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Jeff Jagodzinski takes his chances with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA — Jeff Jagodzinski learned how to exploit a defense playing football in Milwaukee at the intersection of Conger and Montana.

"Who was that guy you picked on? We went after a guy named Bruce," Jagodzinski said. "He was the guy. We were going to find Bruce and throw at him.

"A lot of double moves we hit on him. We went right down Conger Street, right underneath the phone pole. That was the goal line."

The son of a police officer and naturally a rabid Green Bay Packers fan, Jagodzinski said he never could afford to see a game at Lambeau Field until he coached in one as a member of Mike McCarthy's staff.

But do not — repeat, do not — call his offense the West Coast.

"I think you can't lock into one thing. I think you need to be diverse and find a way how you want to attack the defense," said Jagodzinski, the Bucs' new offensive coordinator.

"What I have tried to do is limit the terminology. You can say the same thing without a lot of words. I think it will be player friendly."

But first Jagodzinski, 45, has to make friends with the players. He has only evaluated the Bucs on film and not in person. So during his first news conference since arriving in Tampa Bay Jan. 29, the former Boston College coach spoke more Tuesday about his playcalling than players.

Start with quarterback Luke McCown, who signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract despite owning a 1-6 career record as a starter. "I like Luke, the way he moves around. He hasn't played," Jagodzinski said. "Now, the one thing I do not get caught up in are statistics. A lot of guys want to get caught up in statistics. The mark of a good quarterback is, does he win.

"He just doesn't have a lot of mileage on him. He's just got to be able to go play. I don't know. I wish I could tell you this is exactly for sure what's going to happen."

What Jagodzinski can say with confidence is that the Bucs will use a zone-blocking scheme he learned under Alex Gibbs in Atlanta to emphasize the running game and take advantage of what he perceives to be the strength of the offense — a young and talented line.

He's confident Earnest Graham will thrive in that system and Warrick Dunn had the best year of his career playing in it in Atlanta in 2005 when he rushed for 1,416 yards.

Jagodzinski also expects to create more big plays downfield.

"As far as playcalling, it's when you call it," he said. "Are you calling it in the right situation? If you have a strong running game, you're going to have eight (defenders) up there, you're going to have your opportunity to make some shots. And when that ball is up in the air and it's a 50-50 ball, our guys have to come down with it or nobody."

That go-for-broke approach led to Jagodzinski's firing at Boston College. After leading the Eagles to a 20-8 record and consecutive appearances in the ACC Championship Game, Jagodzinski was told he would be fired if he decided to interview for the New York Jets head-coaching job. He did and he was, but makes no apologies.

"I mean, I had an opportunity to talk to one of the top 32 teams at the pinnacle of your profession. I didn't see anything wrong with that," Jagodzinski said. "But there was a difference of opinion."

There is a straight-talking, Midwestern manner to Jagodzinski that will be a sharp contrast to former coach Jon Gruden. He gets that from his father.

"He was a cop," Jagodzinski said. "But you get pulled over, too, they'd see the name and say, 'Are you Ralph's kid?' I'd say, 'Yeah.' And they'd say, 'All right, get over here.' It was good and bad, but the bad part was he knew when I got home."

Jagodzinski was a running back in high school and fullback at Wisconsin-Whitewater. "I was so slow, I had to speed up to stop," he said.

After his playing career he was asked to help out at a football camp and the coaching bug bit him. Stops with the Packers, Falcons and Boston College led to this job.

"I don't coach not to lose the game, I coach to win it," he said. "And that's been my philosophy. I did it at BC that way and I'll do it here this way."

Jeff Jagodzinski takes his chances with Tampa Bay Buccaneers 02/17/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 8:47am]
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