The Bucs have decided to fire head coach Dirk Koetter. The Bucs now former coach lasted three seasons in Tampa Bay, compiling a record of 19-29 with no playoff appearances.
Shortly after the news was made known, the Buccaneers released a statement.
“We sincerely appreciate the hard work and commitment shown by Dirk over the past several years. Working with Dirk has been a pleasure and we wish him and his family all the best in the future. Our search for a new head coach will begin immediately and will be conducted by General Manager Jason Licht.”
Koetter’s first season got off to a good start with a record of 9-7, but that was followed up with two straight double digit loss seasons. There were questions about whether he would keep his job at the end of last season, but a week 17 win against the division winning New Orleans Saints gave Koetter a third year.
His record in close games over his time as head coach may have been part of what cost him his job. The Bucs were 12-16 in games decided by seven points or less, and 5-7 when the game ended by a score of three or less. The Bucs have kept it close, but in the end kept falling short. That’s a trend that’s needed to change, but hasn’t under Koetter.
It wasn’t for a lack of effort on his part, as he made many moves over the calendar year in attempt to save his job and help the team this season. That even meant at the expense of his own ego.
Koetter brought on a new defensive line coach in Brentson Buckner during the offseason, he then fired his good friend and defensive coordinator Mike Smith five weeks into season, and gave the offensive play calling duties over to coordinator Todd Monken. Koetter enjoys calling plays, and has said it was a tough decision that he had to make giving up that power.
With all the choices that Koetter made, he also had some critical one’s that backfired. For example, Koetter decided to take back the play calling from Monken for the Redskins game despite the Bucs being at the top of the league in passing yards and points scored at the time.
They went on to score three points, and the play calling was returned back to Monken a week later without much explanation as to why.
Koetter also had to juggle the act of who start at football’s most important position, quarterback. He didn’t have a choice at first, with Jameis Winston being suspended for the first three games of the season, making longtime veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter. Having low expectations, the Bucs started out the season with two straight wins, and that’s when the problems began.
Riding the hot hand, Koetter stuck with Fitzpatrick even when Winston returned, but quickly turned back to him after the bye week. Winston didn’t stay the starter for too long, as he had a meltdown three weeks later with four interception game during week eight against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Koetter’s plan was to get a spark with Fitzpatrick back as the starter, but he too regressed, as the Bucs led the league in turnovers. Even after the Redskins game in which Fitzpatrick turned the ball over three times in the red zone, Koetter stuck with the veteran instead of the quarterback that they had planned on having for the long term future. It was an unexpected call that garnered criticism. But one week later after another Fitzpatrick turnover barrage, this time against the Giants, Koetter finally turned to Winston. He’s been the stater ever since.
He went back and forth between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston, with each being named the starer two separate times. It’s Koetter’s indecisiveness in decisions like this and untimely play calling that may have ultimately done in him as the teams coach. There hasn’t been enough player development under his tutelage added on top of the close losses.
After another year of several close-but-not-close-enough losses from Koetter’s Bucs, we haven’t seen any evidence that it will suddenly change for the better in 2019.The Bucs will be looking for their 12th coach in team history this offseason.