new offensive coordinator was a priority for Smith and Licht this offseason, and most feel they have a gem in former Jaguars and Falcons coordinator Dirk Koetter. One of those happy to have a new ship captain is center Evan Smith.
“It’s nice to have somebody to stare the ship on the offense,” Smith said. “I think I made some sort of comment about that last year. We didn’t really have… kind of, too many cooks in the kitchen going on. We have a guy that when we sit in the offensive meeting room, who is going to get up and make his presentation, but it’s his deal. He’s in control, he’s calling the plays. I like it. I really do like his offense. It’s good. He has had a lot of success with it. The biggest thing is having that leader. If you have a question and your coach can’t answer it, he can answer it.
“Honestly, for me, that’s the biggest thing – having someone that can point the ship in the right direction, so you’re not just out there sailing with no real navigation. The guy has it wired pretty tight with what he wants to do. A lot of it is just learning his language. We aren’t really running anything different, but it’s more organized, more in-depth, more detailed and he is really on top of that and that’s what I like about the guy.”
The Buccaneers gave up 52 sacks in 2014, third worst in the NFL. Many observed that de facto offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo, who was promoted following Tedford’s illness, didn’t utilize the players to their full potential. Receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson rarely were used other than running vertical routes which require the offensive line to hold their blocks longer. Also the tight ends were virtually absent in the play calling and even where screen passes to running backs had some early success in games, Arroyo rarely went back to them.
Koetter, who is going on his ninth season in the NFL as an offensive coordinator, is expected to help out his entire offense with a better scheme and play calling and not hang the line out to dry as it often was in 2014. PewterReport.com asked Koetter if his scheme can help an offensive line if they begin to struggle.
“First off, there is really no magic in anyone’s scheme,” Koetter. “Everyone in the NFL is running very similar offenses. Secondly, way too many sacks given up last year. I’m not criticizing anybody by saying that. That’s just a fact. Where the Bucs, where we have to improve is first and foremost our quarterback play and second, we have to improve our offensive line play. As coaches, whatever scheme we end up putting out there, we have to do our best to give those guys the best chance to be successful. We’ll do our best to try to help it. That’s too many sacks. We can’t have that many sacks. We can’t have that many turnovers. Period. That’s not a promise. I just saying we need to improve if we want to be competitive and we plan on being competitive.”
Evan Smith said on Monday he thinks Koetter’s playbook – and developing continuity – will help his unit in 2015.
“Yeah, I think anyone’s scheme is geared towards what your players can do the best,” Evan Smith said. “The strength of an offensive coordinator is how can he fit what he has with his guys into your system. You look at every team, not every team is going to be a big power team. Not every team is going to be a zone team. It all just depends on what you have. If you want to attack the field vertically you better have fast guys. If you want to have a short game, you better have a smart quarterback. It all just depends on what you have. Everybody runs the exact same stuff in the NFL. You watch tape on all 32 teams, I guarantee you every team has the same version of every play in one way, shape or form. It’s just how you executed it and how smart the players on the field are. That’s kind of really what it comes down to on offense. Defensive guys line-up and go. You do have some sort of responsibility, but as an offensive guy you have to be a really smart football player. There are a lot of things you can’t plan for, so when the ball is snapped, you have to be able to think on the fly and things need to happen. The smarter everybody is and the more everybody is on the same page, the better the offensive unit is going to be.
“That’s why you look at a lot of top 10 teams; a lot of guys have played together for a long time. You look at teams like Green Bay. Aaron (Rodgers) has been there for there for a long time. They have been running the exact same system for a long time. Atlanta, Roddy (White), Julio (Jones) and Matt Ryan have been playing together for a long time. It’s teams that get that continuity and are able to gel on that level. They are going to put up big numbers all the time.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.