NFL Nation: Marcus Arroyo

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith has a well-deserved reputation for being stubborn.

He earned it in his days as the Chicago Bears' coach by doing things like sticking to the Tampa 2 defense and staying with quarterback Rex Grossman when fans were screaming to get rid of both.

So what the heck happened the other day when Smith released quarterback Josh McCown? He was showing flexibility I didn’t think he had. It’s funny how a 2-14 season can change your thinking.

A year ago, McCown was Smith’s hand-picked quarterback. They had been together in Chicago and there was a comfort level that flowed both ways. Mike Glennon, who had started 13 games in 2013, immediately was pushed to the bench to make room for McCown.

In theory, McCown was supposed to be the savvy veteran who rarely made mistakes. In theory, he was supposed to lead a highly efficient offense while the defense and special teams took care of the rest and the Bucs would contend for the playoffs.

In reality, none of that happened. It wasn’t all McCown’s fault. Things started going wrong in the preseason when offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford had to have a heart operation. Tedford left the team and never returned. Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo ended up calling the plays and the offense never got into any real rhythm.

It also didn’t help that McCown severely sprained his thumb in the third game of the season. He missed five starts. Although Glennon didn’t play badly in McCown's absence, Smith showed his stubborn streak and went back to McCown after the thumb had healed.

Even when healthy, McCown didn’t play the way he was supposed to. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns and won only one game as the starter.

Still, I thought McCown would be back in 2015. I thought Smith would use him as a mentor for whichever quarterback the team drafts with the No. 1 overall pick -- either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. McCown is the kind of guy who could have accepted a role like that.

But it didn’t happen. That’s because Smith is showing flexibility, which isn’t a bad thing. The Bucs need change, and Smith is allowing it to happen.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have agreed to terms with Mike Bajakian to be their new quarterbacks coach.

Bajakian had been the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Tennessee since 2013. Prior to that, he did stints as the offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati and Central Michigan. Bajakian also worked as an offensive quality control assistant for the Chicago Bears from 2004 through 2006. Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith was Chicago’s head coach during Bajakian’s time with the Bears.

Bajakian takes over for Marcus Arroyo, who the team previously announced was not returning. Arroyo joined the Bucs as quarterbacks coach in 2014, but ended up as the offensive play caller after coordinator Jeff Tedford had heart surgery in the preseason. Tedford did not return to the team and Arroyo called plays all year. The Bucs ranked 30th in total offense.

Bajakian could end up playing a very important role. The Bucs hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and could use it on Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston or Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Buccaneers have been denied permission to talk to Tennessee Titans tight ends coach Mike Mularkey about their offensive coordinator position, according to several media reports.

Mularkey would have been a logical fit in a lot of ways. He has plenty of experience as an offensive coordinator and worked as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. But Mularkey’s biggest success came as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.

In that role, he took rookie quarterback Matt Ryan and turned him into an instant success. The fact the Bucs wanted to interview Mularkey tells us some things about what they might be looking for in an offensive coordinator.

Mularkey runs a pro-style offense that depends heavily on the running game. But, with Ryan, he frequently mixed in an up-tempo, no-huddle style. That sounds a lot like what the Bucs were aiming for last year with coordinator Jeff Tedford. But Tedford had a heart operation just before the season and never returned to the Bucs. With quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo calling the plays, the up-tempo offense largely was scrapped.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers season report card

December, 31, 2014
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into the 2014 season talking optimistically about a fast turnaround under new coach Lovie Smith. The Bucs were aggressive in free agency, and the company line was the team didn't want to ask fans to be patient any longer.

In reality, the patience of the fans was put to a strong test during a 2-14 season.

Smith's system didn't take hold right away and defeats piled up. Blowout losses to Atlanta and Baltimore were ugly, and there were painful, close losses along the way. The defense showed signs of improvement as the season went on, but this team didn't do much to build optimism for the future. Major personnel moves will have to come in the offseason.

Team MVP: Gerald McCoy. The defensive tackle was a constant on a team that didn't have much consistency. He finished with 8.5 sacks in a season cut short by a knee injury. McCoy was strong against the run and pass, and he also provided strong leadership. The team rewarded him with a big contract extension at midseason. That assures the team has at least one building block in place for the long term. The Bucs could use a bunch of other pieces as solid as McCoy.

Best moment: This season didn't have many highlights, but the Week 4 victory at Pittsburgh definitely was the shining moment. It came with second-year pro Mike Glennon filling in for an injured Josh McCown at quarterback and provided early-season hope. It showed Smith's system could work. The Bucs weren't able to build anything positive off the Pittsburgh win, but it showed they could be competitive on the road against a good team.

