TAMPA, Fla. – A fired-up Todd Monken, offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, didn’t hold back Friday when addressing reports that there is increasing friction between head coach Dirk Koetter and quarterback Jameis Winston.
“I’ve been here almost two years and from a coach-player relationship, I have never seen anything close to what’s being talked about between our head coach and our quarterback — not one thing,” Monken said. “What I want people to understand is this: The majority of players that I’ve ever coached in my life, at some point in our relationship, it’s been strained. Fact. If you asked any player I’ve ever coached, ‘Have you had strains in your relationship?’ ‘You bet.’
“The best man in my wedding was my roommate in college. You don’t think we had strains in our relationship at times? My wife of 26 years — that I wouldn’t be who I am today without her — that we haven’t had times in our life where we’ve had strains in our relationship? And all a sudden it becomes news, that all of a sudden there’s a strain? You know what’s a strain? The frustration of being 4-9. That’s a frustration, when you put everything into it [and it doesn’t go according to plan].
“What you’ve got is a quarterback that’s very competitive, a guy that wants to be great and has had a frustrating year — probably some things on and off the field — and a head coach that does an unbelievable job coaching our players and our quarterback. And that becomes news? Holy cow. News flash: We’ve got a strain in a relationship. There’s not one person that can’t say that that’s ever happened before. That is a flat-out joke that that even becomes news.”
The rift was first reported by NFL Network last week.
While Monken didn’t deny that friction existed, he believes it’s a healthy relationship. Winston also didn’t deny that there was frustration. However, he did say that he didn’t feel that ‘friction’ was the right word choice. He also emphasized that Koetter has been very patient with him on the sidelines.
“We have the same goal every single week and that’s go out there and win. I wouldn’t use ‘friction’ as a term. I believe that when you’re communicating with any player, you’re going to have some disagreements, but I believe that at the end of the day, we’re going to come to a solid agreement and we’re out there to win football games. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter.”
Reports also stated that Winston has been frustrated with Koetter’s predictable play-calling and that he didn’t feel supported by Koetter when he suffered a sprained AC joint in the right shoulder of his throwing arm.
“No one has his back more than Dirk Koetter. Nobody. Nobody in this building. I promise you,” Monken said. “When a player is injured, they are somewhat separate from the team and you have to move on. I’ve never been part of a program where an injured player didn’t feel a little bit separated from the group. How would they not be?”
Winston continued to drop back and attempt deep passes while attempting to play through the injury, even if he struggled with velocity. Dropping back attempting deep throws also naturally makes a quarterback more susceptible to hits because of extra rushers.
Monken was asked if there had been consideration for giving Winston more shorter passes that would yield a higher completion percentage and possibly protect his shoulder during that time. In the two games that followed after Winston’s injury in Week 6, when he did not throw both weeks until Friday, Winston attempted 82 passes, second-most of any quarterback in the league during that span. His 10.35 air yards per attempt in that span was also sixth-highest in the league.
“It’s hard to know,” Monken said. “When you’re dealing with someone with an injury who doesn’t throw – we’re going all the way back to the Bills game – he plays real well. No one knows how he’s going to play. He’s a competitor, a guy that wants to play, a guy that wants to spot the ball, [so], ‘Okay, let’s play.'”