The Bucs have fired offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich after a 31-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, according to Pewter Report, which broke the news on Monday night. Tampa Bay’s offense regressed mightily in 2022 under Leftwich, going from scoring an average of 30 points per game from 2020-21 to just 18.4 points per game in 2022.
Bucs head coach Todd Bowles will want an offensive coordinator that will do a better job of marrying the running game and the passing game after Tampa Bay ranked last in rushing in 2022, averaging 75.6 yards per game. The right offensive coordinator hire could also possibly lure quarterback Tom Brady back to the Bucs for one more season.
Pewter Report takes a look at some possible candidates to replace Leftwich in Tampa Bay.
It’s likely that Bowles will want an experienced hand directing the Bucs offense in 2023, and here are some of the top options available.
Todd Monken – Georgia Offensive Coordinator
Monken was the wide receivers coach (2016) and offensive coordinator (2017-18) in Tampa Bay under head coach Dirk Koetter. The Bucs offense averaged 20.9 points (ranked 18th) in 2017 and 24.8 points (ranked 11th) in 2018 with Monken calling plays. His signature game was a 48-40 upset at New Orleans in the 2018 season opener with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. In fact, Fitzpatrick set an NFL record with three consecutive 400-yard passing games to start the 2018 season. Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston combined to throw for 36 touchdowns and 26 interceptions that season.
Monken, 56, was fired along with Koetter and his staff after the 2018 season and he landed in Cleveland as the team’s offensive coordinator. The Browns averaged 20.9 points per game that season and ranked 22nd in the league. Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, while Pro Bowl running Nick Chubb ran for 1,494 yards, which was second in the league, and eight touchdowns.
Monken has been Georgia’s offensive coordinator for the last three seasons, helping the Bulldogs compile a 37-3 record while winning back-to-back national titles. Georgia went 14-1 in 2021 with an offense that averaged 38.6 points per game, which ranked 11th nationally. The Bulldogs were a perfect 15-0 in 2022, averaging 41.1 points per game, which ranked fifth nationally. With Monken calling the plays, Georgia thrashed TCU in the national championship game, 65-7.
Stetson Bennett, a former walk-on quarterback, finished as a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2022 under Monken’s development. The Bucs’ brass thinks highly of Monken from his time in Tampa Bay, and Bowles knows him as his son, Troy, will be a freshman linebacker this year at Georgia. Monken is the highest-paid assistant coach in college, making $2 million per year. So the Glazers would have to open the checkbook to lure him back to Tampa Bay.
One college coach I’m hearing has garnered NFL OC interest from teams this cycle: Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken. He has had a successful run with the national champion Bulldogs and is also former OC of Bucs and Browns.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 16, 2023
What makes Monk so appealing is that he already works for a defensive-minded head coach in Kirby Smart, so he should understand how Bowles wants to win games. Monken is a pass-first coach, but he knows how to incorporate the running game. Bowles wanted to be more successful running the ball in 2022, but that never materialized under Leftwich. Monken had a successful ground game at both Georgia and at Cleveland with Chubb. The chance to possibly coach Brady could prove to be quite a lure for Monken to return to the Bucs.
Bill O’Brien – Alabama Offensive Coordinator
O’Brien knows general manager Jason Licht from their time together in New England (2009-11) when O’Brien was Brady’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. If Brady was to return to the Bucs in 2023 then hiring O’Brien makes plenty of sense given their history. After leaving New England, O’Brien served as Penn State’s head coach for two seasons before taking over as the Houston Texans head coach from 2014-20. O’Brien went 52-48 in Houston and took the Texans to the playoffs three times.
He spent the last season in Alabama as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. O’Brien coached former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Bryce Young and helped the Crimson Tide offense average 41.4, which ranked fourth nationally just ahead of Georgia. With Bowles possibly needing a winning record (or another NFC South title) to keep his job in 2024, O’Brien may view the Bucs’ offensive coordinator position as a possible stepping stone. But there are also reports suggesting that O’Brien, 53, could return to New England to replace Matt Patricia as Bill Belichick’s offensive coordinator this offseason.
Frank Reich – Former Indianapolis Head Coach
Reich was fired this year in Indianapolis after going 40-33-1 as the Colts head coach and play-caller. He was let go at the midway point of the season after the Colts began the season 3-5-1. Reich was a successful offensive coordinator with the Chargers (2014-15) and the Eagles (2016-17) before being hired by Indianapolis. In nine years as a coordinator and head coach, Reich’s offenses have ranked in the Top 10 four times.
Reich’s Eagles offense ranked third in points in 2017, the year Philadelphia beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl, 41-33, with Nick Foles at quarterback. The 61-year old Reich has a wealth of experience as a quarterback, play-caller and head coach and could be a real asset to Bowles this year if he doesn’t land elsewhere as a head coach.
Kliff Kingsbury-Former Arizona Head Coach
Kingsbury was fired after the 2022 season after four years leading the Cardinals. The former Texas Tech head coach engineered an offense that was in the top half of the league from 2019 to 2021. In 2019 Arizona’s offense averaged 22.6 points per game, which ranked 16th in the league with rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. The offense improved to average 25.6 points per game in both 2020 (ranked 14th) and in 2021 (ranked 10th) as Murray developed into a two-time Pro Bowler.