Worst moment: You could go in any number of directions on this one, but I think there's a hands-down winner. That was the Nov. 30 home game against Cincinnati. The Bucs seemed to do everything they needed to get a win. They drove the ball into field-goal range in the closing seconds for what seemed like a certain victory. But the play was called back because the Bucs were penalized for having 12 men in the huddle. They wound up losing 14-13.

2015 outlook: The good news is things probably can't get worse. The honeymoon is over for Smith, who needs to show positive results quickly. Despite the losing, Smith talked repeatedly about how his team was improving. You could see that in small portions, particularly on the defense. But the improvement needs to become much more obvious in Smith's second season. His team has the No. 1 overall draft pick and is likely to be active in free agency, and the Bucs need to start winning games or else Smith will end up on the hot seat.
TAMPA, Fla. – Finding an offensive coordinator will be the first offseason order of business for the Buccaneers, coach Lovie Smith said Monday.

“As soon as possible,’’ Smith said, when asked for a timetable on filling the job. “We’re not playing a game tomorrow or anything like that, but I’d like to get the staff in place as soon as possible. But at the same time not rushing anything. We have time. I’m going to take my time and use this opportunity to talk to as many people as I possibly can.’’

The Bucs went through a unique situation in the 2014 season. Jeff Tedford was brought in to be the offensive coordinator and he installed his system in the offseason program and training camp. But Tedford needed heart surgery at the end of the preseason. Initially, it was thought Tedford would return quickly. But he ended up taking a leave of absence and the team eventually let him out of his contract in December.

[+] EnlargeSmith
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesLovie Smith says his next offensive coordinator will have 'full range to implement his system.'
In the meantime, the play-calling duties fell on quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo with input from the rest of the offensive staff. The offense struggled all season, finishing 30th in the league.

Smith said the process of hiring an offensive coordinator already has begun, although some coaches he might want to talk to are off limits because they’re in the playoffs. Smith said he isn’t locked into getting someone with NFL experience as a coordinator.

“I would like to get the best offensive coordinator,’’ Smith said. “I just don’t think you put yourself in a box. You look and you talk to as many people as possible. Every guy in the NFL was once in college. I don’t think you can close the door on that. All available guys that I think we should talk to that give us a chance to be successful offensively, I owe it to the organization to talk to them.’’

The Bucs hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and they could end up taking a quarterback. Smith said, if his team goes that route, the offensive coordinator needs to be someone who can develop a quarterback.

“That will definitely be a part of it,’’ Smith said. “If you have to be down where we are right now to have a chance to – we start the domino effect as far as the draft. To me, it should be an attractive job for guys out there. That will affect it a little bit. But it’s not like we’re going to reinvent how football is played or anything like that. There are certain parameters that I’m looking for in an offensive coordinator and I think we’ll be able to get them.’’

Smith said he will give his offensive coordinator freedom.

“Of course I’m going to give him hard, specific things that I want him to do,’’ Smith said. You want to know those specific things? We want to have balance. We want a productive offense. That’s a pretty wide variety of range on what we want to do. Contrary to public opinion, for some, we don’t want to run the ball out of a 100-play game, we don’t want to run it 99 times. We just want balance.

“We’re keeping all options open, from spread looks to – we just want to be able to run and pass the football when we want to and when we need to. If we mold this Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense together, it’s not like I’m going to be over the guy’s shoulder saying do this, do that. I’ve given a lot of offensive coordinators that I’ve had a lot of full range to implement their system.’’
TAMPA, Fla. – All season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been downplaying the fact they don’t have an offensive coordinator.

But after Sunday’s 20-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers, quarterback Josh McCown admitted the lack of a coordinator has been detrimental. The Bucs managed only 109 yards of offense and didn’t get near the end zone.

“There are no excuses," McCown said. “But there’s a reason why 31 other teams have an offensive coordinator. It does matter. It does make a difference. We’ve done the best we could to pull ourselves out of it. Everybody has fought and fought hard, but we just haven’t been good enough to get ourselves out of it."

It’s refreshing that someone finally has spoken out about the coordinator situation. Tampa Bay’s offense has appeared to be in disarray most of the season. It’s no coincidence that Jeff Tedford, who was hired to be the offensive coordinator, has been missing. Tedford had heart surgery at the end of the preseason.

He took a leave of absence and eventually he and the Bucs agreed to part ways in early December. Tedford since has taken a job as a head coach in the Canadian Football League. Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo has called the plays all season with input from the rest of the offensive staff.

