It is Monday and that means another Bucs Monday Mailbag where we answer your questions that readers submitted via Twitter using #PRMailbag.

Question: Starting to think Koetter might be great as an OC, so-so as a head coach type, like  Norv Turner.

Answer: You aren’t alone in that opinion. However, it is way too early to make that determination definitively. Most coaches have an adjustment period to find their footing. There most certainly have been things to make you wonder (clock management, going for two points among others). There a thousand things happening in a coach’s head, and that play clock runs twice as fast when you are trying to call a play. Also calling from the field is more difficult than the booth, as you can’t see the down and distance as fast you can from a perch in the box. I am not making excuses for Koetter, but trust me, even from my high school play calling duties, it is a lot more difficult than you could ever imagine.

With that said, it is his job he has given himself, and ultimately the results are on him, regardless of the obstacles. And from the other duties required of a coach, practice schedules, meetings, and the basic day-t0-day operations of the team, Koetter does just fine it appears.

Question: Do we need an OC that can utilize easier routes early on like slants/crossing instead of the same deep pass we keep doing?

Answer: I think at this point every aspect of the play calling needs to be evaluated. From who calls the plays, to the design themselves. Many have suggested that Koetter give Winston a few easier throws to start the game, but Winston ultimately pulls the trigger. Without reviewing the game from Sunday, I can’t say that those routes weren’t part of the game plan going in. Although it is a bit puzzling that Evans isn’t used more in the slant game with his size and ability to box out defenders.

You have to take a few deep shots a game. Even if they aren’t completed, it does affect how the defense plays in coverage. And it can help open up the run game as safeties have to think twice about creeping up. And if you can get Mike Evans or DeSean Jackson singled on a go-route, you have to think they can either go get the ball (Evans) or beat them down the field (Jackson).

Question: How come we don’t get the running game started early to have a balanced attack?

Answer: The Cardinals showed how effective it can be to be able to run the ball early and keep a defense off balance. The problem with Tampa Bay is when you fall behind in the way they did at Minnesota and on Sunday against Arizona, time becomes an opponent as well. In a game where the opposing team drops 38 on you, you need to score and do it rather quickly. Trust me, Koetter would love to have a balanced attack. It would make everyone’s job easier, but circumstance dictate the rest of game when you fall behind early.

Question: I saw SR’s article on Gruden lurking in the background, any chance Bucs just bring him on staff instead? Like Tom Coughlin in Jax?

Answer: No chance. Mainly because I don’t think Gruden would come back just as a consultant. He makes $6 million a year, or around there from ESPN, and no way the Bucs would consider coming close to matching that for a non-head coach position. Plus Gruden wants redemption. Gruden wants to develop a young quarterback, something he wasn’t able to do in Tampa Bay.

Secondly, the egos of Gruden and Koetter wouldn’t mix. Koetter would always be looking over his shoulder, and with both being offensive minds, there is no way Koetter would want a guy like Gruden calling any shots. And I don’t blame him. Having Gruden in the building as anything other than the head coach would create angst and an uneasiness with the offensive staff. Any time there was a questionable decision, fans would be calling for Gruden to take over. I just don’t see how that even remotely could work.

Question: What’s more likely Mike Smith getting fired or Dirk Koetter giving up play calling?

Answer: Based on the financial commitment the Glazers made to Smith this offseason, I think he is safe through next year, barring any major collapse. Of course some would say a collapse has already taken place with the performance in Arizona on Sunday. The Bucs defense has underperformed for the most part, but have shown some flashes. But they need to quickly figure out how to regain the magic from last season when they turned things around after the bye week. If not, both Koetter and Smith might be looking for new employment after this season. Koetter has at least flirted with the idea of allowing someone else to be the play caller, but decided this offseason to retain the responsibility. If the team continues to struggle finding an identity all year, then it may be something he is forced to do in order to keep his job.

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Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]


  1. This is not going to go away? Koetter and Smith need now to make some scheme adjustments. It can be simple things like throw some short passes early in the game and quit defending the deep passes when the pass and run catches are hurting us more.

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  2. I’m more concerned about Koetter’s game management decisions. I’m not trying to be a Monday morning QB but I was calling this as this was happening real time whether it was at the stadium or watching it on TV. There are too many cases but I will give several examples that I have observed:

    Exhibit 1 : Lack of understanding of half time and end of game management.
    1) In the RAMS game last year, they were up by 10 points with just under two minutes to go. The last thing you need is to give the RAMS any momentum going into halftime. What happens, they threw a 5 yard out that gets intercepted and the RAMS score a TD to cut it to 3 going into halftime. Why do this when you are going to get the ball at the start of the second half? This is demoralizing and gives your opponent momentum going into the half.

