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Smith’s Bucs have to start over on offense

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TAMPA, Fla. — Two critical decisions coach Lovie Smith made as soon as he was offered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job simply didn’t work out the way he planned. He chose former Cal coach Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator and Josh McCown as his starting quarterback.

Tedford underwent a procedure to have two stents placed in a coronary artery two weeks before the start of the season and eventually went on an indefinite medical leave of absence. His experience as a play caller and vision for the offense went with him.

McCown — and backup Mike Glennon, for that matter — struggled mightily as a result. In fact, there are strong parallels to the first season under Raheem Morris, when offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski was fired 10 days before the start of the season. The Bucs went 3-13.

On Sunday, the Bucs did everything they could to lose to the New Orleans Saints, blowing a 20-7 lead to lose 23-20 and earn the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Now the Bucs are back in the market for a quarterback and offensive coordinator. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston could go with the first two picks of the draft.

Smith is also back in the market for an offensive coordinator.

When Tedford was named the coach of the British Columbia Lions two weeks ago, he called his heart procedure “a temporary” setback and said he had been “good to go for a couple of months now and I feel great.”

That didn’t play well inside the walls of One Buc Place, where Tedford offered to work part-time before being placed on indefinite medical leave and ultimately asked to be released from his contract so he could pursue other opportunities.

Unfortunately, this was the guy who spent 2013 in Smith’s basement at his home near Chicago, selling an offense that was up-tempo and made good use of speed and space. One has to assume he had a big impact on what became an exclusively offensive draft.

All of that went out the window when he failed to return from the surgical procedure. With no NFL-experienced play caller, and unable to install new terminology, the Bucs turned to 34-year-old quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo, who was badly overmatched. Arroyo had worked with Tedford at Cal, but he wasn’t a successful play caller at Southern Miss.

That put Smith, a defensive-minded coach who hired four offensive coordinators in Chicago, in the offensive meeting room. The result is the NFL’s 30th-ranked offense.

Why should Bucs fans think Smith will get the offensive coordinator and quarterback right this time?

“When something doesn’t happen exactly how you want it to, that doesn’t say quit or don’t go with what you believe,” Smith said. “It just says do a little bit better next time, and that’s what we’re going to do this time.

“There are circumstances that come into play when you say, ‘Get it right.’ I got the job here based on us winning a lot of football games (in Chicago) with the coordinators we had. Sometimes, things happen where you have to go a different direction. That’s what happened with our last coordinator. Anybody can get sick. Things come up at any time. I think you look at the record, and I think they feel pretty confident we’ll do it and get it right this time.”

One of the candidates for the job could be Marc Trestman, who replaced Smith as coach of the Chicago Bears until he was fired with general manager Phil Emery on Monday. McCown had his best season under Trestman, throwing 13 touchdowns and only one interception as a backup to Jay Cutler in 2013.

“I think Marc is an outstanding coach and an outstanding person and has a great sense of offensive football and especially quarterback play,” McCown said. “I played my best football of my career under him, so obviously I’m going to have good things to say.”

Smith said he already has begun the process of evaluating candidates for offensive coordinator and wants to hire the position as soon as possible. “At the same time, not rush it,” Smith said. “We have time. So I’m going to take my time and use this opportunity to talk to as many people as I possibly can.”

Smith said the new offensive coordinator would be instrumental in evaluating players, including the top quarterbacks who could declare for the draft — Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

“When you’re down here, you want to get players who make a difference,” Smith said. “Last year’s draft, there were a lot of players who made an immediate impact in the NFL, and I hope that’s the case this year, especially the guys at the top where we’re drafting.”

NOTES: WR Mike Evans led the Bucs with 1,051 receiving yards and set a club record with 12 touchdown receptions. … WR Vincent Jackson secured his sixth 1,000-yard season with his only reception against the Saints. … RB Doug Martin had his first 100-yard rushing game since 2013; he rushed for 108 yards on 19 carries.

REPORT CARD VS. SAINTS

–RUSHING OFFENSE: A — The Bucs hadn’t run the ball well all season but they had a season-high 183 rushing yards, including 109 on 19 carries by RB Doug Martin. It was the first time he had gone over the century mark in a year.

–PASSING OFFENSE: D — QB Josh McCown did enough to make sure Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson got their 1,000-yard seasons on the first series. Both players were out of the game in the second half. McCown was sacked twice and threw an INT once the Bucs replaced three of their five starting offensive linemen.

–RUSH DEFENSE: B — The Saints did not run the ball effectively, gaining only 70 yards on 23 carries. Lavonte David came out in the second half. The Bucs got good production from their defensive front.

–PASS DEFENSE: D — The Bucs intercepted Saints QB Drew Brees three times but allowed him to bring the Saints back from a 20-7 deficit with 16 unanswered points.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: C — K Patrick Murray made his only field goal and Russell Shepard did his usual great job covering punts. Aside from that, it was an average day.

–COACHING: A — The Bucs blew a big lead in the second half. No news there. But the fact that they did it by emptying the bench to preserve the No. 1 overall pick was brilliant.


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