Jeff Tedford's absence puts Bucs in a bad position

Marcus Arroyo
Marcus Arroyo
Published Sept. 25, 2014


Time to start chewing some fingernails. This has all the makings of being a fiasco.

The Bucs offense is now in the hands of a backup quarterback and, here's the spooky part, a backup offensive coordinator.

Marcus Arroyo doesn't have the official title, but he has all of the responsibility of being the Bucs' offensive coordinator. He's now in charge of calling the plays for a Bucs team that isn't reminding anyone of the "Greatest Show on Turf."

Arroyo seems like a good man. He speaks confidently and appears to be pretty bright. But before this season, he had called as many offensive plays in the NFL as a kicking tee.

This isn't his fault. It isn't even fair to him. There's simply no way to expect a coach who has called plays only for the likes of Prairie View A&M, San Jose State, Wyoming, Cal and Southern Miss to show up on Sunday afternoons and give NFL defensive coordinators fits.

Is Arroyo in over his head? Put it this way: If the Bucs could start from scratch and hire an offensive coordinator, Arroyo would never in a million years get the job. The 34-year-old just doesn't have the resume for it yet.

To be honest, the original plan seemed a little shaky. Jeff Tedford, an offensive guru at the college level, was supposed to come in with an up-tempo, high-powered, razzle-dazzle scheme. While head coach Lovie Smith was shutting down opponents, Tedford would be lighting up scoreboards. But, he too, had never called plays at the NFL level.

Then Tedford developed heart problems before the regular season even started and is out indefinitely. Smith announced Wednesday the Bucs have to proceed as if Tedford will not be back this season.

That leaves Arroyo in charge.

"We hired him to come in and be an assistant coach, and his duties changed," Smith said. "It's like players. We start the season. We put them in different roles, but your roles change throughout. It's not like, 'What do we do now?' No, it's next man up, next coach, next player."

Arroyo made it sound like the whole staff is calling plays.

"The collective effort of the staff will be exactly the same," he said.

What the heck does that mean? Is there a vote before every play?

"All right, everybody, listen up. Raise your hand if you want a draw play. Now, all those in favor of a screen? … Wait, we just punted?' Doggone it, who called for a punt!?"

Okay, so I'm guessing the Bucs have their act together more than that, but clearly this is an adjustment. This was supposed to be Tedford's vision, his scheme, his baby. He was to run the rehearsals during the week then conduct the orchestra on Sunday. He was in charge.

Now it's someone else with lots of voices in his headset running another coach's offense. Arroyo was supposed to be the quarterbacks coach, not the play-caller.

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

"It's a work in progress because you go through the whole offseason and training camp, and I'm nailing down the room and learning about our guys and learning about what we can do," Arroyo said. "Now you're down a guy. You've got to have a little different vision or have a little more vision as to not only what you can become, (but) how you're going to control it. … We'll put the plays on the sheet together, and calling it effectively is definitely something we're working on, and I'm working to be as good as I can be in that position."

On one hand, this is simply rotten luck for the Bucs. Tedford suffering an illness is like a player getting hurt. There's no way to predict it, and you can't control it. You also can't expect the backup is going to be as good as the starter.

But here's what happens when you hire a college coach such as Tedford: His right-hand man is a college guy, too.

"I don't know how good a coach Arroyo is," NFL Network analyst and former NFL general manager Charley Casserly said. "But you don't have a No. 2 guy there with a lot of NFL experience on the staff. So you were really counting on one guy. And now Coach Arroyo is thrown into this. It's not necessarily his offense. He hasn't installed it. (He's) in there on the run with no experience."

The Bucs have no other choice but to ride this out and hope Arroyo is a fast study. It's way too late to bring in another offensive coordinator. And it's definitely too late to change the offense in midstream after spending the past six months installing and practicing it.

"I don't know if you can do that, if it's a smart decision in the middle of a season to change direction," Arroyo said. "That's not a plan at all. Our plan is to stay the course and to give our guys a chance to continue doing what they're doing and get good."

Maybe knowing Tedford won't be back any time soon will allow Arroyo more freedom to run things exactly the way he wants to. Arroyo said he is completely comfortable calling plays, and Smith said he has "no concerns" with Arroyo because the team has been without Tedford since the regular season started.

Maybe he should be concerned. The Bucs are 30th out of the 32 teams in total offense. They are turning to backup quarterback Mike Glennon, and Arroyo's next test will be to match wits with Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who has coached in the league longer than Arroyo has been on the planet.

Hey, how 'bout some ketchup with those fingernails?

Contact Tom Jones at or (727) 893-8544. He can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620.