There are many candidates who could become the Bucs’ next offensive coordinator following the resignation of Byron Leftwich last week. Looking at this list, every candidate listed brings with them a connection to a quarterback who could start for the Bucs in 2023. As quarterback Tom Brady weighs his options for next year, big questions loom about the franchise and the direction they’re taking.
Will Brady return for one final playoff run in Tampa? Will the Bucs sign another veteran if Brady leaves and keep their window open in what is expected to be a weak NFC South next year? If the GOAT chooses to retire, would the team enter a mini-rebuild and set their sights on the 2024 NFL draft with USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye as the top options? Either of these trails will remain a possibility once the off season kicks in.
As talk begins about who the Bucs might consider as the next offensive coordinator, and with the quarterback picture uncertain, there are interesting combinations the team could consider. None of these candidates close the door on a Brady return, but there are enough qualified assistants that head coach Todd Bowles may decide to form ties with different quarterbacks.
Two offensive coordinators have NFL experience and unique ties to the Bucs, and the only quarterback guaranteed to be on the roster next season.
Georgia Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken and quarterback Stetson Bennett IV
Monken has been named as one of the top names to watch for the offensive coordinator opening, as reported by PewterReport’s Scott Reynolds as well as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo:
If Monken returns to the Bucs, where he served as offensive coordinator from 2016-2018, he could bring a 2x College Football Playoff National Champion to Tampa Bay. Stetson Bennett is a controversial player entering the NFL Draft as his age (25) and height (5-11) could make him a day-three pick or UDFA.
What Bennett lacks in future youth and height, he makes up for in terms of work ethic and familiarity with Monken. Since taking the starting role with Georgia in 2021, he has gone 26-1 as a starter while throwing for 6,989 yards, 56 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions. He even added ten rushing touchdowns last season. In Georgia’s 65-7 defeat of TCU earlier this month, he tied quarterback Joe Burrow with a total of six touchdowns in a CFP National Championship Game.
He may not have the athleticism of Alabama’s Bryce Young or the prototypical build of Kentucky’s Will Levis. Still, he has the ability to win games and make smart decisions with football. If the Bucs choose to go with quarterback Kyle Trask as a starter next season, bring in Bennett as a league and quarterback with experience in Monken’s system, if Trask’s struggle wouldn’t hurt.
Often the NFL’s best quarterbacks are the ones who have defied the odds and scouting reports. Bennett could take his underdog story to Tampa Bay if Monken is hired.
Eagles Quarterbacks Coach Brian Johnson and Quarterbacks Gardner Minshew/Kyle Trask
Johnson is another intriguing option for a number of reasons. He has overseen Jalen Hurts’ breakaway and MVP-Caliber season. He could bring Gardner Minshew with him if the Bucs want to bring in some quarterback competition. But perhaps the biggest storyline, if Johnson is hired, is his work with Trask in Florida in 2020. Johnson was Trask’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach that season.
He worked with Trask for three seasons, but 2020 put Trask on the NFL map. With guns like wide receiver Kadarius Toney and tight end Kyle Pitts, Trask threw for 4,283 yards, 43 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Trask would become the Bucs’ second-round final pick in 2021 and is still developing as an NFL player. If they want to help his development, hiring the coach who oversaw his college success would be a good start.
If the front office decides that competition for Trask is a requirement for next season, Gardner Minshew is a realistic option. Minschew would bring his unique personality and “Minshew Mania” to Tampa Bay and quickly became a fan favorite.
But more than that, he has started 24 NFL games and has a 44-15 TD-INT ratio. He is one of the best backups in the league and is also a free agent this offseason. He would be cheap, and the Bucs would certainly want a cheap quarterback option as they navigate their tight-cap situation. They would have a hard time finding someone with entry level experience who would likely have a reserve salary.
All of this can be traced back to Johnson. His track record with Trask in college and connection to Minshew make him a sleepy choice to be the next offensive coordinator. The Eagles offense this season averaged 28.1 points per game and the game planned their offense around two 1,000-yard receivers. Sounds familiar? Mike Evans and Chris Godwin would not experience a loss of production and having a young mind with Johnson, who is only 35, makes a lot of sense.
