ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 20: Head coach Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons questions a call by the officials against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Georgia Dome on October 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Less than 24 hours after the Buccaneers made their most significant move of the offseason, with the hiring of Dirk Koetter as head coach, the rest of the staff has already begun taking shape.
A few minutes into his introductory press conference, Koetter revealed that former Falcons head coach Mike Smith would be named the team’s next defensive coordinator.
Having spent three years with Smith in Atlanta (2012-2014), as well as his first season in Jacksonville (2007) where Smith served as defensive coordinator before accepting a job as head coach, Koetter developed a strong friendship and working relationship with his former boss.
“I’m really happy to announce today that we’ve come to terms with our defensive coordinator, Mike Smith,” Koetter said, containing his emotion. “Huge hire for us.”
Ex-Falcons HC Mike Smith – Photo by: Getty Images
While he’s been a college head coach, both at Boise State (1998-2000) and Arizona State (2001-2006) with a combined 62-42 record, it’s been well documented that this is Koetter’s first time in the Big Chair at the NFL level. Which is another area Smith can assist him.
“I think it’s very important that you can have somebody to bounce things off, somebody who’s been there and done that,” Koetter said. “When you’re an assistant coach there is so much stuff that you’re no privy to that goes on at the league level, with ownership. I’m sure Smitty will be a valuable resource there, as well as on the defensive side. Experience counts a ton in this league.”
During Koetter’s three years with Smith in Atlanta, the offense fared a little bit better than the defense. The Falcons finished with a top 10 unit twice, averaging 366 yards and 24 points per game, while the defense seemingly regressed each year, going from 24th ranked in 2012 to 27th in 2013 to the last place in Smith’s final year.
The Bucs hope the switch of responsibility will produce better results, and providing optimism for that is Smith’s last stint as a defensive coordinator. From 2003-2007, Smith oversaw a defense that finished top five in the league three times (2003, 05, 06), including the second ranked unit in 2006, giving up an average 283 yards and 17 points per game. Overall, Smith’s defenses in Jacksonville gave up an average of 299 yards and 18 points, both of which would rank top three in its respective category today.
“(Smith and I) were both in the press box (in 2007 with Jaguars) and I’ve never seen anybody like Mike Smith before,” Koetter continued. “We had good year, but we lost to New England in the second round of the playoffs. Mike was hired by the Falcons the next year and we were never as good after we lost Mike Smith in Jacksonville. Fortunately, I was able to work under Mike as a head coach for three years in Atlanta. To get a coach with Mike’s experience, not only as a defensive coordinator and teacher and head coach, but also as a man – (he’s) the right kind of guy we want in front of our players every day. I couldn’t be happier.”
The Bucs will continue running a 4-3 defense, but with flexibility and necessary adjustments. Added Koetter, “If you look at are most dominant players on defense right now, they were drafted to a 4-3 scheme,” he said. “I would imagine we’d be going down that path, but everybody in the NFL is so multiple right now. I think the number is something like 65 percent of all snaps you’re in nickel or dime defense anyway. But I think we’ll be based out of 4-3.”
As far as the offensive staff is concerned, Koetter said that while roles will adjust a bit, the majority of coaches would be retained. No decision on if the team will employ an offensive coordinator, as Koetter will remain the play-caller, but if it does hire one he’s confident there are a few guys in the building that would be “just fine” in that position.
The most important thing regarding the offensive staff, Koetter said, is to keep the amount voices in Jameis Winston’s head at a minimum. In that respect, we can expect a similar makeup to last year with Koetter and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian as his primary informants.
Above all, Koetter’s familiarity with the players and coaches in Tampa will allow for continuity and continued progress into next season.
“That’s one of the great things about taking over a program that I was already at for a year,” Koetter said. “I worked hand-in-hand with those guys on the offensive staff and the majority of those guys are going to continue on with me and we have a great group. When I said surround yourself with a great staff, well, we’re already off to a terrific start.
“This is where I wanted to be. This is where my family wanted to be. I know what kind of players we have, and I’m excited about that.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he’s handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
Well, the Jacksonville part makes me feel better than the Atlanta part.
Even w/ the same talent, a better performance would be in order this season, and w/ a couple FA and a D-heavy draft this year a step up is a must! middle of the pack D would be good. And D- points allowed, not yds!
Falcons team has always lacked toughness and intensity ; deep into the playoffs you won’t find this lacking on any of the teams…………. I think Smith is a great x’s and 0’s guy but he belongs in a press box. ……. The Bucs D greatly lacks mental toughness and focused leaders and I just don’t think Smith brings that…….. Put him in the press box and keep Hardy as his Assistant on the sideline.
Smith’s teams were very, very disciplined, in terms of accruing penalties. This can only help.
First Assistant hires is a five star, Jay Hayes is one of the best two or three defensive line coaches in the league. Bengals have developed a great defensive line over the past five years and he is rock solid.