“It’s not an excuse, but we lost a coordinator at the start of the season," McCown said. “We’ve fought all through that for 16 weeks now. Just that, in and of itself, can help a team. Just an extra guy working with those guys. We don’t make excuses, but there are things we can point to and say just that alone may help us improve."

Coach Lovie Smith didn’t want to talk about Tedford, saying he was ready to return to coaching two months ago.

“I’m not even going to go down that road anymore," Smith said. “We need help on the offensive side. We have needed help for a while. I’m not talking about coaching; I’m just talking about our play overall."

Buccaneers need offensive overhaul

December, 14, 2014
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Take a look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first four possessions of Sunday's second half. They tell the story of the season.

After taking a 10-9 lead into halftime, the Bucs came out firing blanks in the third quarter. They went three-and-out on four straight possessions.

"I think that's what tilted the game was the third quarter, the slow start," quarterback Josh McCown said. "The third quarter killed us."

Tampa Bay's offense went cold when it mattered most and it cost the Bucs dearly in a 19-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers. That should come as no surprise. It has been happening all season.

[+] EnlargeJosh McCown
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneJosh McCown hasn't shown he's good enough to be part of the Bucs' long-term plans.
The only good thing you can say about Tampa Bay's offense is that we only have to watch it for two more games. After that, the Bucs need to blow it up and start from scratch next year. The offense just hasn't worked and it's time for an overhaul. New offensive coordinator. New scheme. New quarterback.

"We started Day 1 in the offseason talking about being balanced and being able to do both," McCown said of running and passing. "It feels like we've done both effectively at times. But we've got to be able to do it in the same game. We just have not done that."

Early in the year, you could cut the Bucs some slack because they were without offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford. He had heart surgery at the end of the preseason and took a leave of absence that eventually turned into a permanent departure from the team.

Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo was thrust into a tough spot as the new playcaller. But this season is 14 games old and the offense hasn't shown any signs of improvement. Arroyo might be fine as a quarterbacks coach, but the Bucs need a new coordinator for next year. A new scheme also would help. Arroyo still is using the outline of what Tedford put in, but that's not working. That's largely because the plays aren't being called properly.

The Bucs ran the ball well in the first half against Carolina; Doug Martin ran for 92 of his 96 yards, including a 63-yarder, before halftime. But they went away from the running game in the second half. The passing game didn't come to the rescue: McCown completed less than 50 percent of his passes, going 13-for-28 for 154 yards with one touchdown, one interception, three sacks and two fumbles lost.

Those aren't the type of numbers you would expect from a guy who was brought in to deliver a savvy, veteran presence. But McCown, 35, hasn't been playing like a savvy veteran. He has been turning the ball over way too much, with 11 interceptions in the nine games in which he has played.

No turnover was more costly than the sack/fumble of McCown early in the third quarter. It gave Carolina the ball on Tampa Bay's 4-yard line. Two plays later, the Panthers punched in a touchdown to take the lead for good.

"It was unfortunate," McCown said. "It hurt us bad."

The Bucs (2-12) have put themselves in position to have a very early draft pick. They need to use it on a quarterback, such as Marcus Mariota. This season has shown McCown isn't the long-term answer and the coaching staff already has given up on Mike Glennon.

McCown can stick around as a veteran mentor and backup. But this offense needs a fresh start all the way around, and that includes a new quarterback.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Perhaps the most positive sight of Wednesday’s open locker room for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the presence of center Evan Dietrich-Smith showing up at his locker.

Dietrich-Smith missed Sunday’s 14-13 loss to Cincinnati due to flu-like symptoms. In a classic case of not knowing what you have until it’s gone, Dietrich-Smith’s absence turned out to be very costly for the Bucs.

Replacement Garrett Gilkey was called for four penalties and had two errant snaps in the shotgun formation. But the good news is that Gilkey’s stint as the starting center was only one game.

Dietrich-Smith said he is healthy again after being sick for a full week.

“I’m good," Dietrich-Smith said. “I’m doing better. I’m alive. Nobody really saw me for the past week, but I’m good. I’ll be all right."

Dietrich-Smith said he fully expects to play in Sunday’s game at Detroit.

“Definitely," he said. “I’m here. I’ll be all right. I’ll be out there."

Dietrich-Smith said sitting out the Cincinnati game was difficult.

“I definitely felt like I could have helped if I played," he said. “But I was really in no way, shape or form able to do that. Physically, it wasn’t going to happen. I really couldn’t help anybody last week, except for myself getting in and out of bed."

