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1. JAGODZINSKI LOOKING TO STAY WITH BUCS LONG-TERM?
One of the worst things that can happen to a quarterback's development is to change offensive systems with regularity early in their career. A lack of continuity in a particular offense with young quarterbacks causes them to have to learn new playbooks every year, and never master one offense or develop any continuity to build off of from one year to the next.
The Buccaneers made quarterback Josh Freeman their first-round pick in the 2009 draft, and his progress as a professional is one of the most important tasks for the organization. The Bucs should look no further than what happened San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, a former first-round pick.
After a rough rookie season where he threw one touchdown and 11 interceptions, the 49ers hired Norv Turner to be the team's offensive coordinator. San Francisco was much improved and Smith was as well, posting 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in his second season. After the season, Turner left to be the head coach for the San Diego Chargers, and Smith's production fell with another new offensive coordinator and system. Smith had two touchdowns and four interceptions in seven games started. Again after his third season the 49ers changed coordinators, and did so again this year. The lack of continuity has been a huge detriment to Smith's NFL career.
Freeman's quarterback's coach, Greg Olson, is in the final year of his contract with Tampa Bay. Olson had a lot success as the offensive coordinator of the Rams in the 2006 season, and also coached quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Marc Bulger to Pro Bowl seasons. As a college coach, Olson identified high school talent at the position and recruited players like Jon Kitna to Central Washington, and Drew Brees and Kyle Orton to Purdue. All three have gone on to be established NFL quarterbacks with Brees being one of the best in the league. Thus, Olson should have plenty of suitors for coordinator positions in the college and pro ranks after 2009.
Tampa Bay will benefit in having Olson coach Freeman in 2009, but considering his resume`, it could easily be for only one season. It may not be restricted to Olson either.
This offseason, the Buccaneers hired Jeff Jagodzinksi to be their offensive coordinator. Jagodzinski was coming off of two successful seasons as head coach at Boston College. In his two seasons there, Jags produced a 20-8 record, and made it to the ACC Championship Game in both seasons.
Jagodzinski was fired from Boston College because he interviewed for the head coaching position with the New York Jets this past offseason. Prior to Boston College, Jagodzinski had a successful run in one season as the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator.
Given his success as at Boston College, some wondered that a college program could come calling late in the 2009 season to try and get Jagodzinski to take over its head coaching position next year. Also, if the Bucs offense had a big season, he could get consideration for NFL head coaching positions just as Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley did in Kansas City when he became the Chiefs coach. Jagodzinski spoke about the coaching lifestyle last week, and said something very interesting and encouraging for Bucs fans.
"I'm going out looking for a house and trying to sell one in Boston," said Jagodzinski. "It can be very difficult on your family. You have to have a great wife that understands it, and when you are gone they are doing the bulk of the work, all of the work with the kids. I give my wife all the credit for doing the things she's done because it is very difficult moving around the country and taking your kids out of schools. That is really hard on those kids. I got one going into high school and one going into junior high, and two younger ones going in to grade school. To be able to move them, one of my girls has been in four different schools. That is very hard on them. Hopefully, we can have a long run here."
Jagodzinski has five children and is a family man. Looking at his coaching career it is no stretch to think that he would want to stay in Tampa for the long term. Prior to the two seasons at BC and 2006 in Green Bay, Jagodzinski was in Atlanta for two years. Before his stint with the Falcons he was in Green Bay from 1999-2003 as the tight ends coach. Before that he was at Boston College for two seasons. In the last decade, Jagodzinski has changed organizations five times. Perhaps Jagodzinski would leave if it were a job too good to pass up, but judging from how he sounded when we spoke last week I think that he is looking at the Bucs as a long-term proposition.
Many NFL coaches look for stability for their children when they reach the high school years. Bill Cowher left coaching in part for that reason, and I remember working for Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner's agent when he was deciding whether to be the offensive coordinator for Chicago or the Baltimore Ravens in 2005, fresh after being fired as head coach of the University of Illinois. The agent wanted Turner to take the Ravens job, but he chose the Bears so he could keep his children at the same schools in Illinois.
If the Bucs lose Olson after this season, it will be a great asset in the development of Freeman to at least have Jagodzinski stay and maintain the same offensive system. A year from now, Freeman would not be learning a new offense. He would have the offense down and be focused on improving his game and learning how to attack NFL defenses.
Continuity on offense will have a tremendous impact on how quickly Freeman develops at the NFL level. Jagodzinski sounding as if he would like to stay in Tampa Bay for multiple years is a good sign for Freeman and the Bucs if he is the playcaller the organization thinks he is.
