It is time for the first new Bucs Mailbag of the year, and as you could guess, the majority of the questions were about Dirk Koetter keeping his job, and his announcement that he will not be giving up play calling duties in 2018.
Remember you can submit your questions each week via twitter by using the hashtag, #PRMailbag.
Question: Dirk seemed to hint at changes in coaching staff, but then also seemed to hint at no changes. Will there be changes at all?
Question: Don’t you think Koetter needs to give up the play calling AND all the defensive staff if he wants to have a job until 2019?
Question: Do you see any kind of coordinator change coming in 2018? If not, how did Koetter convince the Glazers to keep him on for 2018 without changing a thing?
Question: I just don’t see how Koetter can’t make any changes and expect to be successful next year. One can think that decision alone may still get him fired. I can’t be that far off base can I? Thoughts?
Answers: We knew late last week that Koetter could end up staying, and Scott Reynolds reported what we learned about Jon Gruden not coming to Tampa Bay. Even the last few weeks we wondered if there was a chance Koetter could save his job based on the competitiveness of the team over the last few weeks. But, even if he somehow did manage to save his job (which he ultimately did) we assumed it would include making some staff changes and possibly giving up play calling duties, as Koetter himself said he was considering last offseason.
So far, at this point, none of those things appear to be imminent.
First, let’s look at the play calling aspect. Again, as Reynolds pointed out in an article from Tuesday Koetter’s offenses have moved the football up and down the field. But, as offensive coordinator Todd Monken said earlier this year – yards without points is just window dressing. The Bucs offense in 2017 dressed a lot of windows, but none have turned into showcase winners. And while the defense hasn’t held up its end of the bargain, the offense can’t be left off the hook. Play calling, particularly in the red zone, left plenty to be desired.
Look, being a head coach of an NFL football team is a tough job. Maybe the toughest in all of sports. 53 players, numerous assistant coaches, 22 guys on the field at one time, 40-second play clock, personnel groupings, a player comes off the field injured, numerous voices in the headset, oh and now let’s add in you have to get a play called. It is obvious by the constant turnover in the league every year that not everyone is good at it.
Koetter is taking a gamble by continuing trying to do it all. He basically has one season to figure it out and turn around a 5-11 season. Of course it is his call, and I suppose if I were essentially on a one-year deal I am not sure I would put my hands in the fate of someone else. But, it is a gamble. The good news is, this will be his third season doing it, and every year should make you better at it. I suppose that is what the Glazers believe – or hope, at least – will happen.
I will say this, the Bucs issues in 2017 were not the result of a lack of effort and desire to win by Koetter. He is as hard a working coach as the Bucs have had since Gruden. He is consumed with football, to the point where he believes meeting with the media or other media obligations are a complete waste of his time. (He literally told us that last year at one of the East West Shrine practices, saying how does talking to or meeting with the media help him win football games?)
I guess he has a point, but the arrogance is frustrating at times. Even Greg Schiano respected the job we have to do. He didn’t particularly like it, but we always felt he respected us and it was part of the job. Again, that is his prerogative, and, as stated, Koetter is a hard worker. We will have to see how it works out in 2018.
Next I will address the assistants, in particular, defensive coordinator Mike Smith. Let me first off say, I like Smith. As a person, he is as solid as they come, and this guy works his tail off; he cares. I have seen him following games, literally sick to his stomach, face red and a look of disgust on his face. And I will defend he didn’t exactly have an all-star cast to work with, especially as injuries began to take a toll. Noah Spence, Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves, Robert Ayers and Clinton McDonald all missed games with injuries this season. That is eight of 11 starters just off the top of my head.
Still, Smith will be the first to tell you that doesn’t matter, you have to play the players you have and it is his job to put them in the best place to succeed. At times, that didn’t happen this year. Whether it was the players not doing their job, or the assistant coaches not coaching very well, ultimately it falls on Smith. And he will tell you that.
So it is not written in stone at all that Smith is back, or that his assistants are all back. I think there is a chance Smith and/or some assistants could still be let go. With the number of firings that have happened, I think Koetter wants to look at those now unemployed coaches and see if he feels there is an upgrade.
It won’t take long most likely. Any changes would happen most likely over the next two weeks as other staffs are assembled, and prior to the start of the college all-star games. PewterReport.com will of course be on top of any changes as soon as they happen. If any changes do in fact happen.
Question: What is your realistic dream scenario for the Bucs FA and the draft, to give us the best chance to reach the playoffs next year?
Answer: Pass rushers, more pass rushers, and some players that can rush the passer. Pretty much clear what my dream scenario is, huh? Seriously, the Bucs will struggle to ever be more than a .500 football team, regardless of how potent the offense becomes.
The problem is addressing it in free agency will be difficult. There just aren’t many out there slated to be free agents, and the ones who are will command a Brinks truck full of cash, IF they even make it to free agency. The Bucs aren’t the only team who are lacking elite pass rushers, and like offensive tackles, they just don’t often make it to the open market. Greg Schiano told Scott Reynolds and I that players that make it to free agency most of the time have some sort of red flags. Teams can almost always creatively find ways under the salary cap to keep a player they want. Yes, occasionally it does come down to a team having to make choices based on their current salary cap situation. But a lot of times it is players who have issues or are on the tail end of their careers.
That doesn’t mean the Bucs shouldn’t try, however. In fact, if I am Jason Licht I am stockpiling middle-tier or young defensive ends from now until training camp and letting them prove who belongs and who doesn’t. And hope to find that diamond in the rough. Or more than one.
Cornerback is another need for this team. I have been a strong proponent of bringing Brent Grimes back all year. Of course part of that decision is also Brent’s to make. I watch him in the locker room, watch how he practices and overall demeanor and really like him. And I didn’t see any drop off in talent this year. Eventually it will happen, but he is a proven player. We have seen the difficulty many rookie corners have in being impact players, so while I still say you draft one, why not try and keep a known commodity like Grimes for at least another year?
I would like to see the Bucs address the running back position in free agency, in order to concentrate more on defense in the draft. Now I am not one of those who de-values running backs like some do. I think an impact running back is important, and while I like what Peyton Barber has done when given the opportunity, I am not 100 percent sold on him being the long-term answer. That doesn’t mean he can’t be productive, I just don’t see a 1,300 yard rusher. Yet.
However, I think the focus this offseason and draft should be defense almost strictly. Even over improving the offensive line. It wouldn’t bother me one bit for the Bucs to use every draft pick on defense next April.
I picked this team to go 12-4 in 2017. I was just a tad off. I bought the hype, and wasn’t expecting the rash of injuries or the regression on defense. I won’t be picking them to be 12-4 again anytime soon. However this team is better than 5-11. Now they need to rebuild a pass rush, hope the injury bug doesn’t kick them in the rear again next year, and pray Jameis Winston doesn’t star the season on the suspended list.