But the Arizona offense regressed this season as star receiver DeAndre Hopkins started the season with a suspension, Murray got hurt and injuries piled up. After improving to 8-8 in 2020 and making the playoffs in 2021 with an 11-6 record, the Cardinals flopped in 2022, finishing 4-13. The possible connection between the Bucs and Kingsbury is Brady, who was Kingsbury’s teammate in New England from 2003-04. The 43-year old Kingsbury was a sixth-round pick by the Patriots in 2003, but never played as a rookie and was released the following season.
Stump Mitchell – Cleveland Run Game Coordinator/Running Backs Coach
If Bowles is serious about running the ball in 2023 he’ll likely want to bring Mitchell aboard. The two worked together in Arizona (2013-14) and again in New York where Bowles was the Jets head coach (2017-18). Even if Bowles deems that Mitchell, 63, is not what he wants as a play-caller, Mitchell could help take the Bucs’ ground game to the next level as a running backs coach if Bowles wanted to replace Todd McNair. Mitchell is a former NFL running back and has coached the running back position for 20 years in the league with stops in Seattle (1999-2007), Washington (2008-09), Arizona (2013-16), New York (2017-18 ) and Cleveland (2019-22).
Under Mitchell, five different NFL runners – Ricky Watters (1999-2000), Shaun Alexander (2001-05), Clinton Portis (2008), David Johnson (2016) and Nick Chubb (2019-21) — gained 1,000 rushing yards in a season. Andre Ellington produced 1,000 yards from scrimmage in each of his first two NFL years (2013-14) and Kareem Hunt topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2020. Mitchell also helped his backs find the end zone as Alexander (five times), Johnson (twice ) and Chubb (twice) produced 10 or more scrimmage TDs in a season multiple times. Alexander set an NFL record with 28 scores in 2005 and Johnson led the league with 20 in 2016.
Young Offensive Minds
If the Bucs want to go with young, up-and-coming offensive assistants there would be some risk for sure, but here are some names to consider.
Bobby Slowik – San Francisco Passing Game Coordinator
Slowik, 35, is the son of former NFL defensive coordinator Bob Slowick, who has worked in Chicago, Cleveland, Green Bay and Denver. He started his NFL coaching career on the defensive side of the ball despite playing receiver in college at Michigan Tech. Slowik was a defensive in Washington (2011-13) under Mike Shanahan where he coached alongside Kyle Shanhan, who later became San Francisco’s head coach. Slowik joined forces with the younger Shanahan in 2017 as a defensive quality control coach.
Slowick moved to the offensive side of the ball in 2019 where he served two years as an offensive assistant. In 2021, Slowick became the 49ers offensive passing game specialist before moving to the offensive passing game coordinator role in 2022. San Francisco does a great job of mixing the run and the pass, and the 49ers offense ranks fourth in scoring, averaging 27.3 points per game. The 49ers beat the Bucs earlier this season 35-7.
Brian Johnson – Philadelphia Quarterbacks Coach
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen get a fair amount of praise for the development of Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia offense, but Johnson also deserves credit. Johnson, 36, has coached Hurts into becoming an MVP candidate while leading the Eagles to a 14-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. He’s regarded as one of the league’s best young offensive coaches and coached Kyle Trask at the University of Florida where he was the quarterbacks coach from 2018-20 and also served as the Gators offensive coordinator in 2020 under Dan Mullen.
As a college quarterback at Utah he led the seventh-ranked Utes to a perfect 13-0 record, capped off by a 31–17 upset over fourth-ranked Alabama. Despite being a quarterback in college, Johnson has also been part of an offense that features a powerful running game in Philadelphia. He’s been whispered to have head coaching potential one day, but he needs to become a successful play-caller first. That could happen in a place like Tampa Bay as early as the 2023 offseason. He’ll come with a strong recommendation from both Siranni and Steichen, who will undoubtedly get his share of head coaching interviews.
Thad Lewis – Bucs Assistant Receivers Coach
Bowles thinks highly of Lewis, as does former head coach Bruce Arians, who told Pewter Report that the former Duke quarterback has the intellect to be an NFL offensive coordinator sooner rather than later. Lewis joined the Bucs in 2020 as a coaching intern and was promoted to assistant receivers coach in 2021. He has worked with Kevin Garver the last two years and helped the development of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Lewis, 36, is a relative newcomer to the Bucs coaching staff and spent the 2018-19 seasons with UCLA working under head coach Chip Kelly. While he doesn’t have any play-calling experience, Lewis was a quarterback at Duke and has a very good grasp of the passing game. If Bowles wants someone who is an outside-the-box thinker who can bring fresh ideas to the table it might be Lewis. If Bowles doesn’t think Lewis is ready to handle play-calling duties he could promote Lewis to receivers coach or quarterbacks coach if he wants to make a change at that position.