Boy has this been a hot debate over the last few weeks. Dirk Koetter allowed offensive coordinator Todd Monken to assume playcalling duties during the preseason. The results? An aggressive, downfield attacking style passing offense that was putting points on the board against opposing defenses almost at will. A complete 180 from the vanilla offense that Koetter called last year. As most of you know, Dirk received some criticism for his somewhat passive playcalling last season. I’m not sure if that’s what led to this preseason’s experiment, but whatever it was Bucs fans were happy to see the change. And man, what a change!
Last preseason under Dirk this offense, with essentially the same players, scored just 43 points in the four games for an average of 10.3 points per game. Nearly half of those points (18) came from kicker Nick Folk. In fact, 25 of the 43 points came from the kicking game. The other 18 points came from three touchdowns by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Doug Martin and WR Bernard Reedy. That was it. Three touchdowns in four games. Not very impressive, even for preseason.
This preseason under Monk the offense scored 96 points, more than double the total from last year and averaged 24 points per game. Yes 30 of those points came from kicker Chandler Catanzaro, but the other 66 points came by way of touchdowns from 8 different players including Justin Watson, Chris Godwin and Peyton Barber who all had two each.
Last year, Buccaneers quarterbacks finished the preseason 92 of 151 for 906 yards, completed just 61% of their passes, averaged 6 yards per attempt, threw one touchdown and 4 interceptions. They were also sacked 10 times and had a 69 quarterback rating.
This year, they were much better. The trio of Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Griffin combined to be 98 of 144 for 1,089 yards, 67.3% completions, 7 touchdowns and no interceptions while only being sacked three times and with a 104.3 quarterback rating.
The running game in the 2017 preseason was a little better, but that probably has a lot to do with the onslaught of injuries to the offensive line. I don’t recall the actual starting five playing a single snap together in all four games this year. Last year Bucs running backs ran the ball 106 times for 390 yards, a 3.68 ypc average, and 2 touchdowns. This year they ran the ball 102 times for 325 yards, a 3.19 ypc average, and 3 touchdowns.
The bigger difference was in the more aggressive downfield passing attack. In 2017 Buccaneers receivers caught 92 balls for 906 yards, a 9.85 yards per catch average, and one touchdown and they had 10 players average more than 9 yards per catch. This year Bucs wideouts had 105 catches for 1,190 yards, an 11.33 yards per catch average, 7 touchdowns and they had 17 players average more than 9 yards per catch.
Last year the offense had 78 total first downs, 21 rushing and 51 passing, while converting 20 of 58 third down attempts (34%) and running 267 plays that gained 1,223 yards at 4.6 yards per play. This year’s offense produced 91 first downs, 18 rushing and 62 passing, while converting 23 of 55 third downs (42%) and ran 271 plays that gained 1,463 yards at 5,4 yards per play.
The offense was clearly more productive this preseason with Monk than they were last season with Dirk. The media has been hounding him in almost every press conference and interview about whether Monken will continue to call plays in the regular season or if he will re-assume the duties in Week 1. His answer has always been “Well, that’s the plan right now”. That was until after that final preseason game. He was asked again about the who will be calling plays moving forward and his response this time was “Yeah, we’ll see. We’ll do what’s best for the team”. That wasn’t a yes or no answer, but it sounded to me like Monk would be the guy moving forward. I mean why wouldn’t he, right? It’s the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” type of thing. The offense is clicking so why mess with it.
In my opinion, it would be a selfish and egotistical decision on Dirk’s part if he did decide to take the reigns back. It wouldn’t be a smart decision either. If he takes over playcalling and the Bucs go to New Orleans and only score 10 points after averaging 24 points per game in preseason, then he’s going to get crucified by the Tampa Bay media and the fans. On the other hand, this was all his idea so he should still get the credit for the way the offense is playing. What does it hurt to let Monken continue doing what he’s doing until it’s not working anymore? The answer is nothing.
Dirk has also mentioned how much easier and less stressful it is during games now that he’s not calling plays. He says it’s a big weight off of him and allows him to focus on other things like clock management and game strategy. He literally can’t lose at this point if he let’s Monk continue to be the offensive coordinator. If it continues to work and the offense is scoring points, it was a great coaching decision on Koetter’s part. If it doesn’t work, he takes back playcalling duties and it is what it is. It’ll be interesting to see if they make an announcement about it this week or just let us all find out on gameday in New Orleans.
But until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!