PewterReport.com is beginning a new feature off an an old one this week called the PR Roundtable. In the new edition of the Roundtable the staff will take just one topic each week and share some brief thoughts. Take a look and tell us what you think, and share your feelings on the topic in the comment section.
Pewter Report Publisher Scott Reynolds: How many wins will save Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter and his staff after a dreadful 2-6 start to a season full of high expectations? That’s a great question, and a difficult one to answer. Let’s first look at the Glazers’ history of firing coaches. All of the coaches – Sam Wyche, Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano and Lovie Smith lost their last game. With the exception of Dungy, who was the only coach to be fired after a playoff game after the 2001 season, all of those coaches had a losing record in the month of December.
Wyche finished 2-7 down the stretch, including losing the last two games of the year, after a 5-2 start in 1995. Morris lost his last 11 games in 2011. Schiano was 1-3 in the month of December in 2013. Smith lost his last four games in 2015. So for Koetter it’s really going to be how he finishes this season in addition to the amount of wins.
Let’s say Tampa Bay wins three or four more games to finish 7-9 or 6-10. Getting to 6-6 or 7-7 but losing the last two or three games would leave a bad taste in the mouths of everyone affiliated with the Bucs – players, coaches, fans and ownership. Remember that Gruden was fired after a 0-4 finish to a 9-3 start during the 2008 season. Smith got the Bucs to 6-6 in 2015 before going winless over the last four games.
Unless the Bucs are dead set on hiring Jon Gruden – or someone else regardless of how the team finishes – I think Koetter needs to get to 9-7 to keep his job and win the last game of the year. Anything less would be a step back for a team that went 9-7 last year. Remember that this team had playoff expectations this year.
After winning their last two games, can the Bucs go 5-1 down the stretch? If so, Koetter deserves to stay. But with games ahead at Atlanta, at Green Bay and at Carolina, and home games against Detroit, Atlanta and New Orleans I just don’t see that happening. Beating the New York Jets and Miami is one thing. Beating playoff-caliber teams is something that this team has yet to do. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Pewter Report Editor Mark Cook: The magic number isn’t really a number in my opinion. It is how this team responds to coaching down the stretch, how competitive they are and the direction of the team over the final six games. The Bucs could go 1-5, but lose all five on a last second field goal, and I think that bodes better for Koetter, than say winning three of six, but getting blown out in the three losses.
Scott makes a good point about the timing of the losses. We saw Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano’s last games be embarrassing loses. The Glazers are proud. They don’t want to sit in their box seeing their football team being completely uncompetitive in blow out losses, knowing it will be nine more months of that bad taste in their mouth. And that kind of goes back to what I said before – how will these players respond to the coaches once, if in fact, they end up mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The players, if they respect, and believe in the system, won’t check out and will fight to the end. It was obvious in Morris and Schiano’s final game what the players felt about their coaches.
If the Bucs can be competitive, and show some improvement over the next six games, then it is possible 7-9 is enough for the Glazers to give this staff another year. They could also ask Koetter to make some staff changes in order to return, and if Koetter refuses then that could change everything.
I won’t even get into the Gruden situation, but that also could factor in. If the Glazers do have interest in Gruden, and they feel he is most certainly taking an NFL job in 2018, then that also changes everything.
Pewter Report Buccaneers Beat Reporter Trevor Sikkema: I really do think Scott nailed it right on the head when he talked about when the wins will come meaning more than how many. I think that’s the case because of the fact that just because this team did rattle off two in a row here, taking into account who they played and the lack of control they still have when it comes to running the ball, it’s hard for me to think they’re going to finish with anything more than 8 wins, if that.
The Bucs are 4-6 right now. They have three more games at home and three more on the road. Four of those game are against division foes and the other two being at Green Bay and hosting the Lions. I’ll start by saying that if Koetter can’t get at least two more wins minimum, I think he’s gone. I think the possibility of the Buccaneers being interested in Jon Gruden and vice versa is real, and there are also rumors going around about good coaches that might hit the open market looking for a gig.
Knowing all that, if the Bucs finish worse than 6-10, Koetter is out. But, after that things could get tricky. You can’t definitely say that “if the Bucs don’t finish 8-8 or 9-7, Koetter is gone,” because what if the team drops the next game in Atlanta, wins back to back in Green Bay and then against the Lions, beats the Falcons on primetime television on Monday night, drops their second one in Carolina, but then upsets the Saints, who might be the best team in the NFL and be playing for home field advantage – that game in front of the home crowd, too. That would put the Bucs at 7-9, but that would be a pretty good feeling of 7-9 going into the offseason.
See what I mean? It’s hard to have a magic number because I believe when the wins will come mean just as much as if they will come – if they don’t, we know he’s gone anyways. I think 6-10 is the bare floor of wins Koetter needs to have a shot at being retained, and I think somehow getting to 9-7 would almost all but guarantee getting him another year. In terms of 7-9 or 8-8, I think it would be about when the wins come. If the Bucs win the next three in a row, then drop the last three, he’s gone. You can’t let owners and general managers go into the offseason with a sour taste in their mouths.
If the season plays out to where this will come down to the wire, Koetter will be fortunate to have that Saints game as the last game. It appears to be the strongest statement game for his defense as head coach, and will come at home in the final word.
PewterReport.com Intern Austin DeWitt: Following the Buccaneers’ second straight win Dirk Koetter proclaimed, “We’re 2-0 the second half of the season,” and that is exactly the mentality this team needs to have for Koetter to keep his office at One Buc Place.
For me, the magic number is seven wins. That’s not the number of wins anyone expected out of the team this year, in fact, it’s the very definition of a lost season. Not good enough for the playoffs , not bad enough for a top five pick in the draft, but I think it will be enough to save Koetter’s job.
7-9 is mediocre. It’s especially mediocre when you consider the talent on this roster. But, I think if the Bucs are able to make anything close to a run at the end of the year it could prove more valuable than drafting ten picks higher. Last year, with a 9-7 finish and the first winning season in Tampa since 2010, Koetter began to establish a winning mentality for this organization. While 7-9 is a losing season, it would not completely diminish the progress Koetter has made with this team. They will have regressed slightly, but if they are able to finish strong that would provide much needed momentum into next season and leave a chip on the shoulders of the players and coaching staff that should be motivation for next year.
In my opinion, next week’s game against the Falcons just became the biggest game of the year. The Falcons look to be a shell of the team they were last year and are very beatable. The Jets and the Dolphins are two bad teams that the Buccaneers outplayed and were still barely able to beat. The result of next Sunday’s game, for me, shows whether this team if for real about finishing strong. If they are able to go on the road and beat a divisional rival, the Bucs will get to at least 7-9 and Koetter keeps his job.