Monken excited about chance to help Bucs take next step
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Todd Monken spent the past three seasons changing the culture of Southern Mississippi's football program.
Now, he's eager to help Dirk Koetter turn the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into a winning team, too.
Koetter hired the former Golden Eagles coach as his offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach this week, a move Monken found attractive even though he won't be calling plays for Pro Bowl quarterback Jameis Winston in his new job.
''It's a special opportunity. It really is,'' Monken said Thursday, adding that the Bucs, who haven't made the playoffs since 2007, are a talented young team with a promising future that he's excited to join.
''I enjoyed my time at Southern Miss. I've got a lot of great friends there. We did some great things,'' said Monken, who led the Golden Eagles to a 9-5 record and an appearance in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2015.
''But I'm really looking forward to every day, every week, every month doing my part to see (Tampa Bay) continue to rise.''
The Bucs promoted Koetter from offensive coordinator to head coach earlier this month, replacing Lovie Smith. The new coach worked with Monken when both were assistants with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2007-10.
With Koetter calling plays, Winston became only the fourth passer in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards as a rookie. The Bucs ranked a franchise-best fifth in total offense, while also improving from two wins in 2014 to six this past season.
So, Monken wasn't hired to fix an ailing offense. Instead, he'll help formulate game plans while also focusing on helping a group of receivers that includes Mike Evans realize their potential.
Evans topped 1,000 yards receiving each of the past two years, however he also dropped some passes to hurt the team in key situations this season.
''My No. 1 responsibility is to maximize the measurable skillset of our wide receivers. ... There's more to it than just calling the plays,'' said Monken, who inherited a team that went 0-12 the year before he arrived at Southern Miss and made steady progress in three seasons while going 1-11, 3-9 and 9-5.
Southern Miss won the Conference USA West division title in Monken's final season. He said he had no intentions of leaving his old job until Koetter called after becoming Tampa Bay's fourth coach in seven years.
''I came down and visited here seven months ago, not thinking that I was coming back and would actually have my own office,'' Monken said.
''Dirk and I spoke (then) about how do you win games and we went back to Southern Miss and talked about explosive plays, don't turn it over, third-down conversions, touchdowns in the red zone and lost-yardage plays - don't have them,'' Monken added. ''And, it's still true today, those are the ways you win.''
The new offensive coordinator said his friendship with Koetter was only part of the lure. He's thrilled to have a chance to work with Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft, and reiterated that opportunities to work at the highest level of football don't ''come around every day.''
''I'm so excited to be here I can't see straight. It's because I love to coach. I love to be around players and see them achieve all their dreams,'' Monken said.
''It's always about the players. It's what this game has always been about,'' he added. ''It's about you helping them become the best version of them. Plain and simple, that's what it's about.''
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