Ties with more experienced NFL QBs
Three other combinations of quarterback offensive coordinators are on the table, should the Bucs set their sights on a more established starter.
Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich and quarterback Jacoby Brissett
Reich is a popular name for head coach and offensive coordinator openings in the coaching cycle. He has interviewed for the Arizona Cardinals and is expected to do the same with the Carolina Panthers for their respective head coaching positions. With ten offensive coordinator openings across the league (including the Bucs), if he wants a job, he’s bound to get one somewhere.
If the Bucs become a league leader for Reich, the team could sign Jacoby Brissett as an experienced quarterback option. Brissett spent most of 2022 as a starting player for the Cleveland Browns while Deshaun Watson was suspended.
Brissett fails to impress as a starter, as in the three seasons he has started most of his team’s games (2017, 2019 and 2022), he failed to black out 20 touchdown passes. He would fill the game manager role as he is smart with football and has only 23 interceptions in 48 starts (18-30 record).
Brissett’s experience in Reich’s system and across the league is worth watching. In 2019, Zac Keefer of The Athletic wrote great of Brissett and the challenges he faced in replacing Andrew Luck in retirement (subscription required). He could do the same by filling “Tom Terrific’s” shoes.
49ers Offensive Passing Game Coordinator Bobby Slowik and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo
Slowik is a young option for the Bucs as he is only 35 years old. Despite this, he has been in the league for more than ten years. He has been in San Francisco since 2017 under head coach Kyle Shanahan. Hiring someone who has been one of Shanahan’s confidants could be a bold step in changing offensive concepts. This season, the 49ers have shown they can excel, no matter who is below center. The Bucs got a taste of this when they conceded a 35-7 loss in Week 14 in Brock Purdy’s first career NFL run.
The system the 49ers use allows the quarterback to make smart reads and get the ball into the hands of the playmakers with ease. With Purdy locked in as a starter in 2023 and Trey Lance in the first round of 2021 still holding a rookie deal, they will likely part ways with veteran Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo is a former Brady’s understudy from 2014-2016 and was rumored to be an option to come to Tampa Bay following Brady’s brief retirement last season. Replacing him this time would keep the team in contention for the NFC South division title next year.
Simply put, he knows how to win, and it’s not hard to say he’s a top-15 or top-20 quarterback. It would be more expensive than Minshew or Brissett, but it has more advantages.
Wes Welker is also an interesting bond with Slowik (and Brady) if he were to return. Welker is currently the receivers coach for the Miami Dolphins and had the same role with the 49ers in 2019-2021. Naturally, he also has a history with Brady as one of his favorite receivers from his time in New England. With the Bucs firing Kevin Garver, Slowik could put in a good word for Welker, and Tampa Bay would certainly do anything to appease Brady. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Former Colorado Buffaloes Head Coach Karl Dorrell and Quarterback Geno Smith
If the Bucs want to give Todd Bowles free rein in bringing in former assistants from his time with the New York Jets, Dorrell is an interesting name to consider for all the dots it would connect. Dorrell was the Jets’ receiver coach from 2015-2018. 2015 and 2016 were also quarterback seasons Gene Smith overlaps with both Dorrell and Bowles.
It can also go weird. If Bowles chooses to bring in Dorrell as offensive coordinator, one wonders if he would consider bringing in Stump Mitchell. Mitchell served under Bowles as his running backs coach from 2017-2018.
The defensive side of the ball operated this season with two defensive coordinators under Larry Foote and Kacy Rodgers. With Dorrell’s experience with quarterbacks and receivers and Mitchell with running backs, Bowles could choose multiple coordinators to oversee different position groups and have one call played. It would be unorthodox, but the Patriots did something similar this season with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge.
Bringing in Smith would make this an all-ages reunion. He would probably bring in at least $30 million annually, so the Bucs would have to get creative to bring him in and hope his 2022 season wasn’t an outlier.
In November, Bowles commented on Smith’s play this season in Seattle, a season in which he will likely claim AP Comeback Player of the year.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had him,” Bowles said then. “Of course he could always play the game – confidence was never a problem for him. You make a mistake in this league, you come back and you make some moves – he did. He’s been good at it. He fits in well bee [the Seahawks].”
Could he be suitable for the Bucs in 2023 and beyond? It is possible.
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