FAB 2. Monken Needs To Continue To Call Plays

Dirk Koetter made a stunning admission in January of 2017 after he completed his first season as Tampa Bay’s head coach, going 9-7 and narrowly missing out on the playoffs. He was considering giving up the play-calling duties.

Part of the reason Koetter had been hired to replace Lovie Smith was because of the work he did as the Bucs’ offensive coordinator and play-caller during the 2015 season when the team had a top 5 offense and rookie quarterback Jameis Winston and running back Doug Martin wound up in the Pro Bowl. Leading the team, calling plays and being an effective game manager was a difficult challenge, and Koetter recognized it.

After careful consideration, Koetter remained the play-caller during the 2017 season, only to see the Bucs’ red zone woes continue en route to a disappointing 5-11 record in a season filled with high expectations coming off HBO’s Hard Knocks. But this year, Koetter surprised everyone when he put offensive coordinator Todd Monken in charge of calling the plays during the preseason.

That’s a role Monken needs to continue in during the regular season.

Koetter has enjoyed watching the game from a different perspective as a head coach during the preseason and being able to watch each play unfold as it happens rather than always being one play ahead in your mind as a play-caller. Monken has done a fantastic job with the offense in the preseason.

Tampa Bay is averaging 387 yards per game, which is the second-most in the NFL, and more importantly 28.6 points per game through three preseason contests, which is also second-most in the league. Red zone scoring is in the Top 10.

Bucs OC Todd Monken - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs OC Todd Monken – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

With the starters playing in the first half, the Bucs have outscored their opponents 46-23, while converting 42.9 percent of their third down conversions (18-of-42) and 100 percent of the team’s fourth down conversions (2-of-2).

Tampa Bay’s top three quarterbacks completed 69.2 percent of their passes in the preseason for 938 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions through the first three preseason games. The team leads the NFL in passing yards per game in the preseason with 315.

The Bucs scored touchdowns on two of their first possessions in the three preseason contests with running back Peyton Barber doing the honors. Barber has averaged 5.8 yards per carry on 15 totes in August.

Why would the Bucs want to go way from what is working?

I know calling the plays is the fun part of being a competitive coach on Sundays, and I’m sure there is a part of it Koetter misses. But Koetter opens the 2018 season on the hot seat. He can’t afford another losing season or he could meet the same fate as the team’s two previous head coaches – Greg Schiano and Smith – who were both fired by the Glazers after back-to-back losing seasons.

The thing is, if Koetter lets Monken call plays during the regular season the head coach gets all the credit for making that strategic move. And if at any point in the season Monken struggles, Koetter reserves the right to take over the play-calling duties once again.

“I’ve said it plenty of times and I mean it – I’m a better coach when I’m around Coach Koetter, as an offensive coach, I’m a better coach,” Monken said. “From his detail, organization, allowing you to grow – so that part of it’s one of the big reason was because, not because of our relationship. I have relationships with a lot coaches but that doesn’t mean I want to coach for them or believe in everything that they’re teaching. But there’s a lot of what I believe in that he believes in, so, that was a big part of me coming.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and OC Todd Monken - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and OC Todd Monken – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“So it doesn’t matter who is calling it, we all could have the same sheet and we’d be calling a little bit different. What we emphasize, when we do what we do, when we call it. It’s a hell of a lot more fun when it works and it’s not any fun when it doesn’t work. At this point, we’ve done fine, we’ve moved it and made some plays, to me that’s fine.”

Koetter needs to realize the jeopardy he would put himself in if he took over the play-calling duties in Week 1 and the offense sputtered, scoring seven or 10 points at New Orleans in a losing effort. He would come under serious criticism from the media and the fans for rocking the boat and messing with something that was working.

It makes sense for Koetter to let Monken continue on in the role of play-caller for the Saints game and see how the team fares. So far Koetter has made all the right moves when it comes to Tampa Bay’s offense, and Monken has pretty much made all the right plays calls thus far.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

9 COMMENTS

  1. FAB 1:

    The points you made were well taken. Their are too many fans and even local pundits who expect every high draft pick to wow us from day one. Sapp is just one example of taking some time to emerge.

