Coaching carousel: Lovie Smith, Dirk Koetter or someone else?
The 2014 season was Lovie Smith’s first as the Buccaneers’ head coach. Going 2-14 in year one was a rough start for the man that coached Tampa Bay’s linebackers in the late 1990s. The two-win season led to the selection of Jameis Winston, who helped the team to a 6-10 record in 2015.
A huge reason for the four-win improvement was the overall improvement of the offense. Winston looked like a rookie at times, but showed plenty of flashes of potential. Evans continued to develop into a top-five receiver in the league, while Doug Martin had a career resurgence. All of this happened under the watch of new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who replaced Smith as the head coach following the season.
The circumstances that led to Smith being fired after two years in favor of a promotion for Koetter would not have played out the same way, if at all, without that 2-14 record in 2014.
Had Tampa Bay played with a different quarterback as a result of different draft positioning, would the offense have been as productive in Koetter’s first year? Would McCown or Glennon have played to the same level that Winston did? If the offense didn’t explode in the same way, the organization may not have been as committed to Koetter.
The firing of Smith was expedited because keeping Koetter became a priority. The front office didn’t want a rookie quarterback to have two different offensive coordinators in his first two years. That’s understandable.
But what if Tampa Bay didn’t have a rookie quarterback in 2015? What if McCown or Glennon was still under center? Koetter might have been less of a priority. The organization may have stayed committed to Smith and let Koetter stay in his coordinator role. Alternatively, they could have let him walk if he was offered another job.
Smith would have then gotten a chance to turn things around. If he failed to do so in 2016, maybe Koetter would have been promoted in 2017. Or, if Koetter had bolted after 2015, there would currently be a completely different head coach leading the Bucs right now.
Then again, had Smith turned things around in a hypothetical year three, maybe he’s still in Tampa as an NFL head coach. Considering the issues surrounding his tenure, he may not have lasted much longer than three years anyway.
But if 2014 had ended differently, even with just a few more wins, the leash may have been a little longer than the two years that he got. Who knows what the roster, coaching staff and front office would look like now?