The future is bright in Tampa Bay if you ask most Bucs fans.

Though their Week 17 finale lacked offensive fireworks, the Bucs ultimately finished the season with their first winning record since 2010, beating the Carolina Panthers 17-16 to earn their ninth victory.

Once again, Tampa Bay’s defense shined. The secondary picked off Cam Newton three times, while linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander added two critical sacks and double-digit tackles, respectively. It was the type of effort that leaves good reason for optimism heading into the offseason.

“On defense, we’ve got some really good guys to build around,” Koetter said after the game. “Lavonte, Kwon (Alexander), Gerald (McCoy), Robert Ayers, Noah Spence, (Vernon) Hargreaves. (Brent) Grimes is getting up there [in age], but a guy that still has plenty of ball left. We’re getting there. We’re making progress. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re making progress.”

The offense, meanwhile, wasn’t as crisp during the second half of the season but injuries and youth played a factor. Koetter called Sunday “extremely frustrating” from an offensive perspective, but the Bucs coach is confident the foundation is in place.

Along with their second-year quarterback, who set a franchise record this year in yards (4,090) and touchdowns (28), the Bucs also have three promising guys along the offensive line under the age of 26, a 23-year old Pro Bowl receiver and a second-year slot receiver and tight end who more than doubled their production from 2015.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“When you look at our offensive team, Jameis (Winston), Mike (Evans), Ali (Marpet), Donovan Smith, four guys you can really build around,” Koetter said. “I think you can throw Kevin Pamphile into the mix there. You could throw Cameron Brate into that mix. We’ve got a good nucleus of guys to build around.”

Now, that’s not to say the Bucs are a finished product, nor are content missing the playoffs. Koetter listed “playmakers” and “speed” to the offensive wish list this offseason, adding that the Bucs’ need in those areas is “just a fact.”

“Every team in the league has things they have to add,” Koetter said. “Every team has weaknesses or perceived weaknesses and every team is looking to improve themselves in the offseason. Easier said than done.”

At the end of the day, though, Koetter is confident Jason Licht and company will continue to get it done – finding core players in the draft and supplementing the roster through free agency.

Tampa Bay fell short of its postseason goals, but as Panthers coach Ron Rivera told Koetter at midfield before the game, building a championship contender ‘doesn’t happen overnight.’ The Bucs appear to be on the right path.

“Our goal is to not only get in the tournament but win the whole thing,” Koetter said. “Only one out of 32 teams get to do that. We’re certainly not satisfied with [9-7]. I’m very sincere when I say that. We’ve got to be better in all areas, but we also have to realize that it’s not easy to go from where we started all the way to being a contender to win this whole thing because there are some really good teams in this league.

“I do think we’re on the right track. We’re anxious to get into free agency and get into the draft. We’ve got to add some pieces, but I’m really excited about it. We’ve proved that this team will come out there and compete week in and week out.”

Share On Socials

About the Author: Zach Shapiro

Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders. Contact him at: [email protected]
Subscribe
Notify of
18 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Garv
Garv
5 years ago

Good stuff Zach. I’m definitely on board with the optimism so many of us feel. Love all the youth on this team and that cover photo with Coach Koetter and Noah Spence says it all. Pops his dislocated shoulder back in to keep playing on Sunday? Well, that’s pretty damn impressive and you know he has the respect of his teammates. Guys like Kwon who obviously just loves to play, Jameis too…. These are exciting times and the hiring of Dirk Koetter as HC was THE best coaching hire here since Dungy/Gruden. Going to be a great offseason so follow… Read more »

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

I’m excited too about this coming season. Even though we have a few holes to fill in the starting rotations and back up arena we have improved from last year. I think Coach Koetter should seriously think about giving up his offensive play calling responsibilities. The stats tell a story as to the why. He can always take it back if he feels it’s necessary; not the other way around as he noted. As a rookie Head Coach I think he did above average; as an offensive coordator I think he did a little bit below average. He said it… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
5 years ago

31 teams in the league will end up falling short of their post-season goals this year. Few picked the Bucs to win the division and go to the playoffs prior to the start of the season. Most of the major media prognosticators had the Bucs ranked around 28th to 30th in their preseason power polls, predicting another losing season with at most 7 wins (yeah, except for our Scott here to predicted 10-6 .. but he was not far off and he was a far outlier). So finishing 9-7 and a chance at the playoffs right up until after we… Read more »

surferdudes
5 years ago

Amen Horse. It’s also better for the coaching dynamic of your staff. If Monkin can shine as O.C. with full control, he’ll be looked at for H.C. vacancies down the road the way it should be. Winston needs to be talking with his play caller full time between series at this stage of his career, he’s not getting that now with Koetter as head coach. Give Dirk credit, being able to admit the first step to improving starts with how he can improve.

