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Bucs agree to terms with former Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen

Coen was with the Rams when Baker Mayfield joined the team for the final five games of the 2022 season.
 
Liam Coen has experience with quarterback Baker Mayfield as their paths crossed while with the Rams.
Liam Coen has experience with quarterback Baker Mayfield as their paths crossed while with the Rams. [ MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ | AP ]
Published Feb. 2|Updated Feb. 3

TAMPA — If Baker Mayfield returns to the Bucs, he will be familiar with the offensive coordinator.

The Bucs announced that they have agreed to terms with Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen, who also worked with Mayfield during his five games with the Rams in 2022. Contract details were not immediately available.

Coen, 38, has bounced around nearly as much as Mayfield.

He was the Rams’ offensive coordinator in 2022 but did not call plays for them. That was sandwiched around two stints as Kentucky’s offensive coordinator in 2021 and 2023.

This will be Coen’s fourth stop in as many seasons.

The Bucs conducted a thorough search to replace Dave Canales, who was hired as the Panthers’ head coach last week after only one year of calling plays in the NFL. Carolina, the Bucs’ NFC South foe, is coming off a 2-15 season and hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2017 season.

Mayfield, who will become a free agent in March, had his best year as a pro under Canales, passing for 4.044 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while leading the Bucs to an NFC South title and wild-card win over Philadelphia.

That performance earned Mayfield his first Pro Bowl appearance in Orlando. On Thursday night, Mayfield beat the Texans’ C.J. Stroud in the final of the Precision Passing skills challenge.

On Friday after a workout at Camping World Stadium, players weighed in on the new Bucs hire.

“Of all the guys they interviewed and the names I saw, there were a lot of good options,” Mayfield said. “It’s kind of hard to understand how that thought process goes, but obviously I got to work with Liam in LA. Great guy. Really, really great guy.

“So if they lock that down, for sure it’s a similar system, the same system with a little different terminology, how he wants to call things. There’s something to be said about that with continuity within the offense, with skill guys and the offensive line. That’s important to have.”

The Bucs finished last in the NFL in rushing the past two seasons and that’s one area that Coen could improve immediately.

“I think he has a very good grasp of the offense and the run game and how they can improve the run game,” said Rams Pro Bowl running back Kyren Williams. “That’s what he’s going to do for the Bucs and that offense. Obviously, he’s a great person and a great coach. He’s a person who loves ball and loves the players, so I definitely expect the best from him.”

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Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen, center, talks with quarterback Will Levis (7) during the first half of the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2022, in Orlando. Kentucky's offense was one of the best in the nation under Coen for the 2021 season.
Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen, center, talks with quarterback Will Levis (7) during the first half of the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2022, in Orlando. Kentucky's offense was one of the best in the nation under Coen for the 2021 season. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]

The Bucs had begun to narrow their search by meeting with candidates who had worked with Mayfield in the past.

On Thursday, they interviewed Coen and Rams passing game specialist Jake Peetz. Former Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt also interviewed with the Bucs before being hired by the Patriots.

Also Thursday, Mayfield indicated the Bucs have begun preliminary talks on a contract extension. He played in Tampa Bay under a one-year, $4 million deal. Spotrac estimates Mayfield’s free-agent value at an annual average of $27.1 million, or four years at $108.5 million.

He told the NFL Network he was watching who Tampa Bay hires as offensive coordinator closely.

“My agent and them, I think they engaged a little bit,” Mayfield said “But obviously when Canales left … when they started the OC search, I think they know that we’ve got to know who’s calling plays before anything’s done.”

While at Kentucky, Coen’s offenses were prolific.

In 2021 the Wildcats scored the second-most points in Kentucky history (420). That Wildcat team, with Will Levis under center, averaged 32.3 points per game and 6.4 yards per play (21st in the nation).

The offense dipped the next year without Coen (to 20.4 points per game) then rebounded with him back in the fold last year (29.1).

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