    2) Same RAMS game, they had a first down at the RAMS 40 yard line with over a minute left and three time outs. They complete a pass to Simms around the 25 yard line but refused to call a timeout when the entire stadium was yelling “timeout”. They ended up running out of time with 2 timeouts left (really 3 since 1 of the timeout was to go over the last play and had nothing to do with stopping the clock). How do you run of of time before you run out of timeouts?

    3) Patriots game, BUCS down by one score right before halftime (13-7). Again, they will get the ball at the start of the 2nd half. The last thing you want is to give the ball back to Brady. What did he do? He calls for 3 passes that were incomplete taking very little time off the clock. Most coaches in this situation would run at least one time to see how successful it was before throwing. This way if you are not successful, you don’t give the ball back to the opponent.

    4) Patriots game, the decision to “onside” kick was not good in my opinion. Romo also disagreed with this on the TV broadcast. You have 1 timeout and the 2 minute warning. You are only down by 2 points and a FG wins the game. You go for a low percentage onside kick that just about guarantee that the Patriots will kick a FG to extend it to 5 points. Now, you have to score a TD with very little time left instead of kicking it deep and getting the ball back and just needing a FG to win.

    Exhibit 2 : Questionable play calling
    1) In the “like me now” game with the Redskins when he was a OC. The BUCs were up by 3 points with a little over two minutes to go. Martin rips a long run and gets tackle at the 1 yard line. A TD would put it out of reach. Instead of running plowing ahead 3 times, he does a pitch out to Simms and lose 3 yards. He did the same thing in the Giants game before halftime when Mike Evans was tackled at the 1 foot line. He again pitched it to Simms and lost another 3 yards. It is very hard to run wide when the defenders are bunched up. If you plunge ahead you might not make it but you don’t risk losing 3 yards on a pitch out. Does he understand the concept that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

    2) I don’t understand his fascination of going 4 wide on 3rd and short with no RB in the backfield. There are several problems with this formation. First, you are telling the defense that you are not running the ball. Two, you don’t have a RB to protect against the blitz. Three, you can’t flare the back out on a route. How many times have you seen Brady throw a short out to the RB on a third and short.

    3) In yesterday’s game, when you are on the 1 foot line, why would you go 4 wide with no back in the backfield?

    Exhibit 3 Not understanding when to go for 2 point conversions
    1) Why would you go for 2 points after scoring the first TD? If you are unsuccessful, you will always be playing catch-up. As one coach used to say, “You only go for 2 points when absolutely necessary, otherwise you will be chasing points all game long”.

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    • This is one of the best posts I’ve ever seen on PR. Excellent breakdown and I agree with what you said.

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      • vtrantb,
        Excellent points, all. Now,if those idiots could just learn…doubtful…

        I remember reading of the miserable stats of onside kicks

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    • Some of the situations you blame on poor understanding of game scenarios are not due to bad playcalling as much as bad execution.

      Rule no. 1 – don’t throw the ball to the other team.

      Rule no. 2 – don’t throw the ball to the other team

      Rule no. 3 – don’t throw the ball to the other team

      Rule no. 999 – don’t throw the ball to the other team.

      Rule no. 1000 – don’t fumble the ball at the goal line

      Rule no. 1001 – don’t fumble the ball at any other yard line

      Pretty simple rules to remember – but execution often eludes us.

      As for the four wides and no back, this play works quite often. It’s called “spreading the defense and making them defend the pass”. Meaning, if the play is executed, either results in a completed pass in the end zone, or someone like the quarterback sneaks it in between the spread out defenders. If it works, the playcaller is a genius … if it doesn’t work, the playcaller is an idiot.

      The plays that were called last Sunday were, for the most part, executed quite well as long as the right players were on the field. Jameis was injured on the first series and could not execute thereafter the rest of his time on the field. He should have been taken to the sideline earlier. Our back up quarterback executed pretty well, with a couple of interceptions being the exceptions. 33 points was the bottom line. Best point total this season to date, though it was also against one of the weaker defenses in the league. Though by comparison, our starting QB only managed 14 points against an even worse defense the week before.

      Every critic fancies himself the world’s greatest playcaller, and the actual playcaller an idiot, when the result is a loss. Then the same expert amateur playcallers generally keep their mouths shut when the result is a glorious win. Despite the fact that it is the same exact playcaller whether win or loss.

      I am not saying that Dirk Koetter is a great play caller. But I will say he’s not horrible. Good enough to take us to our first winning season last year, after starting the season with a worse record (1-3) than we have now. So I am content that all is not yet lost, and that last year’s great playcaller is not this year’s idiot.