I hate this hire. Smith defenses were last productive when Lovie’s were. We hired Lovie the sequel and IMO will have similar results. This hire is about the past, not the future. Like Dirk, hate this decision
Much like when Gruden kept Dungy’s and Kiffin’s defensive coaches but brought his own offensive assistants, I see Koetter keeping most of the offensive assistants and replacing others where the team was the weakest. Now lets bring on some talented players to turn the ship around.
I don’t like Smith or this hire. Traded a Smith for a Smith. Lol. Just something about him I could never stand. Hope I’m wrong, but not thrilled. Was hoping for someone fresh and new. He hasn’t had much success in a long time.
Likely you fidn’t like him bease he beat us to a pulp most every time they played agents us. He’s experienced, has solid credentials, and is a winnerand an en ergetic coach.
Seems good for me so far. My question is what role will McCoy play in all this? Will he stay at his existing weight to maintain flexibility drop back coverage and end pass rush or bulk up to stop the run and create a push forward to the QB? Anybody have an opinion about it?
Horse…I think it will depend on what we bring in from FA signings and draft. If we pick up a defensive end or two then he can bulk back up. I like him more as a run stopper and push up the middle then trying to put him on the edge in passing downs. My opinion anyway. Go Buc’s
Future ex-Coach Koetter is this year’s Jim Tomsula.
Not fond of this joke of a coaching search at all.
Mr negative….Best go find another team then……Coach K will ‘ get er done ‘!!
Very ambivalent about this hire. Smith had a good defense in Atlanta until John Abraham started getting hurt and then retired.
Atlanta was running out of a 4-3 defense then but Smith wasn’t in charge of the defense.
Like the idea of running different schemes as long as the knuckleheads we have understand what they are supposed to do.
Many times in the past they haven’t.
DCGoth, that makes you at least as smart as the 49ers GM which is on the same level as a can of paint.
After all the retires, defections and injuries the 49ers had this year Tomsula probably did a better job than most with the team he got.
Not only that but he had to go to battle every Sunday with a shaky sporadic QB who was the medias darling two years ago.
Now they have a coach who has a spotty personnel record who will try to jam an offenses throat that didn’t work for three years in Philadelphia.
Blaine Gabbert was the media’s darling two years ago? lol
I have no problem at all with Mike Smith as DC. After all, he was made a head coach in Atlanta because of what he was able to do as a DC in Jacksonville. Here’s what I know; we were allowing teams to convert 3rd downs almost at will, maintain possession beyond belief and allow mediocre QB’s to have a 70% completion %. Even Kirk Cousins’ “you like that” was probably in his head after his second half against our vaunted defense. We could have Elmer Fudd as DC and fare just as well.
Two years ago when Koetter laid fifty on our D for then H.C. Smith, I hated both those bastards! Now I love them! Loved the emotion Koetter showed at his press conference. For those of you who think we could’ve done better, we couldn’t. Setting both sides of the ball back would’ve been foolish. Koetter has paid his dues to get here, I for one say welcome back! Go Bucs!
I really like the Smith hire. He had a very good run as HC with the birds and he will benefit Koetter greatly as far as the transition to an NFL HC.
Not sure why most of you don’t like this hire. His defenses in Jacksonville were outstanding. Top 5 in scoring and yards. He was a pretty good head coach too. I’m sure most of you would take 10-6 average right now. This is a good hire as he runs an aggressive defense and that is what I wanted most. I’m perfectly satisfied. And dcgoth of you don’t like it, there’s 31 other teams for you to pick.
I never really heard that Mike Smith was some sort of defensive genius before….we’ll see. Biggest concern I have is the dynamic of the staff now (especially given Koetter has been known as a bit if a soft touch as a manager)…it’s not so much about Smith’s ability to adapt to working for his former employee, as it is about Koetter’s ability to manage his former boss…not easy at the best of times but for a soft touch it’s going to be even harder….we’ll see about that too. In any event, at least we’re moving forward now and can start the 2017 campaign…GO BUCS!
That’s because the hide information like that in books, EastEndBoy.
maybe you didn’t here grafikdetail, but Colin Kapernick started the season as the QB for the 49ers until he was injured.
The fact Tomsula one a coupe of game with Gabbert supports my argument even more, although I’m sure it’s not what you intended.
People who don’t have the brain skills to juxtapose should really not post.
I guess it makes sense. History with Koetter, head coach experience, etc. perhaps I don’t like him because they did always beat us. Lol. The offense beat us though not the Atlanata defense. Seems like he was fired because Falcons were soft crappy defense since they brought in Quinn. Was just hoping for new up and comer I guess with fresh ideas after seeing Lovie flounder. Jacksonville success was long time ago like Lovies Chi town success was…..
Don’t hate the pick just don’t love it.
Wow this is much better than what I thought we would get.
Buc Fans The new Dc may be better than great bucs DC Monte Kippen GO BUCS
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