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New Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski is sorting through promising pieces

TAMPA — Even for a man in charge of the answers, there is much Jeff Jagodzinski does not know.

It is still too early to say who his quarterback is going to be. No one knows yet exactly how the running backs will rotate. The third receiver remains a mystery.

All Jagodzinski knows for sure, it seems, are the directions to the end zone.

For now, that seems like a start.

Jagodzinski, the new offensive coordinator of the Bucs, stands behind his players, dressed in a red shirt and red shorts, and trying to figure out the red zone. He rifles through his pages of plays until he finds one he likes, and the most promising Bucs offense in years breaks the huddle. And just like that, you feel the familiar tickle of hope once more.

This time, maybe there will be touchdowns.

Jagodzinski is the newest advance scout for the explorers. He is the latest trail boss for the wagon train. He is the designated orchestra leader for the merry band. For a franchise that has eternally struggled to score points, Jags is the latest man in charge of changing the scoreboard.

And the good news is, the task doesn't seem to bother him a lot.

"I think we're going to have a good offense," Jagodzinski said. "If I don't think that way, who is going to?"

Well, Jagodzinski's new boss, for one. Raheem Morris likes what he sees out of the offense so far.

"Is he going to have a good offense?" Morris said. "He has no choice.

"Look at the talent he has around him. Antonio Bryant. Michael Clayton. Jerramy Stevens. Kellen Winslow. Derrick Ward. Cadillac Williams. Earnest Graham. Peanut (Clifton Smith). Maurice Stovall. Brian Clark. If the quarterback can manage it and get the ball to the right people, we have a chance to be dynamic. We have a chance to be special."

Special? A Tampa Bay offense? When has that ever happened?

Around here, gurus get lost, and geniuses grow confused. Only twice has the Bucs' offense ranked as high as 10th in yardage, and in 32 seasons, it has been 20th or worse 23 times. Only twice has the offense scored as many as 40 touchdowns (an average of 2½ a game). Around here, there are parts of the end zone that have never felt cleats.

Jagodzinski is supposed to change all that. For one of the few times in its history, the offense actually looks in better shape than the defense as the Bucs head into the season.

So how will things look different around here?

If you judge by the places Jagodzinski has been, the Bucs will be more stubborn about their running game than in recent seasons. There will be more of a go-for-the-throat mentality when it comes to throwing deep. There will be more vertical plays off play-action.

Remember how Denver played in Mike Shanahan's best days? Remember how Atlanta played when it led the league in rushing in 2005? Remember how Green Bay played in 2006 when Ahman Green ran for 1,000 yards and Donald Driver caught passes for 1,000 more? Yeah, like that. Jags had his fingerprints on all those offenses.

Now he has to decide on a quarterback, and he has to keep Bryant and Winslow happy, and he has to spread the ball among his running backs. It's a lot to coordinate.

"I think you have to establish the run, but that doesn't mean that's all you do," Jagodzinski said. "What's a balanced offense? I think if you can run it, run it. If you can throw it, throw it. People ask me: 'Are you going to be a 50-50 team?' It depends on what we can do."

It's an interesting concept. The Bucs have never had two targets with as much explosiveness as Bryant and Winslow. It's been awhile since they had this kind of depth at tailback. If the offensive line is as good as everyone seems to believe, a quarterback will have little to gripe about.

"The biggest factors in winning and losing, in my mind, are explosive plays and turnovers," Jagodzinski said. "Twelve yards on a run is an explosive play. Sixteen yards on a pass is an explosive play. Those plays change field position."

It isn't just big plays, however. Jagodzinski also talks of the value of "the filthy four." In other words, he wants to be able to grunt out 4 yards whenever he needs it. That keeps an offense moving.

Jagodzinski can tell you something about moving. In another life, he would still be coaching at Boston College, where his team won 20 games and appeared in two conference title games the past two seasons. But Jagodzinski was fired for interviewing with the Jets, and he wound up working for Morris, trying to pick answers out of the questions.

For now, he says his quarterbacks are playing well. He'll know more about his running backs once the Bucs practice more live. He thinks he has enough receivers. Asked if he has what he wants to run the zone-blocking scheme from his linemen, he grinned and said: "I'd rather have five Pro Bowl linemen. Put that down."

Jagodzinski laughed.

Soon, he will know more about his offense. Soon, the rest of us will, too.

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski is sorting through promising pieces 08/08/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 9, 2009 8:54am]
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