      Going for two on the first several touchdowns was not a good decision in my own personal opinion. But I also recognize that Coach Koetter has little to no faith in his kickers, with very good reason. That had to be a factor in his decision making. Maybe as he watches Patrick Murray practice this week he will gain greater faith that he won’t eff it all up like the previous two kickers did to his team.

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      • I don’t think you really countered any of my points:
        1) You didn’t address my issues with halftime and end of game management, especially on the use of timeouts
        2) I was talking about spreading out 4 wide on your own goal line. Fitz tried to throw an out that got intercepted and put the ball on our own 1 yard line which Peterson ran in on the next play. Why would you spread out on your own 1 yard line with a noisy crowd and no back in the backfield? You are telling the opposing defense to go ahead and blitz because we are not going to run the ball? In other short situations, you need to threatened the the defense with a run possibility, otherwise, they will blitz you with no concern about a handoff to the RB. Plus, you don’t have a RB in the backfield to pick up the blitz.
        3) The 33 point in the second half is misleading. You realize that they are basically running more of a prevent defense. In addition, Peterson was out of the game at this point and that was when Evans had some success.

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        • I didn’t argue all of your points, but I destroyed a couple of them, so all are suspect, as I concluded by stating that every critic thinks he’s a playcalling genius after criticizing every loss, and then he shuts up after every win. Which you do.

          As for the playcall on our own 1-yard line, it actually still makes a great deal of sense to run that play. If you bunchup and don’t spread em, the defense only has to play the run, not the pass, and brings everybody down tight on the LOS. The chances of being forced into a loss of yards and a safety is very high, greater than 50%.

          As I wrote, you are criticizing a bad outcome due to poor execution – a pick – by calling it a bad play call. If the ball had been placed better by the quarterback, or if Mike Evans had wrenched the ball away from the defender, as we expect him as the much bigger and stronger player to do, no INT, and therefore no “bad play call”.

          You’re playing a disingenuous game that allows you to always criticize and then shut up when your argument doesn’t work. Very dishonest, and very cowardly. That’s why I utterly dismiss your criticism.

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          • I guess not many people agree with you.

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        • Don’t try to debate with Naples, we all know he’s a football genius and can’t be wrong. He;ll I heard all about QBR on football networks all week and not one used his “gold standard” ESPN rating. Damn you’re condescending as hell Naples. You realize you don’t work in the NFL right?

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      • The bigger problem is the Defense and we seem to always focus on the Offense? Cardinals Offense scored 4 straight times; hard to make your planned offensive sceme work if you keep it the same because at that time the Cardinal Defense hadn’t throttled down until after they were ahead 31-0. Also Offense scored 26 points not 33 points when the game was all said and done.

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        • Agreed about the issues with the defense. This post was addressing the topic of the article which is “Koetter’s Concern”. If the article comes out the defense then I would respond accordingly.

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          • Got it. Good point.

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  3. Thanks, I have a full time software engineering job but I’m willing to contribute a few articles to PR for free. LOL.

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  4. The question was asked during Koetter’s P.C., but I’d like others thoughts on the lose atmosphere around the locker room. Ping, pong games, vets saying younger players looked at the extra day in AZ as a vacation weekend. The team looked more hung over then ready for a game Sunday. I’m old school. I don’t think players should be listening to any music, during practice. Dance moves should be for the dance floor, not the practice field. Ping bong table, and games should be for the rec room only. You prep for battle in the locker room. This team lacks focus, maybe that’s why the slow starts. Koetter said the ping pong, and extra day travel was O.K., because we did that last year, and that turned out alright. No it didn’t Dirk. You got smoked in AZ last year, and in case you forgot, we missed the play offs again. Sounds like you’ve given the team the message that that’s O.K.. Be warned, others have been fired going 9-7.

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    • Maybe they should have a lecture on how to prepare for battle. It use to be you would practice so hard you couldn’t wait to get out there and play the game because it was easier and a challenge to go against another team than yourselves. Ah, the good ole days for us old guys are calling; problem is I can hardly walk to the toilet because of all those hard pratices years past.

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    • Nobody should care the least bit about ping pong in the locker room. A pro football locker room isn’t a prison or a reform school. As long as the players get in their physical conditioning, practice hard, and play hard, it is of no concern to you or any other fan what they do in their down time. After all, if the players slack off, they will suffer far more in terms of loss of income than you will ever suffer as a fan.

      So you’d feel much better about it if the players, instead of hanging with their fellow players, simply got in their cars, drove home, and played video games with their friends, or hung out by the pool, or go down to the local sports bar?

      Sheesh! That’s about the dumbest criticism I’ve ever read here at PR.

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      • Well I guess I’m confused; I thought a locker room was for changing in and out of your footbal/work out/private citizen attire. I thought they had another area to do all that stuff.

