FAB 2. Koetter Enters 2018 On The Hot Seat

Thankfully, the Buccaneers have dropped the “Siege The Day” slogan that they’ve used for the past two years in favor of two new and better marketing slogans – “Wreak Havoc” and “Fire The Cannons.”

Keep in mind that “Siege The Day” was a vast improvement over the ill-fated decision to go with “It’s A Bucs Life.”

But after years of buying into the hype – and promoting the hype – from PewterReport.com and other local and national media outlets about the Bucs finally turning the corner, I think the better, more appropriate slogan needs to be “No More Excuses.”

Expectations were high last season coming off a 9-7 season in 2016, but the 2018 Buccaneers are far more talented than last year’s krewe, which unexpectedly folded under the pressure of playoff talk and Hard Knocks and finished 5-11.

There is no reason why this team should have double-digit losses in 2018 – or even a losing season. I may or may not predict a winning record for Tampa Bay based on how the team performs in training camp and plays in the preseason. We’ll see.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht - Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers

But one thing I do know is that Bucs general manager Jason Licht and his front office is coming off a tremendous offseason in which the team acquired some star-caliber players in defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive tackle Vita Vea, running back Ronald Jones II and cornerback Carlton Davis, as well as acquiring some “glue guys” – players like defensive tackles tackle Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein and defensive end Vinny Curry that bring heart, soul, toughness and leadership to Tampa Bay. Not to mention locking up wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Cameron Brate to long-term extensions.

Why Licht himself hasn’t been locked up with a contract extension yet might be a crime. Hey Glazers, this is a playoff-caliber roster on paper. Licht has done his job.

Now it’s time for this coaching staff to live up to its reputation, starting with head coach Dirk Koetter.

No excuses.

There is enough talent on both sides of the ball to produce a winning record and make a legitimate run at the playoffs.

Even with a tough schedule.

Even starting the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick for the first three games while Jameis Winston serves his suspension.

This team fought hard for Koetter despite battling through a slew of injuries to Winston, linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David, cornerback Brent Grimes, right tackle Demar Dotson and others. The Glazers did entertain the notion of replacing Koetter with Jon Gruden until Gruden’s price became sky high – too high. I don’t blame the Glazers for sticking with Koetter.

And stick with Koetter they did. The Glazers didn’t fire him because they didn’t see a better candidate out there despite the likes of New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Philadelphia offensive coordinator Frank Reich being available fresh from last year’s Super Bowl. Both are unproven as NFL head coaches.

Koetter did post a 9-7 record in his first season as a head coach in 2016. The only other Tampa Bay head coach to accomplish that feat was Gruden in 2002 – and we all remember how that season turned out.

But because of last year’s 5-11 record, Koetter enters the 2018 campaign on the hot seat. His Buccaneers can’t have another bad year.

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Why? The Glazers have never kept a head coach who has produced back-to-back losing seasons.

Greg Schiano went 7-9 and 4-12 from 2012-13 before giving way to Lovie Smith in 2014. Smith was fired after going 2-14 and 6-10 from 2014-15.

It doesn’t matter that Koetter had a winning record in 2016. Raheem Morris was fired after going 4-12 following a 10-6 season in 2010.

Some would call the Glazers impatient. I believe they simply don’t want to settle for losing, and should be applauded for that approach.

So Koetter enters 2018 on the hot seat against New Orleans, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh without his young star quarterback. Not ideal, but not fatal.

I’ve said it before. Don’t waste your lead on penciling these Bucs with a 0-3 start. I don’t think it happens, but the coaches have to put in the right game plans, dial up the right play calls and get the most of their players.

No excuses, Dirk. It’s time to coach.

While Fitzpatrick doesn’t have Winston’s physical ability, Koetter does have a veteran quarterback who went 2-1 last year in Tampa Bay while Winston was injured, and a guy that has 119 career starts under his belt. Fitzpatrick will have a plethora of weapons at his disposal to distribute the ball to, and what looks to be an improved offensive line and ground game to lean on.

Koetter will have even more help this year with Todd Monken taking on a full-time offensive coordinator role. Monken should help Koetter with play-calling recommendations, especially in the red zone. That in turn should free up Koetter’s mind a bit so he can become a better game situation-manager on the sidelines.

On the defensive side, coordinator Mike Smith didn’t forget how to coach. Smith was hamstrung without effective proven pass rushers outside of Gerald McCoy, and a secondary that lacked experience and playmaking ability outside of Grimes.

Tampa Bay’s defensive line went from being nearly empty cupboard except for McCoy to a pantry full of talent in just one offseason. Not to mention the addition of new defensive line coach Brentson Buckner that everyone at One Buccaneer Place is raving about.

