Bucs coach Dirk Koetter and DE Noah Spence – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
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.”
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]
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 Perter Report and hang on tight.
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 himself; “Being Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator is very time consumming”. Time to be just the Head Coach because I believe he can be a good one. Go Bucs!
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 finished our 16th game, after five straight losing seasons including an infamous first overall pick in the draft, this sure looks, sounds, and smells like a great start for Coach Koetter and a great foundation on which to build a champion. In fact, I believe that if the Bucs hadn’t led the league in players on IR virtually all season long, we would have won at least one more game, maybe a couple more games, and ended up division champs and a home game in the playoffs. We will probably not lead the league in that category two seasons in a row.
We also are in a pretty good spot in not having any emergency needs in the draft, as in years past. We surprised ourselves with great play at the safety position in the last two months of the season, when before then we were all moaning over how bad we needed to draft a stud there. Our defensive line improved considerably as Ayers got into the new defense and Noah Spence came on strong despite a significant shoulder injury to work through. Our linebackers remain great, and our cornerbacks became a big asset with both our rookie Hargreaves and our “old man” Grimes who led the league in passes defensed this season.
Offensively, we have finally found a great pass catching TE in Brate (who led the league in TDs at his position) which we’ve lacked for like forever. Our no. 1 WR Evans also led the league in TDs, notched his best season yet while becoming the first WR in history to gain 1,000 or more yards in his first three seasons in the league. Our quarterback had a pretty good year too, and wants badly to continue getting better. Our #3 slot receiver Humphries also came on strong, leading in catches in the CAR game. We do need some additional speed on the receiver squad … and Martin either needs to get his career back on track or we’ll need to add another running back somewhere in the draft or FA. We definitely need more from our kicker too.
Lots to build on, and lots to improve. Depending upon how the offseason and preseason go, with roster additions, quite possibly a new defensive coordinator, and of course injuries yet to be determined, we may be well poised for a run at Division Champion again and our first trip to the playoffs since 2007 – a way way way too long drought of 10 seasons.
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.
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.
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 be a third rounder?
The compensatory picks are awarded based on “net” free agency moves. So, it depends on who we sign as well.
I don’t see Glennon that huge contract.
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?
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
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 near future…could they let him walk?…could he be a better fit at RT?…could he be persuaded to come to Tampa?
4) Tony Jefferson – really anything is an improvement at Safety (albeit I like the way Tandy came on, and R Smith needs a chance to compete next year) but this kid seemed to break through in AZ and they too need to spend elsewhere.
6) Jonathan Hankins – the heavily cap burdened Giants unlikely to pay this run stopper. A big upgrade over A Spence/C McDonald (who can move to rotational roles).
But, Center, RB and WR look tough in FA….I’d say those become the draft focus (Elfein?, the Texas RB?, Smith-Shuster?). If we fail to fill some holes in FA, there just aren’t enough high draft picks to make it work….IMO….here’s hoping Licht can sign someone (my 3 preferences above).
I disagree about Hawley – he’s a very capable center. EDS seems less capable as the backup.
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…
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. Jameis, Evans, Marpet, D. Smith (mostly) Kwon, Spence and VH3 are all under 24. Brate is just 25 and we’re going to add more youth in the draft. That is a solid foundation to build a team around for the future. Show some patience fellow Buc fans and I have a good feeling we’ll be rewarded.
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.
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.
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?
Though I have been happy with Clinton McDonald’s play (I was pleased with the way he filled on for McCoy while he was out!), I would love to see us acquire Johnathan Hankins to add to the rotation on the defensive line. Then we could target another sack specialist at DE.
P.S. I love Koetters press conferences compared to many other head coaches in the league. He is civil, upfront and thoughtful. He does not seem to be playing “silly f***ing games” with the media and still, he is not giving too much away either.
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 what is meant by “culture change”.
Over the next few months we’ll all debate the tram’s needs and our suggested additions. It’s refreshing to not be one of the worst teams picking at the top of the Draft. At choice # 19 there are a lot of options making it difficult to predict.
Looking forward to reading about all of the Draft prospects and the potential free agents. Keep bringing in players with a bit of ‘tude.
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 a win matters so much to the culture and attitude of the team and the fans. I’ll gladly take a win and a positive vibe going into the offseason versus maybe 2 or 3 spots higher in the draft. And I’m glad there weren’t many if any discussions of losing to get a better draft pick. Or I didn’t see them. Just win and make it more of a habit. I’m super excited to see what this team does over the next few months. It was a really fun season to watch which hasn’t been the case in a while and it makes me want more. Go Bucs.
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