Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As full-time offensive coordinator, Todd Monken will be new voice for Jameis Winston, eyes for Dirk Koetter

When you boil down the decision to make Todd Monken the Bucs' full-time offensive coordinator, no longer holding him also responsible for coaching receivers, you're left with this: Jameis Winston may need a new voice in his ear.

Not a louder voice. Not one that will necessarily deliver a new message. And for now, at least, head coach Dirk Koetter still will be communicating the plays to the Bucs' quarterback on Sunday.

But the Bucs first lieutenant is, as Koetter will tell you, 'a quarterbacks coach at heart.' So inasmuch as the stated reason for Monken becoming a full-time offensive coordinator is to enable him a chance to impact more players, his biggest counsel may be for the one player who makes the whole team go.

"He has mentioned that maybe it would be good after three years that Jameis has a fresh voice,'' Monken said. "I know we talked about that where it is just hearing it from somebody else. We'll see how that goes. It's a work in progress exactly where we go from there.''

Monken, 52, left a pretty good job as the head coach at Southern Mississippi two years ago after leading the Golden Eagles to a 9-5 record as the west division champs of Conference USA.

"I had a pretty good gig.' But I haven't regretted it one bit,'' said Monken, who was on the same Jaguars staff with Koetter under Jack Del Rio from 2007-10.

"Dirk is a big part of that. I've always felt that when I'm around Coach, I become a better coach. I just do. The way he structures the day. What he holds you to a certain fire seeing things. I feel like when I'm around him, I feel like I'm a better coach. I trust him as a man and a coach what he says he believes. There's no gray.

"When it came up and I thought about it, I said, "If not now, when?'
So Monken, his wife Terri and his son, Trevor, now a 16-yeear-old quarterback and basketball player at Berkeley Prep, came to Tampa.

But Monken's time has been divided between serving as the passing game coordinator and coaching receivers. His biggest project when he arrived was Mike Evans, who was coming off a season in which he had led the NFL in drops. Monken worked on his head and his hands and Evans' had his best year as a pro with career highs in receptions (96), receiving yards (1,321) and touchdowns (12).

But being a position coach in the NFL requires you to make that a priority. He had to spend time extra time preparing for meeting with receivers and scripting the individual drills in practice each day in addition to the duties of offensive coordinator.

"Todd was having to prepare for two meetings and we want him to devote all of his time to coaching entire offense and not wondering how we're going to spend 12 minutes of individual time with the receivers,'' Koetter said.

To replace Monken, the Bucs promoted offensive assistant Skyler Fulton, who played receiver for Monken at Arizona State.

After his first season with the Bucs, when they went 9-7 and narrowly missed the playoffs, Koetter toyed with the idea of giving up the play-calling duties but quickly dismissed that idea. The Bucs have moved the football, but last season, they converted only 49 percent of their trips inside the red zone into touchdowns, which ranked 24th.

As a head coach and play-caller, your attention is also divided on the sideline during game day. Bucs general manager Jason Licht believes Monken will be a bigger help for Koetter during the week and on Sunday.

"I think it brings a lot of comfort to Dirk to have a guy he really trusts and relies on, to have another set of eyes on the big picture,'' Licht said. "He leans on him.''

Koetter spends a lot of time with Winston and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian. But there are always other issues on the team that could use more of his attention. That's just the job as NFL head coach.

"I can't speak for him, I'll speak for me,'' Monken said. "When you're dealing with the offensive part of it, there are things that can come up during the game, or things on defense, or things you have to challenge. And yet, you're thinking about the next series and you're looking at different things. It is more difficult. There's no way else to say it. It was for me. Now, what helps you feel better about that is when you're moving the ball. What's really hard – and I'm sure he went through that just like I did at Southern Miss when you're not winning – man, am I being pulled in all these different directions? Is my message getting across?''

Whether Monken ultimately takes over play-calling duties remain to be seen. That's not the plan. In fact, the only plays that have been communicated to Winston over the headset since he entered the NFL has been by Koetter.

Theoretically, Monken could do some of that in training camp and preseason. But where his voice will be louder is in delivering the same message in a different way to Winston. Protect the football. Don't get carried away with some of the motivational antics.

"I think he can get frustrated like all of us and maybe try too hard, rather than just let his natural leadership qualities take over,'' Monken said.

"Sometimes it doesn't come across the way you want it to. Do I think whether it's the head coach or the franchise quarterback that can feel the weight of winning? Yes. That's the hardest part with him is just understanding being yourself is good enough. Being Jameis Winston is okay.

"You're trying to talk to a team and get them fired up about playing a game and it doesn't come across the way you really want it to. There's just a number of those things where you're fine being yourself.''

The Bucs need Winston and the team to have a bounce back year if Koetter and his staff are going to return for 2019. "You didn't get where you are without figuring out the puzzle,'' Monken said of Koetter.

Monken will just be a bigger piece of it.

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