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        • In earlier times, that was correct. Lockers, and showers, that was it.

          Apparently you haven’t seen the new Bucs lockerroom which was shown on HBO’s Hard Knocks. Or any of the other new or newly remodeled lockerrooms around the NFL.

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  5. These players have not forgotten the way Lovie Smith was run out. He deserved it but Koetter and Licht are part of that. It is still lingering. The Glazers want a Super Bowl Championship. Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht are never going to get to that point. You have Super Bowl coaches throughout the NFC South. Payton won the other 2 have made it there. Gruden is the only one who can come in and deliver the Super Bowl championship message with credibility. Gruden could take Evans, Desean, Godwin, Howard, Brate and Doug Martin and do what he did with Dudley, Dilger, Keyshawn, Mccardle, Jurevicius and Pittman. Licht has made too many personnel mistakes. Some of the picks are good like Beckwith and Kwon but there just as many flops. Bring in Derrick Brooks as the GM. The offense is not working and we will get beat by Buffalo this weekend badly. McDermott knows our offense. He is licking his chops. This team is never prepared properly. They get punched in the mouth the 1st quarter and the game is over. Its happened multiple times over the last few years. He let them off until Tuesday after the Patriot game? That’s ridiculous.

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  6. I cannot help but remember Romo’s observation before the start of the Pats game that Koetter’s offense is basically Joe Gibbs’ offense from the 80s. Romo said Pats will run cover 2 zone and he was right. This kind of predictability on both sides of the ball is very troubling.

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  7. Well lets get this out the way, AZ did not play the same scheme in the 2nd half as they did in the first. So the Fitz blitz of points is really a joke.
    I do not see a lot of variety in this offense. My big question and maybe someone from PR can ask this question at one of the pressers. Is JW allowed to change plays? We know he can change protections, can he do anything outside of changing the direction of the run plays? I am not sure if anyone has ever asked this question. I do not remember seeing him change a play, so maybe we can get that answered.

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  8. They were accused of just that Naplesfan by T.J.Ward who said some young players treated the extra day at the hotel in AZ like a vacation day. Hanging by the pool with their friends, while a coach was spotted at the bar. I think their cavalier approach to this season showed on Sunday. There is a time, and place for everything, they can play all the pong they want in their rec area, but the locker room is not that place. I don’t see how you can dismiss the fun, and games that seem to be going on as not contributing to this teams lack of preparedness. What would I want them to do instead of playing pong after practice? How about getting in some extra conditioning, playbook study, film study, run extra routes, these players are under .500. They’ll have plenty of time for pong, and all the fun they could want when they miss the playoffs yet again.

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    • Agree 100% Surfer, I can guarantee you they don’t have ping pong tables in the NEW England locker room. This team has gotten a little too lax.

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  9. When you go to work it is time to get serious, you play when the job is done and you have won. I realize these kids play a game for a living but many fans invest their hard earned money into this team and expect nothing short of perfection (A bang for our buck.) I read somewhere that the Patriots are all business on the road before a game. In the military total focus and discipline prevail before an engagement. “To be forlorn is to be forewarned,” play ping pong on your day off. Play the game in your head, over and over, account for every contingency, video games and music before a game leave your head full of crap. I believe that good mental preparation is an important component to winning and if our Buc’s are vacationing on the road they are letting their fans down.

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  10. Any chance of moving Hargreaves to Nickel and putting McClain in at CB opposite Grimes?

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    • McClain is slower than VH3. I do agree VH3 should be playing nickel.

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  11. I definitely believe Koetter is in over his head. His game and clock management skills leave a lot to be desired and his ability to make adjustments to the gameplan has been non-existent to this point.

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    • Not sure about Koetter because he is still learning as a head coach. I’m sure if him as an offensive coordinator and Smith as a defensive coordinator need to make some adjustments; if not, then time to replace them at the end of the season.

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  12. I definitely believe Koetter is in over his head. His game and clock management skills leave a lot to be desired and his ability to make adjustments to the game plan has been non-existent to this point.

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  13. What a Joke. What about the Mentally Inferior Mental Midgets on this team?

    I said it last week I will say it again. These Players will ONLY Fight when the other team stops Fighting. That way they can lose like losers, yet have not too smart people say, well if they just did this or that then……..

    These players are Weak, Soft and will never equal the fight of other teams (outside the Dregs of the NFL).

    Is that on the Coach or the CBA? Now the players want More Money, Less Practice, and Easier Practice. Imagine That………

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  14. I think there is no “D” in this defense. When you constantly give up 20 or 30 points in the first half it puts a lot of pressure on a young offense and limits your options.

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