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.”
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
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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