Gilkey’s performance has drawn outrage from fans because he had never played center in a game at any level. Gilkey normally plays guard. But quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo, who is the acting offensive coordinator, defended the decision to start Gilkey. The Bucs had promoted Josh Allen, who has played center in the past, from the practice squad but elected not to play him.

“Garrett had been working that position at center as a backup since we’ve been here and since we’ve had him," Arroyo said. “Going into that game, he was the guy to go in and do it. Not the way maybe he wanted it to go. It’s unfortunate we had some of those things. I think anyone on our roster can look back on their first start, coaches included, and say I wish I had something back. I think that he understands what things can hurt us. Whoever you pick to play that position really is going to be in-house. Our decision to go with Garrett was we’ve had camp with him and what he’s done."

LANDOVER, Md. – By now, you've probably realized that Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie wide receiver Mike Evans is a pretty talented guy.

But Evans brings more skills than you realize. As it turns out, Evans can call plays. That's what he did on the first of his two touchdown catches in Sunday's 27-7 victory over Washington.

Technically, the play was called by quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo. But Evans put a new wrinkle on it as he went in motion and shouted to quarterback Josh McCown.

"We had a route called and it was something he was going to add on to it," McCown said. "We had talked about it, possibly, on the sideline. It was truly a last-second adjustment there and he made a great play."

Evans did pretty much whatever he wanted all day. He finished with seven catches for 209 yards, just nine yards short of the franchise record for receiving yards in a game. Evans' performance was historically good. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he became the first rookie receiver to record three straight 100-yard games with at least one touchdown since Randy Moss in 1998.

"Randy Moss was my favorite receiver," Evans said. "I just watched his '30 for 30' last night. It's great to be mentioned in the same caliber as him, but the win is more important than anything."

The win might not have come without Evans' big day. Tampa Bay (2-8) had blown five fourth-quarter leads this season. But Evans almost singlehandedly made sure it didn't happen again by putting the game too far out of reach.

Evans' first touchdown came with 4 minutes, 36 seconds remaining in the third quarter and it gave the Bucs a 20-7 lead. He followed that up with a 56-yard touchdown catch with 14:07 left in the fourth quarter. Coach Lovie Smith said he has never seen a rookie dominate the way Evans did.

"I have been in the league for a while and I just know that I haven't been with one that has been able to do some of the things he's done," Smith said. "He's still young. I've seen him grow so much. Lot of potential and really just competing hard. It will be a lot of fun to see his development."

McCown, a 13-year veteran, said Evans already is a special player.

"Obviously, Mike being the seventh pick [overall], you expect it more," McCown said. "But certainly to take over and do the things he did today is special. It's going to help our football team win games."
TAMPA, Fla. – Back in the offseason, especially after they drafted Charles Sims, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers repeatedly said Doug Martin still was their “bell-cow’’ running back.

It has become apparent throughout the season that’s no longer the case. But, on Wednesday, quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo actually came out and said the Bucs don’t have a bell-cow runner, mostly because they don’t need one.

“I don’t think we need to say that,’’ Arroyo said. “There’s no need for that. You’ve got three good ones and you’ve got guys in the third-and-one situation that can carry the flag and you’ve got guys that can carry it in certain situations. That’s a great thing to have. I think a lot of teams wish they had that kind of flexibility. We have some options and they’re all guys we’re really excited about.’’

Martin’s season has been star-crossed. He has been injured and has missed four games, including the last two. Even when healthy, Martin hasn’t been very productive. He has 58 carries for 166 yards for a 2.9 average.

Backup Bobby Rainey has been more productive with 87 carries for 388 yards. Mike James has established himself as the short-yardage back.

Then, there’s Sims, on whom the Bucs used a third-round draft pick. The team has described Sims as an all-purpose running back and it’s obvious they have big plans for him. But Sims missed the first eight games with an ankle injury. He made his debut and had 23 yards on eight carries.

What Arroyo was saying was that the Bucs are going to use a committee approach going forward. That might not be good news for fantasy owners of Tampa Bay’s running backs. But it should be good news for the Bucs.

They have four talented running backs, with four different skill sets, so they might as well use them all.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon stood at his locker and said all the right things Wednesday.

Although he admitted he was disappointed with the team’s decision to bench him and go with Josh McCown as the starting quarterback, Glennon isn’t the type to rock the boat.

“I’m not going to let it bother my confidence," Glennon said. “I know what I’m capable of doing. I know what I can do physically, so I’m just going to go out there and prepare and get ready for another shot."

It remains to be seen if that next shot will come with the Bucs. At one time, coach Lovie Smith said Glennon was the team’s quarterback of the future. But his benching creates some obvious doubt. Glennon said his future wasn’t discussed when he met with Smith and quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo.

