In jest, RB Warrick Dunn says he'd call his own number on every play
What would be most important to Warrick Dunn as an offensive coordinator? Rhythm
Knowing that running back is as versatile as he is explosive, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have asked him to do many things over four years. Run inside, run outside, catch screen passes, take seam routes deep into the secondary, block, return kickoffs…you get the picture.
Nobody has yet asked Dunn to don a headset and a seat in the coaches' booth, but a curious questioner did ask the speedy tailback on Wednesday how things would be if he were the Buccaneers' offensive coordinator.
"I would get the ball every play," said Dunn. He was kidding. Mostly.
"But, no," continued Dunn, giving the question some serious thought. "We'd probably be doing some of the same things: establish the run, take what the defense gives us in the passing game. The thing is, you have to try to get the whole offensive unit into a rhythm."
Even at 5-8, 180, small by NFL running back standards, Dunn has remained a vital part of the Buccaneers' offense because he is a threat to rip off a big play any time the ball is in his hands. As you would suspect, Dunn really would like to get the rock into those hands more often, but he takes what he gets without complaint because he knows football is a team sport.
"I want the ball as much as anybody on this offense," said Dunn. "But you have to be a team player, and that's what I've tried to be.
"Of course you're going to always want to run more. But the thing is, we just want to take what the defense gives us. Whatever they give us, we have to take advantage of it and try to play off of it."
On occasion, the Bucs' offense revolves more around Dunn than on other afternoons. Six times in his NFL career, Dunn has carried the ball more than 20 times in a game. The Bucs are 6-0 in those games, though they haven't used that tactic yet this year. Dunn's ready should his number be called in that fashion again.
"I don't expect to carry the ball 30 times," he said. "Let's be realistic. But I've had games where I've carried around 25 times and it hasn't hurt me. It hasn't affected me at all."
Dunn definitely respects that there are a bevy of talents equal to his on the Bucs' offense. "Coach Steckel has the biggest problem of anybody on the coaching staff," said Dunn. "He has a lot of guys on offense that deserve the football, that want the football. How can you spread the ball out and around to different people? It's hard. I think it's hard for certain guys to get into a rhythm because they're not constantly touching the football."
It's when all of those potential weapons work together to create that rhythm that Dunn is pleased with the offense. Just such an occurrence happened two years ago, almost to the day, when the 3-4 Buccaneers of 1998 defeated the 7-0 Minnesota Vikings.
"Everybody played together," said Dunn of that afternoon, when a team-record 246 rushing yards keyed a 27-24 Buccaneer shootout victory. "We played as a team. Everybody executed and everybody made plays. We didn't rely on one particular person.
"We ran well that day, but we threw the ball well too. Everything complemented everything…the defense played well, the special teams were there making plays. It was an overall team effort and we came out with a win."
Can the Bucs repeat that effort. In Dunn's mind, that comes down to one thing.
"Hold onto the football," he said, without hesitation. "If we can hold onto the football, control the clock, try to wear their defense down, we should be in the same situation that we were when we were up there. Hopefully, we can execute in those situations and come out with a win."