Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter addressed the media to recap the 2017 season and look ahead to 2018, which will be a critical year for the embattled Koetter, who is coming off a disappointing 5-11 campaign in his second year at the helm in Tampa Bay. PewterReport.com’s Bucs beat writers were on hand to cover the press conference and ask questions.

Now it’s time to dissect Dirk, breaking down exactly what Koetter said in his press conference and ultimately went he meant when addressing the future of the Bucs in this week-long series of PR Analysis.

Koetter discussing if coordinators Mike Smith, Todd Monken and Nate Kaczor will remain on staff in Tampa Bay:
“I would think so, but one thing I have learned in my time is never say never,” Koetter said. “Remember a lot of stuff has happened since Friday at 3:00 (when Koetter was told he would return in 2018). Our main thing was to finish out the season, finish last night and we will just have to see what happens here. Things are going to be moving fast these next few days – I’m talking about in the league. Any time there [are] major things happening in the league, it can have implications to the other teams in the league.”

PewterReport.com analysis:
If Tampa Bay can find upgrades for its coaching staff I’m sure there will be changes, especially on defense and on special teams. I don’t think Koetter necessarily wants too many changes on his defensive staff because 2018 is a do-or-die year for him, and it’s not uncommon for players to struggle when learning a new defensive scheme in its first year. It would be easier and perhaps more advantageous for Koetter to believe that general manager Jason Licht is going to upgrade the talent along the defensive line to help rush the passer, and also at cornerback, while keeping Smith as the coordinator.

It’s true that Smith didn’t have much to work with upfront in terms of talent along the defensive line, especially after the season-ending shoulder injury suffered by Noah Spence, but where were the blitzes to compensate? Why did defensive line coach Jay Hayes call so many stunts, especially when they didn’t work?

Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith and offensive coordinator Todd Monken - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith and offensive coordinator Todd Monken – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

At the end of the day, the Bucs defense finished dead last in total defense (378.1 ypg), passing defense (260.6 ypg), third down defense (260.6 ypg), yards per play allowed (6.0 avg.) and sacks (22). Someone has to be held accountable for that, whether it’s Smith, Hayes, defensive backs coach Jon Hoke or all three of them.

Tampa Bay’s special teams had a down year, too. Punter Bryan Anger had a much better season in 2016 than he did in 2017. The Bucs’ kicker situation was unstable with Nick Folk and Pat Murray missing some critical field goals, although Murray proved to be more reliable. Tampa Bay also had two punts blocked, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and also gave up two 100-plus yard kickoff returns for touchdowns in the final two weeks of the season. Without a stellar return game to equalize the poor kick coverage, Kaczor could fall on the sword this offseason.

Monken has done a great job developing Mike Evans, Adam Humphries and rookie Chris Godwin. He’s a Koetter ally and a fierce defender of the head coach. I don’t see him going anywhere as he’s an asset to the coaching staff.

Koetter didn’t want to say that he was going to fire a bunch of coaches one day after the season ended. He and Licht and the Glazers will take a look at the available coaches, which grew with some of the firings that happened on Monday, including Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio, former defensive coordinator, who Koetter worked for in Jacksonville when Del Rio was the Jaguars head coach. Del Rio has been known for quickly turning around defenses in his first year as a coordinator, as he did in Carolina in 2002 with the Panthers’ second-ranked unit in the NFL, and in Denver in 2012 when the Broncos defense finished in the top 3 in the league in total defense and first with 52 sacks.

If the Bucs want to look for an in-house replacement if Smith is let go, it could be linebackers coach Mark Duffner, who has worked wonders with the development of Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and rookie Kendell Beckwith. One possible replacement for Hayes, if he is released, could be former defensive line coach Joe Cullen, who has spent the past two seasons in Baltimore in the same capacity. The Bucs had 38 sacks in Cullen’s last year in Tampa Bay in 2014, and the Ravens produced 41 sacks this season.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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Horse
3 years ago

Very good Article Scott. Just guessing here; change is a coming for some of the defense coaches. As far as I’m concerned this will be a good move.

pinkstob
3 years ago

I’ve always liked Jack Del Rio as a defensive coach, he’s just not cut out to be a head coach. I’d take him over Mike Smith any day. I was never a Mike Smith fan.

Buc 1976
Reply to  pinkstob
3 years ago

I would like to see Del Rio as DC.

Dman
Reply to  pinkstob
3 years ago

If we could land him I think it would be a great pick-up. Del Rio’s defenses are physical and always rank near the top in the NFL. His son is still up in Gainesville as he was raised in FL when Jack was with the Jaguars. Might be a good family move for him in addition to being bak on the sidelines with a young, upcoming team.

