All hail, Todd Monken, right?

In Monken’s first game as an NFL play-caller the Buccaneers offense just racked up 529 yards and 41 of the team’s 48 points in an upset win in Week 1 at New Orleans.

The team’s quarterback, 35-year old Ryan Fitzpatrick, completed 75 percent of his passes for a career-high 417 yards and four touchdowns, and added another score on the ground.

But before heaping lavish praise on Monken or Fitzpatrick for Tampa Bay’s 1-0 start to the 2018, start with head coach Dirk Koetter.

All hail, Dirk Koetter – at least for Week 1.

Koetter’s the head coach, and now he’s 3-0 in season openers – the first Bucs coach to accomplish such a feat, just an FYI.

Bucs OC Todd Monken and head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs OC Todd Monken and head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

In his first two years leading Tampa Bay, the Bucs went 9-6 in 2016 and 5-11 last year. Let’s see if the third time is a charm for this team making the playoffs. Starting off 1-0 is usually much better than starting the season 0-1, and Koetter deserves a lot of credit for the upset win in New Orleans.

It was Koetter’s call to cede play-calling duties to Monken, his good friend, during the preseason. And it was Koetter’s call to want Bucs general manager Jason Licht to re-sign the Fitzpatrick, the bearded veteran quarterback, to run his offense.

Every NFL head coach has an ego, including Koetter. It’s an ego profession.

Even the mild-mannered former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy had an ego.

So for Koetter to put his ego aside as a play-caller and let Monken continue in that role, while he focused on improving his game day management says a lot about Koetter himself.

When asked about it after the game, the prideful Koetter got salty and snippy with his response to the media – refusing to openly acknowledge Monken’s role as the team’s play-caller.

You can tell that this was not an easy decision for him, and we’ll forgive his frostiness this time around given how well his team played.

In a perfect world, Koetter himself is calling the plays from his playbook and helping the offense eclipse 500 yards and putting up 41 points. Instead, Koetter needs to embrace the idea of inserting Monken in as the play-caller and be proud of that fact – not defensive about it.

Koetter gets credit for a lot of what went right on Sunday for Tampa Bay. He gets credit for trusting Peyton Barber dating back to last year, and for starting him this season at running back. He gets credit for making two tight ends a priority in his offense and making O.J. Howard and Cam Brate co-exist together in his offense. He gets credit for wisely using H-back/fullback Alan Cross as a lead blocker in the running game.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images

Koetter gets credit for making Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin all work in Tampa Bay’s diverse playbook. Koetter, along with Monken and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian, gets credit for getting Fitzpatrick ready for his big, season-opening start in New Orleans.

Without the pressure of play-calling duties, Koetter is now able to watch the game in the moment – and not always being a play ahead in his mind all the time. He’s more relaxed, in-tune and in control on the sidelines. The Bucs didn’t have any clock management issues or ill-advised timeouts on Sunday in New Orleans as a result.

Like most NFL head coaches, Koetter can be stubborn, but he wasn’t too stubborn to answer his critics – namely yours truly – about last year’s pillow-soft training camp. This year’s training camp was a page taken out of the Jacksonville’s playbook from last summer when the Jaguars had a physical camp and finished each practice with wind sprints to build camaraderie, mental toughness and conditioning en route to winning the AFC South division and coming within a game from making the Super Bowl.

This year’s camp at One Buc Place was one of the more physical training camps I’ve covered in my two decades on the Bucs beat, and the litany of injuries the team sustained in practice proved it.

But certainly don’t credit me.

Credit Koetter.

He didn’t need PewterReport.com telling him his Hard Knocks camp was actually “Soft Knocks” last year. After seeing how his Bucs were pushed around in the trenches on both sides of the ball last year, Koetter figured that out on his own and made the right adjustments.

Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – Photo by: Getty Images

Aside from preparing for the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday, Koetter’s next big, macro-level task will be figuring out what to do at the quarterback position and making the right call in a few weeks if Fitzpatrick continues to perform well. When does Jameis Winston return as the team’s starter – in Week 4, on a short week after Monday Night Football against Pittsburgh, and before a road game at Chicago or after the bye week?

Or does Koetter wait until Fitzpatrick falters before inserting Winston to avoid a QB controversy? Or is Fitzpatrick going to have one last magical season in his hat that will keep Winston on the bench?

Ultimately, who starts at quarterback is up to Koetter, and I’ll trust him to make the right call because he’s made all the right moves thus far in leading his Buccaneers to a 1-0 start in 2018.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

22 COMMENTS

  1. I agree Scott, but he needs to improve his defense by firing Smitty now and making Buckner Interim DC!

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    • The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is greener where you water it.

      Let Smitty and the rest of the defensive coaches keep developing the talent and keeping the defense focused on turnovers and stops. It will get better and better as players gel and get healthy.

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  2. I agree, Scott. I am sure he gets tired of snotty questions about who is calling plays. But at least he had the strength to let Monken do it. The important thing is, our Offense is looking a lot better. Now, let’s not talk about the Defense or I am going to have to have a drink first.

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  3. Kudos to Koetter; no doubt about it… Look out, if this locker room starts to develop some confidence, this could be a fun year.

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  4. The Pride of Pocatello, Idaho.

    Coach did a heckuva job today. Really proud of the way his team rallied around him and for themselves. Time to get on the bandwagon.

    No one is getting fired. Not Smitty. Not Licht. Not Koetter.

    Rally around your team Bucs fans!

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  5. I agree Scott, this was a small but significant reward for all those who criticize Koetter. Solid win by the coach. As far as defense as I have said in other articles, I think we took our foot off the gas a little early. A lesson to be learned against good teams. The D played well the third and fourth quarter scheme was premature. Great Win, Bring in Philly.

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  6. Credit where its due. I have been very critical of Koetter’s stubbornness in the past, but it appears he did some honest self-evaluating in the off-season and has acknowledged past mistakes and made an effort to correct them.

    Its clear Monken is ideologically worlds away from Koetter and sometimes that probably feels like a rebuke of Dirk’s own philosophies and beliefs. Monken is calling the game essentially backwards from the way Koetter typically has and its been wildly successful thus far. That’s a tough pill to swallow for any career football coach. I’m grateful he has swallowed his pride and done what’s best for the team.

    The biggest reason I was upset when the Glazers opted to retain this staff was because I feared we would see a stubborn doubling-down on previously failed philosophies and schemes. Coach Koetter has proven me wrong and I’m thrilled to see it. Much like Licht in the front office, he has delegated more responsibility to those around him and trusted others to share his burden, and thus far the team is better for it.

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  7. During the last month, I listened to expert after expert talk about how Dirk Cotter is one of the coaches that may lose their jobs first, How the Bucs don’t k now what the hell they are doing down there (in Tampa), how Jameis can’t stay out of trouble and will end up getting habitualized. All of this, without realizing the Winston event was 2.5 years ago, and that only ONE SEASON prior to last, the Bucs had this same energy and went 9-7. We live in an age where people don’t want to wait for anything or anyone. Beginning with last year, After 40 plus years, the Bucs have built one of the NFL’s best offenses.

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  8. Well said Scott. Now Koetters got time to help Smith tweet his defense. We’ve got quite a few injuries on defense and I know some of the young guys are learning how to play in the NFL. We can’t continue to give up this kind of yardage and points to our opponents and expect our offense to do the same every game. This next game will probably be a more defensive game, I hope our defense will take the challenge to stop the Eagles offense. Go Bucs!

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  9. With out Fitz this would not have happened ……………….
    Give Fitz the credit for yesterday
    Koetter defence stunk!

