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Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Curtains will rise soon on Bucs’ offense

— This week, he will speak to media. We think.

Any month now, we’re going to see what he has cooked up.

The spread? No huddle? Hurry up? Run first, pass second? Pass first, pass second?

“Josh, you put the ball completely under your jersey, then run left.”

And this September, Jeff Tedford, the Bucs’ new offensive coordinator, is going to call his very first regular-season NFL play. He’ll be two months shy of his 53rd birthday.

It’s the great unknown, the 2014 Bucs offense, all under wraps, you know, except for the Quarterback of the Future part.

What we do know: The 2013 offense would have ranked lower than 32nd, only the NFL ran out of teams.

The Bucs defense shows real promise. New head coach Lovie Smith knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s a known NFL quantity.

But this offense and its coordinator are another story.

Tedford has been supplied with all sorts of new toys in the draft. He has Josh McCown, Lovie’s trusted quarterback.

So, what has he got for us?

I bet he brings a lot.

Tedford was a pinball wizard most of his distinguished college career, a play-designing dervish, a QB maker to boot.

But that tailed off as he got away from running offenses and buried himself in running a major program at Cal. He was fired in 2012. I don’t know everything Tedford did last year on sabbatical. Maybe he was up a tree, drawing plays on a piece of bark. I’m sure he watched film with Lovie in Lovie’s basement. Everyone but Spielberg did.

“I’ve called plays my whole life,” Tedford said after he was hired.

“We can go a lot of different ways, I’ll just say, with our offense,” Lovie said.

Will Tedford be a chip off the old Chip Kelly? Will he display the relative genius Chicago head coach Marc Trestman showed last season, when he always seemed to come up with plays for Josh McCown to exploit defenses?

This isn’t the Manhattan Project. It’s the NFL. I don’t think Tedford is going to yell, “Mommy,” the first time he sees a different blitz package. He has been to plenty of rodeos. He’s not going to go all Jeff Jagodzinski on us.

College guys can make the jump.

But how high Tedford makes this offense jump will matter a great deal to the Bucs’ season.

McCown says he loves working with Tedford — loves watching the man work the board.

“You’re a piece in the chess game that he’s playing,” McCown said. “When you play chess, you know what those pieces are doing when you move them.”

Will the Bucs offense be the grandmaster express or grand funk railroad?

Men who Tedford coached for and against offered some insight.

“He’s going to start with the run,” former college coach Rick Neuheisel told The Tampa Tribune’s Joey Johnston in January. “They will lead with the run. There will be a lot of play-action stuff. Big plays are part of his offense. A lot of crossing routes, vertical, layered throws where you drop it behind the linebackers.”

“It’s an easier transition for him because he’s going to be in charge of the offense. Because it’s his deal, there will be much more of a willingness to accept some ‘college ideas,’ which are being incorporated anyway as we watch with Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, RGIII, Andrew Luck and so forth. It will be great for Jeff.”

“He’s a football junkie,” said former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, who hired Tedford as his offensive coordinator. “He will make it a quarterback-centric offense that runs the football. He’s going to want to have a 1,000-yard ground gainer every year. He’ll set up play action. He’ll use multiple formations. He’ll use motions and shifts to put his team in a position to have success. He has the mind for the NFL.

“He did a great job at the college level, but I think he wore himself out. When you’re a head coach at that level, you worry about everything. When the football is done, you have to go on to the discipline and the recruiting part. He is a football junkie. I find that kind of philosophy and mentality thrives best at the NFL level. He’ll dissect plays a thousand ways to get the best way to attack a defense …”

It’s a process at the moment at One Buc, an important one, Tedford and his quarterbacks, Tedford and this offense.

McCown sees that strange light he has spotted in inspired coordinators during his long NFL career.

“More than anything, there’s just a detail to them,” McCown said. “They spend time on the details, everything has got to be where it’s supposed to be, because there’s a picture they see in their head, like an artist. It looks terrible, then when they get done it’s, ‘Oh, it’s beautiful.’ It’s kind of that same feel. They’re working through things that they’re seeing in their head and you just kind of have to let them work and realize that’s your part of the process.”

Let’s get to the unveiling already.

Pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

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