Speaking to PewterReport.com and the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday at the Senior Bowl, Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith expressed his excitement in hiring former Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to serve in that same capacity in Tampa Bay this year.
“Whenever a guy is able to put 59 points on you, on the other side, you have to be pretty excited about bringing him on board,” Smith said. “I’ve known Dirk Koetter a long time. He’s got a good offensive mind, competing against him and guys that I really trust that have worked with him. It was an easy hire. We had him pegged after he became available. I looked at a lot of different people and a lot of people had interest in him. Good situation we feel like we have in Tampa. It was just the perfect fit for us.”
Koetter replaces Jeff Tedford and Marcus Arroyo, both of whom are no longer with the team following a dismal 2-14 season in which Tampa Bay’s offense ranks near the bottom of the NFL in several categories, such as point production, total yards and rushing yards. The latest addition to the Bucs coaching staff is recovering from hip surgery this offseason, but Smith said he would be at work at One Buccaneer Place on Monday.
The fact that Tampa Bay has two 1,000-yard receivers in Vincent Jackson and last year’s first-round pick, Mike Evans, coupled with the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, which will likely be used on either Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston or Oregon signal caller Marcus Mariota, made the job attractive to Koetter and other candidates that Smith interviewed.
“Yes, no doubt,” Smith said. “And that’s the response I got from everyone else, too. If you just look at 2-14, that doesn’t get you excited, but most guys look a little bit closer than that. If you’re just looking at us offensively, I think any offensive guy that likes a challenge and really can see being apart of something that can be turned around quickly. I would’ve taken a strong look at this, too.
“You mentioned Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, and also Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Charles Sims, of course Doug Martin – there’s enough [to work with. I realize that we need to improve our offensive line and have some things that we need to. We’re not a finished product yet. And if there’s some beauty to being 2-14 in that you do get the first pick on the clock a little bit to be able to add some good players to our football team. So yes, I thought it would play out this way.”
Smith pointed out Koetter’s success in Jacksonville and Atlanta, in addition to head-coaching and play-calling opportunities in college as the reasons why he wanted him to fill the offensive coordinator role in Tampa Bay.
“In the coaching circles you get a chance to know people,” Smith said. “I was at Arizona State, Dirk was (also) there. You kind of follow guys that you really respect and you talk a little bit after every of the game, and you know whom you’re competing against on the other side. I felt like I knew him about as well as could someone that you haven’t worked with.”
One of Koetter’s strengths is to use existing personnel and play to the strength of the roster. Smith provided a glimpse of what the Bucs’ new offensive will look like in 2015, while implying that the offense last year, which was supposed to be directed by Tedford last year prior to his season-ending heart condition, wasn’t a true depiction of what he wanted to run in Tampa Bay.
“We didn’t show an awful lot to really get excited about last year [offensively],” Smith said. “I can just talk on what I see us being going forward. I’ve talked about having a balanced attack, and I’ll say the same thing right now. Dirk is running our offense, but what Dirk would say is that he’s running our Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense that we’re putting together and it hasn’t been run before. We’re going to put all of our ideas together with that. To win in the league, you have to be able to run the football when you want to, not just when you have to. You need to be able to pass the football because you want to, not because you have to. Right now, we’re just going to be pretty broad with that.
“I think you can go back to everybody’s history and see some things that they like to do. Looking at Dirk, in Jacksonville (2007-11), they had Maurice Jones-Drew and they were a running attack. And of course with the receivers, Matt Ryan and that crew, Devin Hester and those guys, they passed it more in Atlanta. That’s what we’re looking for. We feel like he can bring balance, and in order for us to win that’s what we need.”
With Koetter in the fold, the Bucs have at least two more openings on their coaching staff to fill. One of which is a quarterbacks coach, and the other is an assistant offensive line coach.
“Are there any other changes that I’m making?,” Smith said. “Right now I think you know the openings that we have. The coaching staff isn’t complete; we’re working on that. There’s been a great response from coaches around the league that would like to be a part of our staff.”