Henry's Chopping Block

September 4, 2009 11:23 PM

Bucs Keep a Lid on Thinking


Anyone expecting a direct answer from Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris on the firing of offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski hasn't spent much time around the NFL.

Tampa Bay's passing offense has been next to abysmal during the preseason, with quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown performing their best Alphonse and Gaston act during the first three games wrestling for the starting job.

It's been bad enough to kindle memories of the Vinny Testaverde era. Entering Friday's game against Houston, the Bucs were averaging 154.7 passing yards a game, with a league-worst 4.7 per passing attempt.

Did that ineptitude lead to the dismissal of former Boston College coach Jagodzinski, who reportedly had moved into a new Tampa home with his wife and will be paid for the duration of his two-year contract? Or was the situation related more to a clash of personalities?

Morris, who collaborated with general manager Mark Dominik on the decision, did a lot of talking during an awkward press conference Thursday without revealing much of substance. Morris did let on the offense needs to be more "precised" and "detailed" and "have more direction" than it did under Jagodzinski's supervision.

Quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, who was hired last season by former Bucs coach Jon Gruden, was named to replace Jagodzinski. Olson, who tutored Drew Brees at Purdue, enjoyed success last season with current Oakland quarterback Jeff Garcia, who he'd coached in 2001 when Garcia threw 32 touchdown passes for San Francisco.

While reports have surfaced that Jagodzinski was slow communicating plays from the press box to the sidelines, it's noteworthy he turned down a chance to stay on as quarterbacks coach, according to a prepared statement from Jagodzinski released by the Bucs. In this economy, even pro sports franchises want contract holders to earn their pay.

Somehow, a failure to communicate keeps cropping up as the likely reason Jagodzinski was asked to give up the play-calling duties. He certainly appeared to have trouble getting along with his bosses at Boston College when he entered into negotations with the Jets for their head job without permission.

If you can't communicate with your players in the NFL, passion and commitment have a tough time winning out.
Regardless, 10 days from the opener against Dallas, the Bucs felt they had no choice but to relieve Jagodzinski of his responsibilities. Morris and Dominik did so knowing they would open themselves to second-guessing and ridicule, but grasping the need to keep the confidence of the guys in uniform.

In the close-knit universe that is an NFL team, Morris had no need to badmouth Jagodzinski beyond giving the local media enough pablum to send them back to their word processors, guessing what really happened.

The whole thing came across as sloppy, even amateurish, but the fact remains the Bucs' chances to approach a .500 record in 2009 still rest on a fast, swarming defense and the stifling heat and humidity that enhances their home-field advantage.

No matter how well Morris and Olson communicate within the locker room, they can't change the fact Gruden isn't around any more to spot mismatches quickly and keep the Bucs a step ahead of the competition. That comes from experience.

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