Commentary | Offense will ultimately determine the fate of Willie Taggart and Lovie Smith

adell@bradenton.comJanuary 5, 2014 

Buccaneers Lovie Smith Football

SmithIn this Dec. 16, 2012, photo, Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith walks on the field before the Bears' NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Chicago. A person familiar with the negotiations says former Bears coach Smith has reached an agreement to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Speaking to The Associated Press on Wednesday night, Jan. 1, 2014, on the condition of anonymity because an official announcement hasn't been made, the person also says former Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier will be the Buccaneers' defensive coordinator. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

NAM Y. HUH — AP

TAMPA

Defense may win championships, but offense keeps football coaches out of the unemployment line.

Offensive wizards are coveted and hard to find. Defensive-minded coaches are important, but often taken for granted.

Offense may ultimately determine how long Lovie Smith and Willie Taggart will be taking up residence in the Tampa Bay area.

Offense ties them together.

We've already seen how a lack of offense made Taggart's first year as head football coach at the University of South Florida so painful.

As the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, Smith hasn't even had his first press conference and yet pundits have decided his success will be determined by his offense.

It seems to be a fair conclusion.

We know Lovie can coach defense. But lack of offense is what got him fired in Chicago.

Correctly or incorrectly, this is life in the NFL and Division I college football.

It's why Taggart is looking for a new offensive coordinator and a pass game coordinator after he announced Friday the two who held those positions are not returning.

USF's offense was anemic in 2013. In total offense, it finished 121st out of 123 Football Bowl Subdivision schools, was last in the country in offensive touchdowns with 11 and 120th in scoring.

It is the reason the Bulls were 2-10 despite ranking 21st in total defense.

Ever since his days as an all-state quarterback at Manatee High, Taggart has stayed close to his good friend and current San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Harbaugh would do anything to help his "little brother," so it's not a surprise that multiple reports say Taggart is in serious discussions with 49ers offensive assistant and former Washington State head coach Paul Wulff to be the Bulls' new offensive coordinator.

Harbaugh would encourage this move to help Taggart. He helped him get USF defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, who had heavy NFL experience.

Just like the Bucs needed to make a splash hire with Lovie, Taggart could use one, and Wulff would be significant upgrade.

The question could come down to just how

much USF is willing to pay for a top-flight offensive coordinator. You have to believe it's got to be significantly more than the $210,000 Walt Wells earned last year in the position.

If Wulff doesn't work out, Taggart could bring in his friend T.J. Weist, who was interim head coach at Connecticut last season. He served as offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky for four years and assistant head coach for three when WKU had one country's most productive offenses.

Taggart's future is tied to his OC and his quarterback. At the moment, the quarterback appears to be true freshman Mike White, who struggled but showed flashes of promise last season.

You could say Lovie has gone out of the box in hiring Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator simply because the former Cal coach has no NFL experience.

Lovie has tons of equity now, but ask yourself what the reaction would've been if just-fired Bucs head coach Greg Schiano hired Tedford.

Mike Sullivan, the Bucs' offensive coordinator under Schiano, was criticized for running a Bucs offense that ranked last in the NFL.

Sullivan coached 10 years in the NFL before coming to the Bucs. He coached eight years for the New York Giants and was there for their two Super Bowl titles.

During his time as quarterbacks coach, Eli Manning had two of his best seasons. In 2011 under Sullivan as quarterbacks coach, Eli Manning set a single-season franchise record in passing yards (4,933) and was named Super Bowl MVP.

The turnover rate among offensive coordinators in the NFL is higher than head football coaches, and their lives are often attached to their quarterbacks.

There were 13 new offensive coordinators in 2013 in the NFL and all had at least some NFL experience.

Now this doesn't mean Tedford will not be a success. But it's a legitimate concern.

On the flip side, Sullivan was never an NFL offensive coordinator, and Tedford ran a highly efficient offense at Cal.

Tedford's college resume is sparkling, but it does not include arguably the most important item: NFL experience.

Time will tell how much that matters.

Now Tedford can gain a lot of credibility among Bucs fans if he brings in a quarterback via the draft or free agent to replace Mike Glennon, who Schiano mistakenly staked his future on.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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