Tight Ends Coach Alfredo Roberts spent six years as a player in the NFL
Here's something new you'll find on Buccaneers.com this offseason.
Each weekend, we'll do a quick recap on some of the previous week's news, with a little bit of extra information that wasn't included the first time around. Unless it was a particular news-thin week, in which case we won't.
That's pretty much it. So let's move right along with a little more info on…
…Luke McCown's return:
The Buccaneers began the week by announcing on Monday that they had re-signed sixth-year quarterback Luke McCown, a potential unrestricted free agent. McCown said he was hopeful he would draw interest from the team after its recent changes in management and the coaching staff, and he was highly motivated to return after being he would have a chance to compete for the starting job.
The most significant changes to the Bucs' staff were, of course, the promotions of Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik to head coach and general manager, respectively. It was feedback from both Morris and Dominik that convinced McCown to re-sign with the team rather than test free agency. Now that he is returning, however, McCown will also be affected by another very significant change in the Bucs' coaching ranks: the hiring of new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski.
McCown hoped to meet with Jagodzinski shortly after signing his new deal on Monday in order to get a better feel for the system preferred by the former Boston College head coach. One thing that could work in McCown's favor is the possibility of more down-the-field passing under Jagodzinski; McCown has a very strong arm and has demonstrated good touch on his deep balls on occasion.
"The most I've researched [Jagodzinski] was back to 2006 when he was in Green Bay, and the kind of offense, the kind of success they've had there," said McCown, referring to Jagodzinski's very successful season as the Packers' offensive coordinator. "I understand that that's the kind of similar system that he would run, kind of that hybrid-West Coast with implementing the vertical attack in there as well."
Of course, McCown also has above-average mobility for a quarterback, especially one of his height, and he throws well on the run. McCown didn't spend too much time examining Jagodzinski's history before re-signing with the Buccaneers because he believes he has the skills to make it in any offensive system.
"I'm looking forward to [more deep passing], but I'll say it again: It doesn't matter," said McCown. "For me, the system doesn't matter; I feel like I can succeed and be good at whatever system he wants to run. Again, I'm going to work hard to be the best at it and get better at it and help this team any way I can."
…the finalized coaching staff:
Morris and Dominik worked very hard to get the new coaching staff in place as quickly as possible, obviously hoping to be at full strength in time for the NFL Scouting Combine and the start of free agency.
After Jagodzinski and Jim Bates came aboard as the new offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, the rest of the staff fell into place over the next two weeks. On Wednesday, the Buccaneers released a list of their entire 2009 coaching staff, news that included the hirings of four newcomers: Running Backs Coach Steve Logan, Tight Ends Coach Alfredo Roberts, Assistant Offensive Line Coach Chris Mosley and Assistant to the Head Coach Jay Kaiser.
In all, the Buccaneers' 2009 staff features 11 new additions, although one of those is returning Linebackers Coach Joe Barry. Barry held the same post on the Bucs' staff from 2001-06 before spending the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions.
That means there are nine coaches returning from last year's staff, though more than half of them will have new titles this season. That obviously begins with Morris, who was the Buccaneers' defensive backs coach the past two seasons (and briefly the defensive coordinator in place of the departed Monte Kiffin before he was promoted to head coach).
Rich Bisaccia remains the associate head coach/special teams coordinator but he will no longer coach the running backs, too, as he did in 2008. Wide Receivers Coach Richard Mann adds assistant head coach to his title. Kurtis Shultz moves up from assistant strength and conditioning coach to the head man in the department. And Dwayne Stukes moves from assisting Bisaccia on special teams to helping Joe Baker as the new assistant defensive backs coach.
The four coaches returning to the same positions they held in 2008 are Assistant Running Backs Coach Tim Berbenich, Defensive Quality Control Coach Ejiro Evero, Quarterbacks Coach Greg Olson and Defensive Line Coach Todd Wash.
New Tight Ends Coach Alfredo Roberts will handle that job for his third NFL team, having previously tutored the tight ends in Jacksonville and Cleveland. As noted on Wednesday, Roberts also played six seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs, collecting two Super Bowl rings in the process.
Roberts is the first primary position coach on the Bucs' staff to have played the same position in the NFL since Jethro Franklin handled the defensive line in 2006. Franklin had spent two seasons playing in the NFL in Houston and Seattle. George Yarno, Tampa Bay's assistant offensive line coach last year, played in the NFL for roughly a decade, most of it with the Buccaneers.
…the Bucs' special teams prowess in 2008:
In introducing the latest results of Rick Gosselin's annual special teams rankings on Thursday, we pointed out that the Buccaneers had finished in the top 10 for the second straight season after an "uncharacteristic" drop to 21st in 2006.
We may have been a bit too kind with our choice of adjectives. The Bucs' drop from 2005 to 2006 was only two spots, as the team finished 19th in the rankings in '05. And that was a bit up from 2004, when the Buccaneers finished 24th.
So instead it would appear that Tampa Bay's placement of seventh in 2007 and ninth in 2008 is a sharp upturn from a period of struggling. It's safe to say that Tampa Bay's kicking and return games were more of an asset over the last two years than they had been in the previous three.
Where has most of the improvement been, specifically? Actually, the answer isn't obvious.
Gosselin compiles his rankings for the Dallas Morning News using 22 different kicking-game categories, covering such areas as punt return average, field goal success rate and points scored in that phase of the game. The Buccaneers did not rank in the top three in any of Gosselin's 22 categories, but they also didn't bring up the rear in any of the rankings.
Tampa Bay's kickoff return average, 24.8 yards per runback, was the best in franchise history but only the sixth-best in the NFL last year. The Bucs improved greatly in punt return average from 2006 and 2007 (6.5 and 6.7, respectively) to 9.4 in 2008 but still ranked just 16th in the NFL in that category as a team. And the Bucs' kickoff and punt return averages allowed have actually gotten slightly worse each of the last two seasons (18.4 to 19.5 to 20.8 on kickoffs; 6.5 to 7.4 to 10.1 on punts).
It appears as if the Bucs were able to finish among the league's top 10 in the Dallas Morning News rankings for the second straight year because they were essentially solid across the board, with no glaring weaknesses to drag the overall score down.
One exception: Extra point percentage. By missing one PAT in 2008, the Bucs ranked very close to the bottom in that category. However, that was balanced nicely by the one thing the Buccaneers did a lot better in 2008 than they had in years: Score on special teams. Tampa Bay got three touchdowns in the kicking game in 2008 – one blocked punt return and two kick returns – which was one more than they had tallied in the previous four years combined.