    Ian Beckles (who should know better) was all over Gerald McCoy his first two or three years in the league on the radio. Now he is considered one of the top three defensive linemen in the entire NFL by many all across the country and across the league. (There are still plenty of Gmac haters among us even now. I have recently seen him called “a marshmallow” and referred to as “Geraldine” in posts elsewhere.)

    Some of those same types are very vocal against Vernon Hargreaves and they have already started on Ronald Jones and Vita Vea. Let us see where these players are by midiseason, or better yet, by the end of this season.

    I am confident that this regime is a little wiser than that of some of its predecessors and will give Noah Spence more time to succeed or fail. His potential apparently was not destroyed by the two injuries he suffered.
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    Go Bucs!!!!

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  2. I for one hope Spence gets back into form and becomes a force but I was always bothered by his OLB type body. I know Pewter Report wasn’t because they lobbied heavily for the Bucs to draft Spence.
    At first I wasn’t concerned about Unrein’s concussion but now four games later it appears much serious. Although he wasn’t labeled as a starter, he sure seemed like he would be a valuable backup.
    Is this the price we have to pay to make the team tougher.
    Please, no more future draft looks until midway through the season and for gods sake, why would we even care about drafting a another wide receiver with a first or second round.
    Haven’t we learned enough. Get the pigs up front and let them eat.

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  3. Weight gain and shoulder injuries always limit pass rushers. But I want to see Spence do is use his hands better to fight for leverage or an opportunity to shoot a gap or the edge.

    To me I understand that he isn’t going to be sophisticated with his chess at this point in his career like JPP as he is very young with little NFL game experience.

    But what I do want to see is tenacity and violent hands.

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  4. Loved how Ronde put Licht on the spot when he asked what Spence (who was still playing in the 4th qtr) needed to show to be the team’s designated 3rd down pass rusher. Licht’s comments were less than inspiring, curious how Spence’s weekend goes. The question comes about at 7:15 or so left in the 4th if anyone pulls the game up. Have to say, like listening to Licht’s interviews during a game.

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    • I think it was a decent response. It basically reiterated what Buckner said about Spence from the Fab 5…he just needs to add more to his arsenal than he currently has. But there’s a decent chance he was playing late into the game solely because they want him to get those reps that he’s been missing the past 2 years with the shoulder injuries. Still sounds like they haven’t lost faith in him, but I’d be surprised if he replaces Curry or JPP a whole lot because, simply put, they’re better players right now.

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  5. FAB 2:
    I have listened to as many of Dirk Koetter’s press conferences and chance quickie interviews as I can over time. I try to listen very carefully to what he actually says or does not say.

    What I heard him say was that he promised Monken that he would give him the opportunity to do the play calls for this preseason. He did not add any more at the time.

    The implication may well have been that if it works out he would have him continue with this into the regular season. Putting that together with what you are reporting he indicated in January of 2017 leads me to believe what you are clamoring for was his plan all along, Scott.

    We will find out by the 9th no matter what.
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    Go Bucs!!!

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  6. Fab 2; Maybe Koetter will have Monken still call the plays but i still think it’s not so much Monkens play calling. It’s the player’s executing the plays better. Less dropped balls. All the QB’s know the system better and are executing better with less (no ) turn overs. The QB’s are changing the plays at the line of scrimmage to a better play and getting better success against the coverage the D’s are showing them. That’s the biggest changes. And there playing more pitch and catch with an empty back field. Throwing to one of our Amazing offensive weapons who has beat there coverage. Our players are more matured, exp’d and determined to be better this year. That’s how I see it. I don’t care who calls the plays as long as we win but I cant believe so many think this is all about Monken’s vs Koetter’s play calling then all that i listed above. GO BUCS!!!

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  7. Oh yeah. Great Fab 5 Scott! Thanks everybody at PR for ALL your work! Hopefully you’ll all be writing about a lot of Wins this season. GO BUCS!!!

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  8. Agree, The Bucs have let quite a few players go, only to watch them develop and come back to Tampa and whoop our asses. Adrian Clayborne, Michael Bennett, LeGarrette Blount. We drafted them and cut them all way too soon. Even though it’s Spence’s 3rd season, he’s only played a season’s worth of games.

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