It's suddenly become a secret as to who will be calling plays for the Bucs at New Orleans Sunday: coach Dirk Koetter or offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
Koetter had been consistent in saying he planned to retain those duties, but for some reason, decided to stir his own pot after the final preseason game when he declined to address the issue, saying, "We'll do what's best for the team.''
Monken was told to do it in training camp and the preseason and was successful. Through the first three preseason games (no starters played in the fourth), the Bucs averaged 28.6 points and 387 yards per game, ranking second in the league in both.
The Bucs also got off to quick starts, outscoring opponents 46-23 in the first half. Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Griffin combined to pass for 938 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.
That's a very efficient amount of production. So who's calling the plays Sunday? Koetter will take it down to the wire.
"You guys have asked that a bunch of times so I'm going to defer that to coach Koetter,'' Monken said. "That's a question you guys have asked him, so I'll defer that to him.''
It feels like the question has been asked answered time and again, but this is Koetter's offense. Sure, it's Tampa Bay offense, a collaborative effort between Koetter, Monken, offensive line coach George Warhop, tight end coach Ben Steele, running back coach Tim Spencer and receivers coach Skyler Fulton.
Before the play card is laminated, Fitzpatrick will weigh in to give input on his favorite pass plays in certain situations.
Monken said he was grateful for the opportunity to call plays in the preseason.
"I enjoyed the ones that worked,'' Monken said. "I've been down the road a number of times. I enjoy, as our coaches do, putting a plan together that's the Buccaneer plan which it's been whenever I've been around coach Koetter, so it's been our plan. And, you know, there's nothing like anything we do in life that you plan together that shows up on tape. You design something and hey man, we nailed it. And there's nothing more frustrating than when you don't.
"I enjoyed the opportunity that he gave me during preseason and then also during practice. It's been fun because I think the guys have taken what we've done on the field to the game and executed. That's what it's really about. How do we get them to do it every day because it's a byproduct of what you do every day.''
Koetter is the son a head coach. His father, Jim, coached high school and at Idaho State. Dirk has been diagramming plays since he was probably five years old. He's known throughout the NFL as an astute play-caller.
There are some advantages to not having the play sheet. Some may argue as a head coach, you're more dialed into the entire game and not preoccupied with the next play call or the next series. But Koetter doesn't strike anyone as a CEO-type head coach.
It's unclear whether there's a real competitive advantage to concealing who is actually calling plays. Monken may have more input and could even be the coach with the helmet communicator. If for some reason they decide to make a change, at least the quarterbacks have heard how Monken spits it out. But it sure feels like Koetter will be the one calling the plays on Sundays this season until he gives further notice.
HARDER TRAINING CAMP: Koetter has mentioned several times that the Bucs had a "tougher,harder" training camp. What does that mean? The Bucs really didn't have any more full contact periods. They did some conditioning runs after practice, even if some were indoors. What was obvious is the tempo of practice was much faster. More plays, less wasted movement, better execution.
"I'm just going to keep that between me and the team right now because anything I say on that, it's just going to get picked apart and there's no point because it's over,'' Koetter said. "In my mind, we did a good job in that area. The proof is in the pudding and I think our players would echo that. But all that really matters now is let's start getting ready to play real football."
BEST MATCHUP: The game within the game today will be between Bucs WR Mike Evans and Saints CB Marshon Lattimore, who was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017. Lattimore held Evans to one catch for 13 yards in New Orleans last year.
Evans was penalized and suspended the next game for blindsiding Lattimore between plays. Evans even apologized. But don't expect the Bucs to stop throwing his direction.
"He's got size. That's the thing,'' Koetter said of Lattimore. "He's almost a perfect match for this division because he's got the size to go up against Mike [Evans] and go up against Julio [Jones], the big receivers not only in our division, but around the league. He's also got excellent ball skills. He had a couple of picks last year where you're used to being able to throw balls in certain spots and a lot of corners won't make a play on the ball, but he's shown he can make plays on the ball as well."
STREAKING: LT Donovan Smith should see his streak of consecutive games started go to 49 Sunday at New Orleans. Smith battled through a knee right sprain he suffered two weeks ago but practiced all week and looked "fantastic," according to Koetter.
"That's impressive and guys when they get streaks like that going, they become important,'' Koetter said. "When I was in Atlanta, I think Roddy White had something like 109-110 games in a row going and he had a high ankle sprain coming out of preseason. He would've done just about anything to play. It's important to those guys. They take it personal, and I know Donovan feels that way as well."
Source: TampaBay | Rick Stroud | September 7, 2018