Pick6
3 years ago

at this point, with Koetter’s buccaneer tenure resting on a knife edge, you are not going to get an in-demand DC candidate to drop everything and come to Tampa. I think that as much as anything else is why Mike Smith is sticking around. at the position coach level i think guys are much more inclined to take a one-year gig and will jump at 2-year deals with the accompanying guarantees. sadly, i think koetter’s loyalty and stubbornness will keep the bucs from finding a better option than Mike Bajakian for arguably the most important position coaching role on the… Read more »

Devasher
3 years ago

Please tell me how you think any DC candidate with options wants to walk in on a “do or die season”? How would you create a contract for that? Give the new DC a 4 year deal even though if Koetter loses next year he’s out? Then you have a DC under contract without a HC? Maybe hope the DC turns around the defense and you can promote them? The Glazers decided to stand pat, and I don’t see much that they are going to be able to do because of it. You may WANT Mike Smith fired, but you… Read more »

Naplesfan
3 years ago

Well, look at it this way: Koetter just barely survived his 2017 season debacle, admitting that he and his staff hadn’t produced the results that were expected and indeed are demanded of NFL coaches – i.e., more wins than losses, and a trip to the playoffs is the minimum standard of acceptability – and then in the next breath says he plans no changes to anything. Not in staff, or in roles. The Glazers ought to be pretty pissed off at this. “What, changes? We don’ need no stinkin’ changes here!” is not the response they likely expected. They also… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 years ago

Apparently your reading between the lines skills are lacking. What’s Koetter supposed to say only a few hours after the season ended? These guys always use that phrase, “we’re not planning”………What that means is We’re not telling you YET! He said something similar and immediately inserted the “BUT you never say never”. Translation: We’re going to see how the end of season staff changes play out on all NFL and college teams and determine what is best for the Bucs”. I guess some people expect him to get to the podium and announce, “We’re firing the entire defensive coaches, special… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
3 years ago

This has nothing to do with my skills. A head coach in Koetter’s position and with any brains at all would have said, “Big changes are coming. We cannot be satisfied with the results we achieved with what we’ve been doing. Doing the same will produce the same results. I guarantee you that I will change everything that needs changing to make this work.”

He didn’t.

He needs to be fired today. Along with Licht. No ifs, ands or buts to it.,

Horse
3 years ago

Naplesfan; If I was the Glazer’s, I would have demoted Licht for the wasted tens of millions on underperforming free agents and signing some players with new contracts who already had underperformed.

thewbacca
3 years ago

I appreciate Tampa taking a stable approach to coaching.

I don’t want a coach back who once drove naked through a Wendy’s.

Give me Del Rio over Smitty if that is an option. I understand that a defensive change can have some time to adapt but there is nowhere to go but up with the defense.

macabee
3 years ago

Well something is afoot because Koetter would not/could not answer with a definite yes that his entire coaching staff would return. That would obviously be his desire which implies that he does not have the final word on the matter. Two things I will mention. When Ian Rapoport confirmed the the Bucs were going to retain Dirk Koetter he said “the Bucs still believed in some of the coaching staff”. Odd choice of words. Secondly, the Bucs’ announced attendance for Saints game Sunday was 55,376. Actual attendance per TSA was 45,542. Both were season lows among Tampa Bay’s eight home… Read more »

Eric
3 years ago

sure looks like Gruden will be the next head coach of the RAIDERS!!! Good for them, sucks for us. THAT is the reason Koetter is still the HC. And that is not a good reason! Glazers are settling, guess there just aren’t any proven HC’s out there. None come to mind so I guess the best course of action is to stick with DK. Same situation for the D side of the ball. I am not na fan of Fox, maybe del Rio but based on reporting it doesn’t seem likely. Otherwise, if the ownership was SERIOUS, it would have… Read more »

Eric
3 years ago

and BTW, if I was an owner, i would not give ANY HC part ownership…as it appears is the case in Oakland

Freeman Strickland
3 years ago

Looking at the players available in free agency and the draft, a lot of improvement is possible on defense with Smith staying as defensive coordinator. DE Bradley Chubb looks like the player who could have the most impact if he lasts long enough in the draft for the Bucs to get him. The needs of other teams may make that possible. But, I will be holding my breath. If McDonald comes back, Chubb may be all the help the DL has to have. But, I would look to add more. DE Ezekiel Ansah is a free agent with 12 sacks… Read more »