2. LEFT GUARD COMPETITION SHAPING UP
Pewter Report was first to report that the starting left guard spot was open to competition between returning starter Arron Sears and second year pro Jeremy Zuttah. The competition has not been able to go full steam ahead as Sears is dealing with an injury. Pewter Report has learned that the undisclosed injury may be significant and he may not be ready for training camp. Still, we spoke with numerous people about the competition for the starting spot.
Jagodzinski has changed the Bucs' rushing attack from a man-blocking scheme to a zone-blocking scheme, and that favors offensive lineman that are mobile and can get upfield. That plays into Zuttah's skill set. At 6-foot-4, 303-pounds, Zuttah is perhaps the most athletic offensive linemen on the team. He was used as a tackle eligible player last season due to his speed, footwork, and agility. Sears (6-3, 319) is a bigger, more powerful drive blocker. The Tennessee product also has two seasons of starting experience whereas Zuttah only started five games as a rookie in 2008 (four games for right guard Davin Joseph and one for Sears).
Joseph (6-3, 313) and Sears were drafted highly by Tampa Bay for former head coach Jon Gruden's man blocking scheme. The bulk and power of the Bucs starting guards caused Jagodzinski to be questioned on if the starters need to drop some weight.
"I think so, but all that bad weight doesn't help you anyway," Jagodzinski. "Some say bigger is better, but that is not necessarily true. I want to be able to have guys that can get there and be able to re-direct if they get into a bad spot. If you have heavier guys I think you have some hard times when they need to re-direct. Plus, if you are a real heavy guy and you get a lower leg injury it is hard to come back from that with all that extra weight on the leg, so I think there is a bunch of positives to what we are doing right now."
Sears and Joseph have had leg injuries that have impaired their play at times throughout their careers. Joseph missed the first month of the 2008 season with a broken leg, and Sears had an ankle injury in the 2007 season.
Center Jeff Faine said the entire offensive line backups and starters have lost some weight this offseason, but thinks most of the players will be playing 2009 at a similar playing weight as 2008.
"I think [Joseph and Sears] are pretty much were they were last year," said Faine. "Everybody has dropped a little weight. We've been running a bunch this offseason. I'm sure they'll get back up before training camp gets here. Nobody has dropped anything dramatic or anything like that."
I asked Faine if Sears and Joseph are fits for the zone-blocking scheme considering they were drafted for Gruden's offense.
"Tremendously. Guys that can't get the zone scheme down are really unathletic," said Faine. "They really can't move around and hit guys in space. These two guys do that extremely well. They are the rare kind of offensive linemen that can do both man block and zone block. They have the power and athleticism. There is not going to be an issue at all there. That is one of the exciting things, and I've told Davin and Arron this, they are taking advantage of the gifts that they bring to the table. It is something that I don't think was taken advantage of enough in some instances. At the same time, you can't discount how good their power game was and we took advantage of that last year. They are going to fit in fine and we are going to be good. I think it is going to run pretty smooth."
While he is big, Sears is no slouch athletically. He was the primary guard that pulled under Gruden. His ability to run and hit a block eclipsed that of Joseph over the past two seasons. Where Sears had some occasional struggles was in pass protection. Most Bucs fans can remember Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux giving Sears fits last season in the home opener.
In Sears favor is the fact that he is a player that will stand out more when the pads are on, and everything is full contact. Sears' ability to make a devastating block and blast open a hole is not able to be seen this time of year.
Zuttah has worked hard this offseason to get stronger and add some more punch. Faine told Pewter Report that he told Zuttah to take it easy and take some more time off because Zuttah had hit the weights hard as soon as the season ended. Thus far, Zuttah has been able to take advantage of Sears not being able to practice.
"[Zuttah's] been rotating in with the first group and he's been doing well," said Faine. "He did well last year when he was called on. He's definitely going to be a guy that we depend on this year to be able to step in or do whatever needs to be done to help us."
3. DO THE BUCS WANT AN UNCAPPED YEAR AND LOCKOUT?
As discussed in last week's PI Quick Hits, a number of key Buccaneers players will have to wait a few extra years to reach unrestricted free agency if there is not a new collective bargaining agreement between the players union and the owners. There is a theory around the league is that if no new deal is reached and uncapped year starts next offseason, the owners will lock out the players for the 2011 season.
The Buccaneers seemed prepared to have an option to save some money if that happens. Head coach Raheem Morris has an option on his contract after two seasons. The team can opt-out of the contract and have a vacancy for their head coach at that time. Many of the assistants are signed to two-year contracts as well. If the team declines to keep Morris and other assistants after those two years because of a lockout, the Bucs would not have to pay inactive coaches while the labor battle ensues and potentially drags on.
While that could be a shrewd financial move by the Glazers, neither the players nor owners want to see a lockout happen.
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