Mike Smith made it clear during his introductory press conference that Tampa Bay was the only place he would’ve considered joining as a defensive coordinator.
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The main reason? Dirk Koetter.
“I think both Dirk and I knew that, however this thing played out, that if I was not going to be a head coach, Dirk knew that I had interest in being the defensive coordinator,” Smith said. “It was not a tough decision to come work for Dirk Koetter and come to this organization here in Tampa.
“When you talk about leadership, it’s really about relationships, and I think that’s the one thing through the years that I’ve watched with Dirk Koetter, is that Dirk has great relationships with all the players that he comes in contact with. And it really doesn’t matter if it’s sports or business; it’s really about the relationships that we build. That’s what strengthens an organization and strengthens a team.”
After a five-year run as defensive coordinator in Jacksonville (2003-2007) – a time in which he oversaw three top ten units and gave up 17 points per game on average – Smith became the winningest head coach in Falcons history. Through his first five seasons in Atlanta, Smith’s teams finished first or second in the division and compiled a 56-24 record before falling to 4-12 and 6-10 in his last two years.
Considering his relationship with Koetter and his experience in the one area that the Bucs new head coach lacked, the hire made perfect sense for Tampa Bay.
Though Smith was quick to remind the media that Koetter is hardly a novice, and in fact someone he often relied on for advise in their previous roles.
“I want to say this: Dirk was a great resource for me when I was in Atlanta and when I was in Jacksonville,” Smith said. “Dirk’s got a lot of experience as a head coach. You can say that this is his first time; he’s got head coaching experience at Arizona State and Boise State and was very successful. So, I’ve relied on Dirk for many things, from different viewpoints, and he was a very instrumental part of our staff there in Atlanta.”
Most of all, Smith knew early on that he and Koetter shared a similar philosophy on how to treat players and create the scheme to fit the personnel. A culture within an organization can change quickly – for good or bad, according the Smith – so it starts in the locker room and understanding those around you.
“That’s one thing, as leaders and as coaches, you’ve got to always be feeling the heartbeat of what’s going on in the team,” Smith said. “I think when you go away from that, you can lose the culture very, very quickly.
“Dirk has a great understanding of what it means to be a teammate, and I think that’s important. Dirk is going to be leading this charge in terms of what we want to get accomplished, and we’re going to get it accomplished, I have no doubt.”
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]
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