The Bucs secondary should also be improved as young players like cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III and Ryan Smith, as well as free safety Justin Evans, are more experienced heading into this season. Adding two young talented cornerbacks in Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart in the second round of the draft only helps.

Having a viable pass rush and more talent in the secondary should aid Smith in opening up the defensive playbook. Smith’s defense should be less predictable and more aggressive in 2018 as a result.

As long as Koetter and the coaches do their part the Bucs should bounce back to at least .500 this season. If Koetter goes 8-8 or 9-7 again this season but the Bucs fall short of the postseason that should get him off the hot seat because he will avoid the dreaded back-to-back losing seasons that doomed Schiano and Smith.

Bucs DC Mike Smith - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DC Mike Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

If the Bucs finish 8-8 or 9-7 it will simply be a judgment call by the Glazers as to whether they believe Koetter can deliver a long-awaited playoff berth to Tampa Bay and whether he is the long-term answer at head coach, but I would think he gets the benefit of the doubt in that case, as a three- or four-win improvement is a significant improvement.

Koetter’s fate in Tampa Bay resides right there on his play-call sheet, just as it does for Smith. With a roster that should be able to go toe-to-toe with the likes of New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina, there are no excuses this year for Koetter or Smith.

It’s time to once again prove that they can be damn play-callers and truly maximize the talent they have on the Bucs roster to get off the hot seat and stay in Tampa Bay for the long haul.

I believe they can do it.

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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]

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Ken - KfromflamatadorDy-nasty DNaplesfanowlykat Recent comment authors
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e
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e

Nice work, Scott. I agree with both assessments on Winston and Licht. I know that’s not a popular position with the PR folks these day… I’m still very surprised to hear that part of Jameis’ daily routine does not involve any counciling? You have a guy that is possibly the future of the franchise, and there is no investment made in this area for Jameis? This does not count against the salary cap. It seems to me that if the team is only going to focus on the on-field improvement for Jameis, they (Licht? Glazers?) are derelict in their duties… Read more »

cgmaster27
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cgmaster27

Great Fab5 Scott. I think Fitz is good enough to get us one of those first three games. If the run game and defense improve, heck maybe even two of them. Call me an optimist, but Fitz is who he is as well, limitations and all. However if Fitz plays well enough, it wouldn’t shocvk me to see him play week 4 as well. AS for Jameis, he handled the questions how he could at this point, as you stated a civil suit could be filed. I’m not sure how the limitations work on that as it’s been 2 years.… Read more »

Horse
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Horse

+1

owlykat
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owlykat

CGmaster in Florida the statute of limitations is seven years for civil sexual abuse, since you didn’t know.

Ken - Kfromfla
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Ken - Kfromfla

The alleged incident happened in Arizona and the statute of limitation for civil liability is 2 years. Also, in the state of Arizona, Sexual Assault Laws; Title 13. Criminal Code § 13-1406, which covers Sexual Assault, is described by the web to include any of the following acts: Sexual intercourse without consent means the penetration of the vulva, penis, or anus using anything. or Oral sexual contact (with the vulva, penis, or anus) without consent – verbal threats, fear, or intimidation may be used to sexually assault someone. There was no sexual assault, an inappropriate touching misdemeanor act at worst… Read more »

nybuccguy
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nybuccguy

Dont discount the effect having a newborn might have on Winston. Hes never been a father before and the challenges of that are probably distracting him just as much as the suspension.

kram0789
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kram0789

I don’t like our chances of making the playoffs this year, even if Fitz goes 3-0. There are still three better teams in our division. The impact of a better Bucs team is probably only 2 teams make it to the playoffs from our division this season, as a result of the division beating each other up. The Buc’s need one of those 3 teams to drop off, and my bet is it will be the Saints due to the age of Brees. But not this year. To be a consistent playoff contender we need Winston to step it up… Read more »

Benjamin
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Benjamin

This was a very good fab 5. You think just like i do regarding Licht and Koetter’s jobs. I firmly believe regardless of what the teams record is Jason Licht deserves a contract extension. The talent he has brought in not just this off season but his entire time here is the best we have seen since Rich McKays times as GM. Licht doesn’t coach, he doesn’t game plan, or call plays on sunday so it is not on him if somehow this team underachieves like last year that is squarely on Koetter and his staff. I believe that Koetter… Read more »

kram0789
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kram0789

I am not as much on the bandwagon for Licht as many fans are. For one, I don’t believe that he has not made numerous mistakes in the draft and free agency. How many of those free agents from previous years are still on the team? Not Many. Many will point the drafting of a kicker in the second round as proof that he is not a master of the draft. While I did not like taking a kicker with a second round pick I understand why he did it. What is telling is that his reasons for doing it… Read more »

owlykat
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owlykat

Kram0789–no one was a bigger outspoken critic of Licht than I was because Licht started out with us as a rookie GM and he came in with the belief the best way to build an NFL team was to take BPA without reaching for a player to fill needs and that is what he did right up to this year when his neck was on the line for leaving us with so many holes especially on both lines and at RB and Def. backfield. That taught him a big lesson. Perhaps he took notice of the changes the Jags took… Read more »

