In PewterReport.com’s exclusive, 10-minute sit-down interview with Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer on Tuesday at the NFL Owners Meetings in Orlando, Fla., one thing became crystal clear.
Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter has the full support of ownership at One Buccaneer Place.
The perception that Koetter may be entering the 2018 season on the proverbial hot seat after a disappointing 5-11 season in 2017 that didn’t meet expectations may not be true. While there is no assurance that Koetter would survive another double-digit losing season this year, Glazer didn’t mince words when it came to supporting Koetter, and appreciated the offseason acquisitions by general manager Jason Licht, too.
“Overall, I feel good about the team we have and I look forward to next season,” Glazer said. “I really like what we’ve done this offseason. I go back to his first season when we were 9-7. Everything was very positive and everything is easy when it’s positive. You learn about people when things don’t necessarily go as well.
“When you start out a season and people are heading in 12 different directions in Week 1 because a hurricane is on its way and you go 16 weeks without a bye and your quarterback is hurt and playing hurt and you’re not having success on the field, that’s when you learn about people. Dirk was the same person through it all. He kept the team playing hard and we were in close games that didn’t go our way. Here’s what I know. I know up to the final whistle of the season and the final pass for a touchdown – our team was playing hard. That has something to do with the head coach.”
Koetter, who spoke to PewterReport.com and the media at the NFL Coaches Breakfast earlier in the day, reiterated that he felt the Bucs had the talent to win, but were 3-7 in games decided by one score. Glazer also feels Tampa Bay is close to turning the corner, but wouldn’t bite when asked what is the reasonable number of wins he would expect in 2018.
“What’s interesting about the NFL is that every year there are some surprises,” Glazer said. “Teams that you don’t expect to do well, do well. I’m not going to put a number of victories we’re expecting or this or that. Nobody wants to win more than us. I know Jason and Dirk, and last season killed them.
“We always look to see improvement. You can’t always control certain things, but we want to see a team heading in the right direction and ultimately built to compete – and not just for one year, but for several years. It’s tough this early in the year to set an early expectation. There’s an ebb and flow and you just let the season play out.”
Glazer was asked if he would be disappointed if the Bucs didn’t make the playoffs in 2018.
“I’m disappointed every year we don’t make the playoffs,” Glazer said.
Glazer was also asked whether or not the Hard Knocks experience was a positive or a negative – or both – last year, but he quickly dismissed the notion that it caused a distraction to the point where it impacted the Bucs’ ability to win games.
“I don’t think we can point to it for anything,” Glazer said. “I think it was something the league asked us to do and we did it. But I don’t think you can point to that to have any affect on our season.
“There is no question there were some positives in it. Would I want our team to do it every year? No, but I think it was actually a good experience for our players to get used to being in the spotlight and dealing with some adversity and having some cameras around. We did it and people enjoyed it, but we’re going to have a different type of training camp without it around this year.”
Because there was no one particular reason that can be blamed for the team falling short of expectations last year, Glazer again staunchly defended Koetter and his staff.
“There are so many pieces to all of this, and it’s so easy just to point to the coach, but you have 53-plus players and you have injuries,” Glazer said. “There are a lot of factors. You saw this offseason – we shuffled our defensive line. Hopefully we’ll get more productivity out of those players. In the draft we’ll add more players. It’s a combination and we’re pleased with our coaching staff where we have a good blend of experience. It was not the season they wanted to have last year, but I feel that we’re going to bounce back.”
Glazer was asked about how much interest there was in possibly bringing former Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden back to the Bucs, but didn’t bite. PewterReport.com has reported that there was mutual interest in Gruden returning to the Bucs, but that once Oakland offered him an unbelievable 10-year contract worth $10 million the Bucs wisely ceased interest.
“I think there was a lot of misinformation out there last year, and clearly we have a long relationship with Jon Gruden,” Glazer said. “Jon lives in Tampa and Jon was coming back to coaching and people try and put two and two together and match up with us, but we were pleased with the way Dirk handled things last year. One thing that is important in the NFL is continuity. Jon chose to come back and we wish him the best in Oakland. But for us, we felt good about the way Dirk handled things, and again, going back to the 9-7 season the previous year, continuity was absolutely the right direction for us.”
To Glazer, a telltale sign that the Bucs are moving in the right direction is that several Tampa Bay star draft picks are getting lucrative contract extensions just like the glory day teams where Pro Bowlers like Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Ronde Barber, Mike Alstott and Simeon Rice received rich second contracts as the Bucs were a perennial playoff-caliber team from 1997-2002.
Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg have re-signed several key Buccaneers to long-term contract extensions, including defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker Lavonte David, right tackle Demar Dotson, and most recently wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Cameron Brate this offseason.
Licht and Greenberg are going to attempt to sign Pro Bowl middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, guard Ali Marpet and left tackle Donovan Smith to contract extensions before the start of the 2018 regular season. Those three are entering contract years, and the Bucs plan on picking up the fifth year option on quarterback Jameis Winston’s contract for the 2019 season in advance of working on a long-term extension for Winston next year.
“That’s usually the early sign that good things are coming,” Glazer said. “That’s the kind of money we love to spend and we hope to spend a lot more of it in the next couple of years because you are drafting well. That’s the backbone of every successful team. “These guys have a deep connection to the community. This is where they came into the league. There is a camaraderie among themselves, so that’s great money to spend. We love that.”