Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter’s job security is non-existent. He has little room for error in what could be his final season with the Buccaneers.
It was a surprise when Tampa Bay decided to keep head coach Dirk Koetter after the 2017 season. He led the Buccaneers to a subpar 5-11 record and the writing was on the wall, or so it seemed.
Rumors were swirling about Jon Gruden coming back to coach the Buccaneers. He chose to return to the Oakland Raiders instead and it bought Koetter another season.
Next season is without a doubt, make or break for Koetter. The Buccaneers were once thought to be the next NFC powerhouse after just missing the postseason in 2016. Just two seasons later, the optimism surrounding the Bucs has all but faded.
In a loaded NFC South, Koetter will have to find a way to guide the Bucs to postseason contention. It will be the only way he will be on the sidelines in 2019.
Unfortunately, Koetter will be without quarterback Jameis Winston who has been suspended for three games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
The former number one overall pick didn’t take the major stride that most expected last season. Which reflects poorly off of Koetter. One of the primary reasons he was hired was to develop Winston.
Winston took small steps last season, seeing a slight uptick in completion percentage, quarterback rating and yards per game. There were certainly positives to take away from his game last season, but his 3-10 record displayed a major lack of progress, regression even.
Although Koetter can only do so much, the headlines never end with Winston. Koetter has been unable to reel in his quarterback.
Winston’s three game suspension could end up costing Koetter his job. Tampa Bay faces New Orleans, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to start the season. Unless the Bucs can salvage a game or two, they would be hard pressed to climb out of a 0-3 hole and make the postseason.
Those three losses don’t all fall on Koetter. Winston’s boneheaded actions are the reason Tampa could get off to a slow start, but that’s what makes Koetter’s situation so tough.
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There is also the fact in which NFL owners and front offices are more willing to part ways with a coach than a quarterback. Especially those with the potential that Winston has.
Even with Winston’s past antics, he will likely get one more chance to prove he can handle himself like a professional off the field.
The Bucs have the foundation of a strong offense, if the team can find a way to survive without Winston, they have the pieces to be successful in 2018.
Tampa Bay also gambled on the defensive side of the ball big time in the offseason. In particular, they created one of the deepest defensive line units in the entire league. Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry and first-round pick Vita Vea join Gerald McCoy and Noah Spence on what should be an overwhelming front.
The Buccaneers fan base has had enough losing of late. In six of the last seven years, Tampa has finished last in the NFC South. A division which seems to crown a new winner every season.
Again, there is a clear blueprint for success with the current Buccaneers roster, but can Koetter be the guy to steer the ship?
For Koetter, he needs to find a way to bring Tampa Bay back into the playoff picture. He is entering year three and the fan base wants to see results. It’s now or never for Koetter.