Dirk Koetter has been given a vote of confidence from the Glazers, keeping him as the Buccaneers’ head coach for the 2018 season. Now, big changes need to happen so it doesn’t amount to a(nother) lost season.
Per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will retain the services of head coach Dirk Koetter for the 2018 season. No Gruden. No McDaniels. No Richard. No debates. It’s Koetter, like it or not.
I’ll say this – I don’t hate it. I’m not running through a wall out of excitement that Koetter is returning, but things could certainly be worse. It’s that old mantra “be careful what you wish for,” right? People screamed to fire Gruden and that resulted in Raheem Morris. People screamed for Morris to be fired, that resulted in Greg Schiano. Schiano led to Lovie Smith, then Lovie to Dirk. The grass isn’t always greener.
The problems I have with Koetter and this regime are simple fixes. For starters, there are numbers out there that display a regression in offenses everywhere Koetter has been. We broke it down on an episode of Walking The Plank here and Trevor Sikkema of Pewter Report broke it down in writing here.
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With poor offensive line play and no true feature back to lean on, perhaps Koetter’s play calling in 2017 was handicapped by lack of talent. He couldn’t establish the run well enough to put the passing game in position to succeed. Offensive line shortcomings are sure to be addressed in the off-season, whether it’s free agency or draft. As is running back. That said, if Koetter is getting one more season, it’s time to try something different.
Todd Monken should get play calling duties.
With Oklahoma State, Monken’s offense averaged 48.7 points per game in 2011 and 45.7 points per game in 2012. As head coach at Southern Miss, his offense averaged 17.1 points per game in 2013, 19 points per game in 2014, and then 39.9 points per game in 2015 before Monken took the coordinator job with the Buccaneers. Once Monken establishes his system and is running the offense, his teams put up points. Period. If you’re in a do or die situation for your job, as Koetter will be in 2018, it’s time to pull out all the stops.
Next, there has to be wholesale changes on defense. I understand that Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith are tight from their time in Jacksonville and Atlanta, but it’s time to move on. Jay Hayes is getting nothing out of the defensive line, Smith’s “bend don’t break” scheme breaks on a weekly basis and has no rhyme or reason for coverages or blitzing schemes.
The defense is dead last in third down stops, allowing opposing offenses to convert on 48% of third downs. The NFL leader in third down defense is Minnesota, allowing only 26.3%. That’s a big gap. The defense is also tied for the twelfth most penalties (102) and has the eleventh most penalty yards (899) of any defense in the league.
Plain and simple, it’s not good enough. Now, we aren’t going to get into defensive coordinator candidates here because there is always a chance Smith returns. I believe that would be a massive mistake, but given the relationship between the two, Koetter may stick his neck out for his guy.
Many believe transitioning to a 3-4 scheme would benefit the team given the personnel they have on the roster now. They have the linebackers to pull it off, especially if a healthy Noah Spence returns and can be a 3-4 pass rushing outside linebacker as he was in college. If Mike Smith remains, that isn’t going to happen. We heard about how the Bucs were going to incorporate more 3-4 looks this season and it never came to fruition.
We know the offensive and defensive lines need serious attention, but Koetter remaining as the coach also brings big questions to the run game. Doug Martin is “his guy.” He was pounding the table to keep Martin after last season, despite the drug violation and poor play. He loves to utilize Charles Sims as the running back when he wants to telegraph what play is coming. Peyton Barber is honestly the only running back from 2017 that should return as a Buccaneer in 2018, but with the same staff in place I find it highly unlikely that happens.
Again, I don’t hate that Koetter is returning. I think the continuity with Jameis Winston could be beneficial. I don’t believe that changing coaches every other season is a recipe for success, either. This falls into some sort of weird grey area. Many of us believed that New Year’s Eve would be Koetter’s last day as a member of the Buccaneers organization. Now, he – and Jason Licht – have one more season to get things right or they’ll both be searching for a new employer after next season.
All we can do is hope that we don’t have to watch the talent of guys like DeSean Jackson, Gerald McCoy, and Lavonte David be wasted yet again. They aren’t spring chickens and the clock is ticking within the window for this team to win before they have most of the salary cap tied to a handful of key players.