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  10. 156.2 QB rating 417.0 yards other team scored 40 points Fitz the one the credit should go to !!!!!!!!!!!!
    My God People
    This team stinks with Winston at QB

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    • And your comments still stink. How bout you leave the quarterback whose not playing, out of it. Fitz did an amazing job, but there’s a reason the man has been a journeyman his whole career. This was a career game for him in every aspect and please believe this isn’t going to be a year long thing. Pretty sure the offensive coordinated deserves a ton of props for calling the right plays. How many times were wide receivers wide open? That’s the play call not the quarterback. Just enjoy the win and for once leave the damn negativity out of your not so well thought out comments

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      • Why not talk about the 2 Int and lost fumble and 3each 3 and outs Bucs did not have with out the
        Jameis mouth piece in there telling them he has there backs baby.
        2-13 Winston.
        That BS is missing from this team for a couple more weeks.

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  11. Koetter’s a little more involved with the play calling than some think. They are communicating during the whole game. That’s probably why he was a little salty. They work together game planning too but still Kudo’s to Koetter, Monken, Fitz! Kudo’s to the Bucs for winning a Big game week 1 in NO. This was an AWESOME WIN!!! GO BUCS!!!

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  12. Dirk destroyed a years worth of development of his young team with a soft camp last year. He learned that from duval during joint practices last year. Are you kidding me. Was he a Pro flag football head coach before. Why work hard until you have to, hotseat job on the line, never get a chance to be head coach in NFL again. Ownerships fault these are simple standards the ownership should have in place and enforce for all employees. NFL is a tuff league, isn’t that what has to be instilled in the entire organization. No brainer to me. Glazers soft on winning tuff on making coin.(Billionaire soft).

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  13. Bob: Fitz is not the long term answer. Winston may not be either, isn’t winning more important no matter who is under center, Winston will play to see if he is worth the contract ext. This is not a Super bowl contender with either of them under center, this year. Don’t you see that? Fitz could be Brad if we had sapp,brooks,rice,lynch,alstott. They tied the franchise record in points and almost lost. when does that happen. this team has plenty issues to hate on, Winston is not the weakest link of the team.

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  14. One game does not make or break a season. It’s a hell of a start, let’s work on the defense and keep the offense flying

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  15. Man, you dudes can’t spell!

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    • DUDE!!!! No kidding, it’s driving me nuts how these self-appointed football savants have no clue how to spell. Not to mention how a lot of the points they try to make are completely asinine. Anyhow…. SPELL CHECK Y’ALL

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  16. More ignorance from Buc76 three days ago:

    Buc76 Sep 7, 18 at 4:31 pm
    Right…… no leadership anywhere. What a joke. This team will be down 14-0 midway through the 1st quarter Sunday and the season is over after that. This guy did not earn the job and he’s proving why he shouldn’t be in it. The whole regime needs to go. Jason Licht is a terrible General Manager.

    Now this donkey is no where to be found! I am proud of this Team AND the GM AND the Coaches!!!

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    • Arrrrrg…Buc76 will surely walk the plank in this online forum. He’ll be in Davey Jones Locker after witnessin’ the Salty Sword of Koetter’s Buccaneers. Lol.

      I’m all out of pirate metaphors for Buc76. Haters gonna hate. Winning keeps them quiet.

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  17. Hold on there Scott. Yes koetter deserves credit offensively. And he deserves credit for winning a shootout in New Orleans. Its tough to win on the road in this league. But our praise is much to early here. I mean you are ahead 48-24 with 8:57 left in the 4th and the opposition literally walks you down? There was not a buc fan watching..including You who did not get the jitters. I have not seen the Defensive improvement this team needs. A team scored 40 points against you. That puts us at the bottom defensively starting out. You know as well as I, you cannot win many shootouts in this league with your offense. And Fitz had arguably his best game ever as an NFl QB. Philly will study him closely and be ready for Fitz lateral movements this week. Our DC Smitty needs to get out of that upstairs pressbox and coach this defense. They are terrible.
    We will not win a lot of games unless this Defense has improved at least 60%. We are Watching……

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