It’s a brave new world again in Tampa Bay as the Buccaneers have selected former offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to succeed Lovie Smith as the head coach. The buzz surrounding the possibility of Koetter’s hiring came almost immediately after the Smith’s firing on January 6. One of the first assistants to join the staff is Mike Smith as defensive coordinator, the same Mike Smith that was head man of the Atlanta Falcons 2008-2014. With the hiring, Koetter is now the fourth head coach for the Bucs in the last seven seasons, which last I checked isn’t a good thing to hang your hat on. But we’ll discuss that more in a little bit.
First, what led to the hasty decision to release Lovie Smith? His first year as coach was a disaster at best, being unable to muster a single victory at Raymond James the entire season. But at the same time, the team wasn’t in great shape when he took over, so from that view you kinda gotta give the guy a pass. This past season, the Bucs were blessed with Jameis Winston in the top pick, and the culture changed right away. The ended up tripling their win total from the previous year, going from 2-14 in 2014 to 6-10 for 2015. My only guess for the firing was that the turnaround was moving at the expected pace the organization had hoped, but I won’t get into speculations.
But why was Dirk Koetter the guy that the Buccaneers just had to have this time around at the helm? Yes, with him calling the plays, Winston was able to become the third rookie quarterback to pass for over 4,000 yards, as well as Doug Martin becoming the second leading rusher in 2015 behind Adrian Peterson. But again, the team went 6-10 on the year, so that means Koetter gets the credit for the victories? This is a guy who has yet to be the head man on a pro level. At the collegiate level his best record was back in 2000 with Boise State, where he led the Broncos to a 10-2 record. Yet in his last two years at Arizona State (2005 & 2006), his Sun Devils teams went 7-5 (4th in the Pac 10) and 7-6 (T-5th), respectively.
Then there’s Mike Smith, who did manage to turn the Falcons around after the failed experiment with Bobby Petrino. Now mind you, Smith is no slouch, as he was an integral part of the defensive coaching staff for the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, who you’ll recall dominated all year, including their performance at Super Bowl XXXV. From there, he went on to become the defensive coordinator for the Jack Del Rio era Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003-2007. In his last season at Jacksonville, the Jaguars actually ranked second in total defense, which ultimately led to his opportunity at Atlanta. Fast forward to his last year in the ATL, his defense was ranked dead last.
I’m a fair-minded kind of guy, and not opposed to giving anyone a chance to succeed. But here you have two men who’s better years of coaching are years in the past. There’s talent on this Bucs team, but I’m not sure if these guys are the right to lead this group over the hump. Lovie Smith had a little bit of cache coming into Tampa two years ago, but the same can’t be said for Dirk Koetter. There’s eight months until the 2016 season kicks off. Until then, there’s going to be a lot more questions than answers for the Buccaneers immediate future.
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