Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian is leaving the Volunteers to become the quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for now, according to sources.
According to a source, Bajakian verbally accepted the offer from Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith during a telephone conversation and then informed Tennessee coach Butch Jones of his decision. But a contract with Tampa Bay has not yet been signed. Per the source, at the time that Bajakian accepted the Buccaneers' offer, he was not aware that Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos would be resigning to become offensive coordinator at Arkansas. Bajakian remains interested in the Central Michigan job now that it is available.
Bajakian's move to Tampa Bay would be a reunion for him and Smith, who as the Chicago Bears' head coach gave Bajakian his first job in the NFL as the offensive quality control and wide receivers coach in 2004. Bajakian worked under Smith for three seasons, including an appearance in Super Bowl XLI.
At Tampa Bay, he'd replace Marcus Arroyo, who in addition to serving as quarterbacks coach took on offensive coordinator duties this season after Jeff Tedford took a leave of absence in September following a coronary angioplasty. Arroyo and the Buccaneers parted ways last week.
Bajakian had served as Tennessee head coach Butch Jones’ offensive coordinator since the two began working together at Central Michigan in 2007. Bajakian followed Jones to Cincinnati in ’10 and Tennessee in ’13.
Bajakian's interest in the Central Michigan head coaching job relates back to his two stints with the Chippewas. In addition to serving as the offensive coordinator for three seasons, he was also Central Michigan's quarterbacks coach from 2002-03. The Chippewas finished 7-6 this season, losing to Western Kentucky in a thrilling conclusion to the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. They went 26-36 under Enos but won at least six games each of the past three seasons.
This season Bajakian helped to develop quarterback Joshua Dobbs after Dobbs took over the starting duties midseason. The Volunteers went 4-2 with Dobbs as the starter, and the sophomore compiled 17 total touchdowns with six interceptions. Tennessee trounced Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl, 45-28. The Volunteers finished 62nd in the country in scoring offense with 28.9 points per game.
In his final season at Cincinnati, Bajakian led the Bearcats to the Big East’s No. 1 offense in scoring, rushing yards and yards per play. Under Bajakian, Zach Collaros became the second quarterback in Cincinnati history to eclipse 6,000 yards passing and 50 touchdowns in a career. Bajakian also coached Dan LeFevour at Central Michigan as the quarterback set the then-Division I-A record for total touchdowns in a career with 150.
Bajakian began his coaching career as the quarterbacks coach for Delbarton (N.J.) School in 1996 before becoming a graduate assistant at Rutgers in ‘98. He coached quarterbacks at Sacred Heart in 2000 and then served as a graduate assistant at Michigan before taking over as quarterbacks coach at Central Michigan for two years.
He moves to the Buccaneers at an interesting time for Tampa Bay’s quarterback situation. After going 2-14 this season with Josh McCown and Mike Glennon at quarterback, the Buccaneers are expected to select a passer with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston, both Heisman Trophy winners, are the likely candidates for Tampa Bay’s pick.