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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Todd Bowles: New OC Liam Coen Will Have Play-Calling Leeway

Satisfied that Liam Coen was the right fit at the right time for the Buccaneers, Head Coach Todd Bowles wants his new offensive coordinator to remain aggressive and will give him room to grow as a play-caller


Dave Canales had never called plays at the NFL level before the 2023 season, but he was nonetheless Todd Bowles' choice to take over as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new offensive coordinator following the dismissal of Byron Leftwich. The Buccaneers had landed on Canales, formerly the Seattle Seahawks' quarterbacks coach, after an exhaustive search that included interviews with 10 different candidates.

Canales took to the task well, helping Baker Mayfield put together a career year as the Bucs won the NFC South title and advanced to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. In fact, Canales did so well in his new job that he only held it for one year. In January, the Carolina Panthers came calling with an offer to be their head coach, which was a wonderful career opportunity for Canales and a bittersweet moment for Bowles.

"Very bright coach, extremely smart and intelligent," said Bowles. "Positive energy, positive attitude. When you lose a coach like that – Sean Payton put it in perspective for me – at least you know you're picking the right guy, so that should give you some solace. And I'm happy for him. I think he'll do a great job for them, hopefully except for two games [per season]. He'll do a great job. I'm proud of him."

Obviously, that put the Buccaneers right back on the market for another offensive coordinator, and once again Bowles led a thorough search. This time, seven candidates were interviewed before the job went to University of Kentucky Offensive Coordinator Liam Coen. Bowles, of course, knew of Coen's experience with Sean McVay's Rams and his existing relationship with quarterback Baker Mayfield, and he had watched Coen coach in person at Kentucky on several occasions. But as with all of the candidates, Bowles needed to find out in person if this candidate was the right fit.

"You do a thorough coaching search just so you can see what everyone is," said Bowles. "I can't go by just names of people; you have to find what's right for you and your team. It's not just [scheme]. Everybody's going to have a scheme coming in. It's not the scheme that attracts you to him. It's understanding your scheme, and then if someone stops it, then what do you do? Can you think after that?

"And can you fit in as well with the players and the coaches and the culture we have on our team? And that takes a while to do. Unless you go through quite a few guys, you're not going to really know. You can guess, but once you go through all that, and once I went through that with Liam, I knew he was the right fit, so it was very easy to hire him."

Bowles' coaching background, of course, is on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, he was the Bucs' defensive coordinator for three years before he succeeded Bruce Arians as the team's head coach in 2022. As such, Coen will be entrusted with the offensive play-calling for Tampa Bay, as Canales was in 2023 and unlike Coen's experience serving as a coordinator under McVay. Bowles will trust Coen to put the offense in the right situations to succeed, but he did make sure that his new coordinator had the same ideas about being aggressive.

"He has all the leeway he wants," said Bowles. "My whole thing is, if we're not ahead by three touchdowns with five-and-a-half minutes to go, you still try and score. You score the ball. If you're less than three touchdowns [ahead] with five-and-a-half minutes to go, you're not going conservative. trying to run the ball to eat the clock. You've got to be smart. Obviously, any offensive coordinator has leeway coming in, but you understand what we have to do. He has to read the game – when we're playing well defensively [and] when we might have to outscore someone."

The snap-to-snap responsibilites of determining who to get the football to and how, that will be Coen's domain, which is exactly what he said he had long coveted on the NFL level during his introductory press conference. As the 2023 season progressed, the creativity and timing of Canales' play-calling steadily improved. Bowles will give Coen the opportunity to do the same, and he's confident it will work out as well as the Canales hire did a year ago.

"It's never just run-run-pass," said Bowles. "He has the leeway to call his plays. I'll have say-so on to whether to go for it on fourth down, things to do in two-minute and so forth, as well as red zone. But he has a lot of leeway. I have a lot of confidence in Liam and I think he'll do a great job."

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