TAMPA — Todd Monken left a good job as head coach at the University of Southern Mississippi to return to the NFL, but he is bringing some college pompoms with him.
The Bucs' new offensive coordinator, who was introduced Thursday, wants more exuberant players and explosive plays, a fun-and-gun style that he believes can work at any level.
"It's about having the talent first. And then, I like having fun," Monken said. "I don't know why it has to feel like such drudgery. I just don't. I've never understood that. I want a fight song! We don't have a fight song! I want a fight song! Isn't a fight song cool? You get to sing a fight song."
The Bucs had a fight song in the late 1970s, Hey, Hey Tampa Bay, but it has been rarely played since.
"Call me a college guy," Monken said. "When I was in Jacksonville, they called me a college guy. I love it. I love coaching, the excitement of it. Why can't it be fun?
"Watch the Carolina Panthers. They're having fun. I want our quarterback to have fun. I want our guys to have fun doing it together. I want the locker room to be fun. Is that harder in a pro setting? Yes, because of the change. You have so many different pieces that change, you've got to make that blend together and guys that play for more than just themselves, and that's difficult in a pro setting because of the money, as we know. But you can still make it work.
"There's got to be more than just the money. … The feeling of getting better and doing it for your teammates and the excitement of getting better and doing it with some people you care about.
Monken, who turns 50 on Feb. 5, worked with Bucs coach Dirk Koetter on the Jaguars' staff for three seasons (2007-10). While Koetter will call plays, Monken will serve as the team's offensive coordinator and receivers coach.
The chance to return to the NFL for a "special opportunity'' prompted Monken to leave Southern Miss after three seasons. He took over a team that was 0-12 and went 1-11, 3-9 and 9-5, winning the Conference USA West title. Last season the Golden Eagles ranked 12th in Division I-A in total offense with 509.5 yards per game and 13th in scoring offense with 39.9 points per game.
Monken said he was approached about the Bucs job about a week ago and admitted it was a tough decision leaving Southern Miss less than two weeks before national signing day.
"I'm so excited to be here I can't see straight," Monken said.
The opportunity to work with quarterback Jameis Winston and receiver Mike Evans was a factor in his decision, Monken said. He visited One Buc Place last summer to pick Koetter's brain about offense but said he had no idea he would be back as an assistant coach.
"I came down to visit here seven months ago, not thinking I was coming back and actually having my own office," Monken said. "But I came down here to visit, and Dirk and I spoke again about how do you win. We went back to Southern Miss and talked about explosive plays, don't turn it over, third-down conversions, touchdowns in the red zone — it's still true today. Those are the ways you win. Yards are a part of it. If you take care of those five areas … explosive plays are a big part of it. It's hard to drive it. If you're not going to be explosive, you better be good on third downs. It's all a part of it.
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"The bottom line is how can you be explosive? I've always thought, we don't need more 5-yard plays. Who needs more 5-yard plays? How can we be explosive? That's what the game is about, man. Big plays. So how do we not figure out ways to get explosive plays? That's fun."
Monken, a high-energy coach like Koetter who is known as a teacher, says his primary job will be coaching receivers but he will assist in offensive game plans.
"My No. 1 responsibility is to maximize the skill set of our wide receivers, to make sure I do my part with that room to help continue this offense to climb,'' he said. "The second part is to decide where that fits. There's more to (being the offensive coordinator) than just calling plays."