“They just said they wanted to go back to Josh and hope that he provides a spark to our team," Glennon said.

McCown was signed in the offseason and immediately named the starter over Glennon, who started 13 games as a rookie last season. But McCown injured his thumb in the third game of the season and that elevated Glennon to the starting lineup. He threw for 10 touchdowns with six interceptions and the Bucs went 1-4 in the games Glennon started this season. Glennon said he’ll continue to prepare the same way he always has.

“It was not what I was expecting, but it’s part of the game," Glennon said. “I’m just going to help the team in whatever way I can. Last time this happened, two and a half games in, I was playing again. So you never know what’s going to happen."
TAMPA, Fla. – The Buccaneers have had to shuffle their coaching staff with offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford taking a leave of absence after heart surgery.

Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo has been calling the plays and the Bucs didn’t go out and add a quarterbacks coach. Instead, they might have found one from the inside.

That’s injured starter Josh McCown. The veteran has talked about wanting to have as much value as possible to the team while he’s out. He’s earning his keep by helping replacement Mike Glennon.

Some players don’t want to see their replacements have success, but that’s not the case with McCown. He was seen celebrating with Glennon on the field in the aftermath of Sunday’s upset win in Pittsburgh.

“He genuinely wants the team to succeed and he genuinely wants to see me succeed,’’ Glennon said. “He was a huge help to me all week. As a team, we’re lucky to have him. I’m lucky to have him to be with me every day and help me develop as a player.’’

The team has been guarded about the severity of McCown’s injured right thumb and when he might return. But the fact Glennon was the quarterback who was sent to talk to the media Wednesday was a pretty strong sign that he’s expected to start Sunday against New Orleans.

Although Glennon threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns and led a game-winning drive in the final minute, he said there remains plenty of room for improvement.

“I missed too many throws in the red zone,’’ Glennon said. “That’s the main thing. If I could have hit more of those, we wouldn’t have needed that drive at the end or who knows what would have happened. There were definitely some throws I’d like back.’’

The Bucs also had some issues with clock management that resulted in delay-of-game penalties against the Steelers. Glennon put the blame on himself for those issues.

“The quarterback is always responsible,’’ Glennon said. “We’re the ones that can see the play clock. We’ll get that straightened out. It’s already been addressed and won’t be an issue moving forward.’’

Bucs OC Jeff Tedford won't call plays

September, 7, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford will be in the coaches’ box at Raymond James Stadium Sunday, but he won’t be calling the plays.

A team official said Tedford will serve as "an extra set of eyes" and the rest of the offensive staff will team up to fill his role. Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo is expected to be the playcaller.

Tedford had an unspecified medical procedure nearly two weeks ago. Head coach Lovie Smith said Friday that Tedford had been cleared for light duty.

Jeff Tedford's status remains unclear

September, 5, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. – Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford took a step toward returning to full duty on Friday.

Tedford, who had an unspecified medical procedure last week, was on the field for Friday’s practice. Coach Lovie Smith said Tedford has been cleared to return to work on a limited basis.

But it still remains unclear if Tedford will be working at Sunday’s season opener against Carolina. Smith said the Bucs may make a game-time decision on Tedford’s status.

If Tedford can’t go Sunday, the rest of Tampa Bay’s offensive coaching staff will share his duties, with quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo calling the plays.

Bucs announce 11 assistant coaches

January, 9, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. -- Very quickly, Lovie Smith is putting together his coaching staff for the Buccaneers.

We already knew Jeff Tedford was the offensive coordinator and Leslie Frazier the defensive coordinator. But the Bucs announced 11 more hires Thursday evening. In some cases, the names have already been reported. But let's run through the complete list.

The Bucs hired Marcus Arroyo as quarterbacks coach, Joe Cullen as defensive line coach, Andrew Hayes-Stoker as wide receivers coach, Dave Kennedy as strength and conditioning coach, Larry Marmie as a senior defensive assistant, Hardy Nickerson as linebackers coach, Kevin O'Dea as special teams coordinator, Mikal Smith as safeties coach, Tim Spencer as running backs coach, Ben Steele as an offensive quality control coach and Matt Wiegand as assistant offensive line coach.

The most interesting names on the list are Nickerson, Marmie and Mikal Smith. Nickerson was a linebacker for the Buccaneers when Lovie Smith was the linebackers coach in the 1990s. Marmie coached Lovie Smith when he was a college player at Tulsa. Mikal Smith is Lovie Smith's son.