Buc 1976
Buc 1976
5 years ago

How can you not like Koetter he tell’s it like it is.
Hope we have another good draft if they can find 3 in the draft that can start would be great and maybe 2-3 that can grow into staters. I would like to see if they maybe are able to pry K. Shorts from Carolina in FA. and a experienced WR that has 2-4 year’s in him. Looking foward to the draft and next season if Jamis continues to improve that will make the Bucs a leigt playoff team.

e
e
5 years ago

It’s really great to see that the Bucs have no question marks at the GM, HC and QB going into the offseason. Yes, there are a lot of young players that are going to benefit from this stability as well. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that we somehow keep Smitty at DC. Otherwise, I think that next years expectations for this team is playoffs. My only other off-the-cuff question is Glennon; When someone signs him to start for them next year with a huge contract, what kind of compensatory draft pick are we looking at in ’18? Would it… Read more »

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  e
5 years ago

The compensatory picks are awarded based on “net” free agency moves. So, it depends on who we sign as well.

Horse
Horse
Reply to  e
5 years ago

I don’t see Glennon that huge contract.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

Some of the media guys are predicting as much $13M a year for Glennon from a quarterback-needy team. He’ll easily clear $10M, way more than the Bucs will pay him to sit on the bench.

Besides, what kind of young and capable player would purposely settle for permanent backup status if he got a chance to be someone’s starter?

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
5 years ago

Reading between the (Koetter) lines…(in no particular order I suppose) 1) Center (Hawley and EDS seem destined to be let go) 2) Running Back 3) Right Tackle 4) Safety 5) WR 6) DT I think that sounds about right to me too (although I’m more sold on D Smith as a RT or a LG…our GM and Coach seem happy with him at LT). In FA (accepting Licht’s m.o. in that regard of avoiding the highest paid players), potential exists in: 3) Matt Kalil – a big disappointment on a team with a number of big cap numbers in the… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  EastEndBoy
5 years ago

I disagree about Hawley – he’s a very capable center. EDS seems less capable as the backup.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 years ago

It’s not that I think he has no value, it’s that he’s a Free Agent. My reading of the tea-leaves was that Koetter didn’t see enough o want to throw veteran FA money at him to keep him here. But who knows…

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
5 years ago

I don’t know how any Bucs fan could look at our team and not feel optimistic. I think we’re all so tired of losing that it gets easy to focus on the negative and miss all the positives the team accomplished this year. Changing a losing culture and years of bad drafting/FA pickups doesn’t happen over night. I think we’re two years (and great drafting/smart FA) away from being serious contenders for the Super Bowl. The core on offense is so young and still getting better. The defense isn’t as young, but the staples, McCoy & David are hardly old.… Read more »

Horse
Horse
Reply to  RootsCrew
5 years ago

Rootscrew; I think we’re here and will just get better. Whoever we get to play Center is fine with me as long as it’s not Hawley and Evans; reasons why they were let go I believe was size and quickness. We got spanked up the middle on passing downs and it crumbled our pass protection over and over.

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

I had to keep reminding pessimistic fans this season that our true team was on display in week 1. It just all fell apart in Arizona. Fully healthy, the offense is lethal. Adding a true WR2, another TE & some semblance of a reliable running game, will have us in the playoffs next year.

As far as Center goes, I like Hawley, but we do need an upgrade. I’ve been kicking around D Smith/Pamp or Caleb/Marpet/Sweezy/Dot or Caleb or Pamp. Sweezy’s natural spot is RG. He’s a nasty run blocker.

XpfcWintergreen
XpfcWintergreen
5 years ago

Extra good stuff, people! “We’ve proved that this team will come out there and compete week in and week out.” …This highlights the culture change that had to be accomplished this year if we were truly going for the Superbowl award in the next few years. This off season can make a big difference in our timetable. My question would be if Koetter relinquishes the play calling duties, who replaces him. Is Todd Monken ready to step up and take over? If not where would we find a good fit for the job? How about it comrades, any thoughts? Zach?… Read more »

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

It’s nice to read positive comments a few days after the season has ended. I wonder if the remarks would be so had the Panthers succeeded in that 2-point conversion. I do think the team has a nucleus of good young players who, more importantly, seem to have the right attitude. I believe Jason Licht will continue to search for players who fit the mold of having an unwavering desire to be the best, willing to put in the work and never give up. To me that was the biggest from this team to those in the recent past and… Read more »

Twistedwires
Twistedwires
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

I do think the overall ‘feeling’ of the end of the season would have most definitely been impacted by a loss to Carolina there at the end. Last year ended on a 4 game losing streak. Ending this year with 3 losses right after a 5 game win streak and a chance at the playoffs would have felt too familiar. I’m really happy they won the last game though. Forget about the fact that the 2-point conversion play really cost the Bucs a couple of draft positions. I think the vibe on the team and on this site shows that… Read more »