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Buccaneers lose ST coordinator, complete several offensive coordinator interviews

Like last year, Tampa Bay is scouring the league for the best fit.

NFL: JUL 28 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Buccaneers massive coaching turnover continued Wednesday, as special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong decided to retire.

Armstrong, 60, has been with Tampa since 2019 — Bruce Arians’s first season. Armstrong has coached special teams in the NFL since 1997, registering stints with the Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, and Bucs. That said, Armstrong and head coach Todd Bowles go way back in their own right, as they both played at Temple under Arians in the mid-1980s.

2023 happened to be the Bucs’ best special teams season under Armstrong by DVOA (a composite metric factoring several data points), as they ranked 18th. During the previous four years, the team ranked in the bottom 5 of the league (including 31st in 2022). The team struggled with creating positive gains in the return game, but it benefited strongly from Chase McLaughlin’s career year kicking field goals and good punting from Jake Camarda.

While the team probably stood to upgrade anyways, it nevertheless adds to the holes in the coaching staff. On top of the ST coordinator, Bowles and Co. must fill the roles of offensive line coach, wide receivers coach, potentially run game coordinator, and most importantly and prominently, offensive coordinator. Other reports suggest other assistants’ contracts are due as well, which could lead to further departures.

On the OC front, the Bucs on Wednesday confirmed an interview with top in-house candidate Thad Lewis, who served as QB coach this season. They also plan to interview tight ends coach John Van Dam, per CBS Sports’s Jonathan Jones.

The Buccaneers also acknowledged their conversation with former Eagles coordinator Brian Johnson, who was fired after an epic late-season collapse. Additionally, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported that Los Angeles Rams pass game specialist Jake Peetz will interview on Thursday.

Peetz, 39, did help with on-boarding Baker Mayfield when the team claimed him in 2022, so there is some basic familiarity there. Peetz has playcalling experience with his first opportunity coming at LSU in 2021 during Ed Orgeron’s controversial final season.

In another Rams connection, Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud reported Thursday night that the Bucs will also interview University of Kentucky OC Liam Coen. Coen was present for Mayfield’s time in Los Angeles as well, and that’s been sandwiched by two separate stints as Kentucky’s playcaller and QBs coach.

It’s been reported Detroit’s pass game coordinator Tanner Engstrand will interview as well. Engstrand, 41, has been passing coordinator for one of the league’s most potent offenses the last two years, and he may be motivated to pursue bigger opportunities with their offensive coordinator, Ben Johnson, deciding to stay onboard for another campaign.

It’s likely we’ll start seeing special teams coordinator interview requests start rolling in as well, as most teams hope to have their coaching staffs in place before big scouting events take place.