Mantra: Players Over Plays
Player development is essential to the long-term success of an NFL franchise. In building the blueprint for the Buccaneers' offense in 2023, Offensive Coordinator Liam Coen discussed the mantra that will dictate the outcome on Sundays: Players over plays. As Coen begins to construct the scheme, identity, route concepts, tactics and techniques for the upcoming season, maximizing each individual player's unique skillset will shape the result.
"I was taught in times of crisis, you think players, not plays," said Coen. "It's not about what maybe I like, or the play that I might like the most, but what is going to get the ball into our best players' hands. What can our guys execute at a high level, be able to go do and have confidence in? Also, in the back of my call sheet, I have a player box for multiple players. Ultimately, we want to get the ball in their hands, right now, no questions asked, the coverage is not going to change, it's not [going to] matter what happens – the ball is going to their hands right now. Because this game is a personnel game, right? And at the end of the day, it's about those guys."
Liam Coen will bring familiarity to the Bucs' offensive system in 2024 as the new offensive coordinator. Coen worked alongside former Seahawks' offensive coordinator Shane Waldron while on Sean McVay's Rams' staff, before Waldron was brought to Seattle as offensive coordinator. Dave Canales was part of the Waldron coaching tree, serving as the Seahawks' quarterbacks coach before going to Tampa Bay in 2023 for a promotion to OC. Coen will now bring those similar concepts and verbiage to the Bucs, making for a smooth transition.
"I think it will be actually very similar in terms of some of the terminology," stated Coen. "The run game I think will be really similar in some ways. Formations – some 'daffy' might be 'dixie' or 'double' might be 'deuce' – some of those things may be a little different, but at the end of the day, those guys [know], 'OK, well that was just this.' They can put those things together. The protections I've got to believe will be very similar in some ways. Dave [Canales] was with Shane Waldron in Seattle, so there are a lot of similarities there. I don't expect an overly difficult learning curve, but obviously, we'll want to be able to put our stamp on things and be able to do things our way, as well."
From Cooper Kupp to Mike Evans
Coen will inherit one of the top players at his position in Mike Evans. The future Hall of Famer has eclipsed the 1,000-yard marker for 10-stright seasons since he was drafted and has become the poster of longevity and consistency in the NFL. He is one-of-four players with 11,000-plus receiving yards and 90-plus touchdown receptions through 10 career seasons, along with a trio of Hall of Famers in Marvin Harrison, Moss and Rice. Evans also became the first player in league history to amass 60-or-more receptions in each of his first 10 career seasons. The big-bodied receiver powers through jams with physicality and possesses rare high-point skills. He is as close to a cheat code as it gets on go routes, post routes and back-shoulder catches. Evans creates subtle separation with a lethal release package and elevates the Buccaneers' offense. When asked about Evans' ability, Coen discussed creating an advantage of utilizing No. 13 inside as well as on the outside.
"That is something that was asked a lot and something that we had to do in L.A. a ton because we knew that that offense ran through 'Coop.' Things have changed a little bit there – he's gotten a little more help – but things ran through him and we had to be creative, whether it was by formation, alignment, where we would put him [or] how we would end up in the final formation. With three different formations – double, dixie and daffy – we just moved the 'F' in three different positions. Ultimately, at the end of the day, we have to be able to move him around by formation, but also with motion. Do we start him in the backfield? Do we bring him in the backfield and now try to shuffle him out to try and get him matched up on a 'WILL' or a nickel, or a [line]backer, or a down safety? Mike, being the size that he is [and] with his ability to track the football down the field, but also his ability to get in and out of cuts at that size, to be able to put him inside a little bit more and to be able to run some of those option routes and choice routes on the inside… I think that's a winning edge and something we would like to be able to utilize."
Wirfs' Athleticism Opens Up Playbook
Tristan Wirfs made a seamless transition from right to left tackle at the outset of the 2023 season and anchored the unit. He earned Pro Bowl recognition for his contributions on the field in 2023 and joined Tony Mayberry (1997-99) as the only offensive linemen in franchise history with three consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl. In 2023, Wirfs totaled 1,233 offensive snaps, including the postseason, and yielded five sacks and six quarterback hits over 19 games played per PFF metrics. Among all tackles with 850-or-more pass-blocking snaps in 2023, Wirfs ranked fourth with an 84.3 pass-blocking grade and sixth with an 81.1 overall offensive grade, per PFF. With quickness out of his stance and lateral agility for move blocking duties on pulls, Wirfs became the enforcer. Coen spoke on Wirfs' athleticism and dubbed him a "weapon" in the trenches.
"Obviously, those guys get paid for a reason and he's a special talent," noted Coen. "I've heard great things about him as a worker – making the adjustment from the right to the left. That's not easy to do and he did it pretty seamlessly. [I'm] really excited to get to work with him because weapons aren't just out on the perimeter, weapons are up front as well. When you have a weapon like that out front, at that position, you can utilize by pulling him around, getting him in the screen game, use him in the pin-and-pull game, whatever it is – cutting off three-techniques, and then obviously in pass protection. Weapons are all over and we have a weapon at left tackle."