Tedford illness thrusts Marcus Arroyo into Bucs' spotlight

Marcus Arroyo, right, applies pressure as quarterback Josh McCown drops back to pass during voluntary minicamp in April. [DANIEL WALLACE | Times]
Marcus Arroyo, right, applies pressure as quarterback Josh McCown drops back to pass during voluntary minicamp in April. [DANIEL WALLACE | Times]
Published Sept. 17, 2014

TAMPA — He is that rare NFL quarterbacks coach younger than his starting quarterback, thrust into an even larger role and asked to call offensive plays in the Bucs' first two games.

And as the Bucs seek their first win and an offensive identity, they do it with Marcus Arroyo, 34, stepping in as offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford recovers from a heart procedure that has limited him the past three weeks.

"You can second-guess yourself as a playcaller," Arroyo said Tuesday, preparing for a quick turnaround to Thursday's game at Atlanta. "You can try to say, 'I wish I would have had that play there,' you can beat yourself about it. … I've got a low ego about making the wrong or right call. You have to be the closest you can be to what you have in your game plan."

Arroyo, 6 months younger than Bucs quarterback Josh McCown, is new to the NFL but well-versed in Tedford's offense.

He coached under Tedford at Cal in 2011-12, spent a year as offensive coordinator at Southern Miss when Tedford was out of football, then rejoined him on Lovie Smith's staff this spring. An 0-2 start won't faze Arroyo — between his finish at Cal, a 1-11 season at Southern Miss and the Bucs' start, he has lost 18 of the past 19 games he coached.

Already making a major leap to the NFL, Arroyo was pressed into calling plays in the first two games after Tedford was sidelined by a heart procedure. Tedford has attended both games, but Arroyo has called plays.

"There's a lot of young guys making calls in the league," Smith said. "I think we've done a pretty good job. … We've had players out, and guys have stepped up. We would like to see the next man up, coaching or playing, to step up and do the job."

Arroyo played quarterback at San Jose State from 1998-2002. The year after his playing career ended, he was back as an undergraduate assistant, then as a full-time college coach a year later.

"He grew into that very quickly," said longtime coach Dick Tomey, who promoted Arroyo to quarterbacks coach at his alma mater at age 26, then co-offensive coordinator a year later. "I don't think the job's about age. It's about capability, and that's what I saw. … I always felt Marcus was a courageous playcaller."

Arroyo has had his share of difficult calls in two weeks in the NFL, such as running Bobby Rainey on third and 7 at the Rams' 9-yard line. It came up short, setting up a blocked field goal in a 19-17 loss.

"Tough place to be," Arroyo said of the third-and-7 call. "You want to make sure you get points, and the last time we were in third and 5, Josh ran for a touchdown because they had drop-eight coverage. If they drop eight, there's not a lot of place to put the ball for a fade."

He reviews his calls with a critical eye — in the opening loss to Carolina, the Bucs punted from the Panthers' 36-yard line after a 7-yard sack on third down in another close game.

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

"I called a pass play on the 30-yard line and we got sacked, knocked us out of field-goal range," Arroyo said. "I wish I wouldn't have called that. I wish I would have called a run."

McCown, who had just one interception in 224 pass attempts last year, has three in his first two games as a Buc, one off the NFL high, but Arroyo said he has lost "zero" confidence in him.

"Marcus and I spent a lot of time in the offseason together, working on learning the system, how we want things to work," McCown said. "I think he has a good feel for me, and I have a good feel for him. He's done a heck of a job considering the circumstances. First opportunity to coach in the NFL and all (of a) sudden you're in that (playcalling) role. We're continuing to work through it. … That'll get better as time goes on."

Contact Greg Auman at and (813) 226-3346. Follow @gregauman.