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Potential candidates for Buccaneers offensive coordinator

Who might the Bucs consider as the new leader for their offense?

NFL: NOV 25 49ers at Buccaneers Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Buccaneers decided to formally relieve Byron Leftwich of his offensive coordinator duties Thursday, as well as several other assistants on both sides of the ball.

It marks the first significant coaching turnover the team has seen in four years, as all were previous holdovers from the Bruce Arians regime. With offensive performance dropping off by historical levels after the newest Bucs Ring of Honor inductee departed last offseason, it seems that head coach Todd Bowles will get one chance to remold his staff as he sees fit.

Expectations should be tempered for a man who, by several data points, maintained one of the most conservative approaches of any head coach in 2022. This will also be his fifth offensive coordinator in six total seasons as a head coach.

For that latter point, I foresee GM Jason Licht – who’s entering his 10th year on the job – playing a large role in the search, even though Bowles will likely get to make the final call. For what it’s worth though, Pewter Report recently reported that Bowles actually pushed the coaching staff to explore college concepts and introduce some fresh ideas, though they refused. We’ll see if that desire for innovation carries over into this search.

So, who might top their collective wishlist? It will likely need to be someone with strong playcalling experience and past success as a coordinator at a high level. It would be eye-opening to see a young up-and-comer with no prior OC experience, but it’s not unreasonable if Bowles truly wants new ideas.

It likely won’t sit at the forefront, but perhaps leadership might want a hire that excites Tom Brady and encourages him to come back if he decides he wants to play another year.

Overall, there will be no shortage of competition, as the Bucs are one of 10 teams currently hunting for an OC. Here’s a compilation of five names that hold various levels of intrigue:

Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, University of Georgia

Past experience:

Monken is the no-brainer to top this list.

The 56-year-old’s prior experience with the organization immediately gives an edge over other franchises if he decides that he wants to return to the NFL, which has been rumored by various outlets. He has familiarity with brass and several players like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

While Dirk Koetter called plays as head coach in 2017, he handed those duties over to Monken in 2018 and he saw success with both Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick. That year, the Bucs finished first in passing yards, first in passing first-down percentage, third in total yards, third in passing touchdowns, and fifth in average yards per drive.

After being dismissed along with the rest of Koetter’s staff, Monken went to Cleveland and did fairly well. With Nick Chubb as the running back, he oriented his attack to focus more on the ground game and was successful, as Chubb finished with more than 1,400 yards and eight TDs.

And with the Bulldogs, Monken has seen fantastic results while working under another defense-oriented head coach in Kirby Smart. In 2021, Georgia averaged 38.6 points per game, ranking 11th nationally. This past season, their offense averaged 41.1 points per game, which ranked fifth.

Only two potential hold-ups come to mind. Will Monken want to leave his secure position at Georgia for an NFL franchise currently in a possible transition period? If the Bucs do poorly again in 2023, Bowles will likely be fired – and Monken likely with him…again. That might make him bristle.

Monken is also one of the highest paid assistants in college, reportedly making $2 million per year. It’ll require added investment from the Glazers.

Frank Reich, former Indianapolis Colts head coach

Past experience:

It will depend on how his potential head coaching opportunities shake out, but Reich will be a hot commodity for almost every team seeking a new offensive coordinator.

Reich is universally respected as a flexible communicator, teacher, and play caller. In 10 years as a HC/OC, Reich’s offenses have finished top 10 four times, including an excellent 2017 season that saw a third-place finish in points per game and resulted in winning Super Bowl LII.

Reich could see appeal in Tampa for a few reasons. Despite a lethargic 2022 season, the Bucs are still loaded with offensive talent and could quickly rebound with a revolutionized approach. Tampa could also be a prime opportunity for him to slide back into head coaching, either through rejuvenating them back into a top-tier unit and going elsewhere or taking over for Bowles if the team does poorly overall.

However, the possibility of more QB unrest, which is the entire reason he got fired in Indy, could give him significant pause. Brady is an undeniable draw for anybody if he decides to come back, but that enthusiasm quickly tails off if it’s Kyle Trask or some middling veteran instead.

Brian Johnson, QB coach, Philadelphia Eagles

Past experience:

  • Eagles QB coach (2021-present)
  • University of Florida OC (2020)
  • University of Florida QB coach (2018-19)
  • University of Houston OC and QB coach (2017)

If Bowles wants a young up-and-comer with a touch of coordinating experience, Johnson would be an excellent choice.

Regarded as a fast riser in the sport, the former Utah Utes QB has played a significant role in various high-octane offenses in college, and he’s highly credited with helping Jalen Hurts take a major leap into MVP contender status this year.

Here’s the major draw though: He coached Kyle Trask for several years with the Gators, including his breakout 2020 season when he threw for 4,283 yards, 43 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. If the Bucs find themselves opting for Trask as the answer this year, having someone thoroughly familiar with him could be a huge boon to their chances of success.

While he lacks professional playcalling experience, Johnson did call plays at Florida and helps with in-game adjustments for the Eagles. If there is anybody who the Bucs might take the risk on as a first-time NFL OC, Johnson seems to be the best option for them.

Kevin Patullo, passing coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles

Past experience:

  • Eagles pass game coordinator (2021-present)
  • Colts pass game specialist (2020)
  • Colts receivers coach (2018-19)
  • New York Jets QB coach (2015-16)

Another Eagles name but this has more to do with Patullo’s prior experience with Todd Bowles. The 41-year-old actually got his first full-time assistant role under Bowles with the Jets, serving as QB coach for two years.

He was relatively fresh-faced then, but Patullo has since gotten more experience under Frank Reich in Indy and this loaded Nick Sirianni staff in Philly. He’s done some good work with the latter, as he’s helped that passing offense go from 29th in the NFL in DVOA the season before he arrived (2020) to 14th in 2021 and ninth in 2022.

This would also be a homecoming of sorts for him, as he played for the University of South Florida as a quarterback and receiver and served as a graduate assistant for two years there.

It’s clear Bowles saw something in him to approve his hire years ago, so that past connection could lead to them exploring a possible reunion. That said, Patullo has no playcalling experience at any level, nor does he possess any familiarity with being an offensive coordinator in any way.

I’d keep an eye on this one, but it definitely feels like more of a potential Plan C or D.

Thad Lewis, assistant receiver coach, Buccaneers

Past experience:

  • Buccaneers assistant WR coach (2021-present)
  • UCLA offensive analyst (2018-19)

This would be a crazily fast ascent, but Bowles and Arians both hold high opinions of the former signal caller.

Lewis was playing in the NFL just over five years ago, and now he’s on the verge of a likely promotion to full-time NFL assistant or possibly even offensive coordinator. He’s very intelligent and has exposed himself to a variety of different offensive concepts, and he’s reportedly not heavily married to the Arians philosophy.

Lewis could strike a balance between being a fresh thinker and someone who already has familiarity with offensive personnel, so a transition into a new scheme could be relatively quick. Of course, Lewis is still just a 35-year-old and very new to coaching, so this could be an overwhelmingly huge step for him.

Instead, he’d likely be better served getting another year under his belt as the new QBs coach or receivers coach, since both of those spots are now open. Perhaps the Bucs even give him a chance as pass game coordinator or something similar.

This is easily the least likely choice, but it’s worth mentioning given how fond the team is of him.