Horse
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Horse

QB it’s my concern for the first 3 games; even the fourth game because it’s a Monday night and Winston’s not going to have enough time to get into a decent groove by game 4. if anything happens to Fitzgerald in the first four games we are in serious trouble because Griffin is not the answer.
We have to get another quarterback and house now. Good article Scott. Is it me or does Winston look like he’s lost some weight? His arms were small before,but now they even look thinner .

FLyBoy
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FLyBoy

Great article Scott. Tom Jones pressing the “Cut Jameis” button?!?! Say it aint so! Then again, thats the norm. Pretty sure that man hates living in Tampa area. Licht has put the pieces together for this team. He had an occasional slip up in personell but has corrected it. How many years does it take to really grade a draft… 3-4years.

flarick
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flarick

Nice column, Scott. I was at one point torn between the get rid of Jameis Winston now crowd and those willing to see what happens. However, after reading your report that, “Not only did Jameis Winston look awful during Thursday’s practice with the second-string offense, that poor play continued on Friday as the looming three-game suspension and the negative publicity surrounding the suspension appears to be having an obvious affect on his psyche and his performance,” I’m thinking the Bucs may be best served by preparing to cut ties with Winston. When real leaders screw up, they say they’re sorry,… Read more »

Horse
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Horse

Let’s give it a few more days before we say it has affected Winston. I’d like some more reporting on Griffin.

seat26
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seat26

Vea playing behind McCoy? Instead of Nose? Wow. He is quickly slipping into obscurity. Someone said he was a luxury pick. I am getting a bad feeling.

chefboho
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chefboho

I think you might be reading into that too much. The NT’s they picked up have experience and one is a super bowl champion. Maybe they want to rotate McCoy more to keep him fresh? How many times has that dude been beaten down but stayed on due to no depth? Just a thought

Horse
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Horse

+1

Dman
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Dman

+1

matador
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matador

+1

EastEndBoy
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EastEndBoy

Injuries and turnovers – watch those and that’ll tell you where we’re headed. Lots of shiny new pieces on defense, but they’ll need a new scheme to shine in TB – let’s hope Smitty has something new up his sleeve beyond the rush-4 and play soft coverage of 2017. All 4 NFC South teams have Achilles heals – hopefully we can overcome ours this year. Go Bucs!

Horse
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Horse

+1

buddah
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buddah

Carolina and New Orleans will regress toward the mean. They overachieved last year as we were underachieving. We have a lot of new parts and it will take time to gel, but our overall roster is second in our division behind Atlanta. New Orleans is missing a key part for the first four games. That game is winnable. Everything will come down to coaching, execution, and injuries.

76Buc
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76Buc

Tom Jones is a Marxist idiot. That’s why I no longer read his articles. I like the singer much better. We need to support our players unless they are convicted of felonies. Winston knows he has 2 strikes. One more and he’s out.

Dman
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Dman

+1

drdneast
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drdneast

I don’t know if Jones is a Marxist but he certainly is an idiot. Every time a Bucs player gets in a scrape with the law he wants the Bucs to get rid of them for little or no compensation. The last player was ASJ. Before that it was Aqib Talib, who as we all know achieved All Pro status. It took two No. I picks to replace them and so far Hargreaves hasn’t shown he was worthy of a No. 1 pick. As far as the Talib incident that caused the Bucs to jettison him, because no one was… Read more »

tim111762
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tim111762

Good article. I don’t agree with the “IT WAS 2 YEARS AGO” argument. That should be completely irrelevant. I mean, if you’re not gonna change your ways after narrowly dodging a rape charge in college, why should anyone believe time or being married will suddenly change his ways. I believe that’s simply blind optimism. There are plenty of scumbag husband and fathers out there. If I killed someone and it took them 10 years to catch me, should people say “oh it was 10 years ago he’s changed now…”? No. People should be held accountable for their actions, and those… Read more »

owlykat
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owlykat

Scott, I support your stance on Jameis. If the Bucs should drop Jameis, the Raiders would welcome him with open arms. Their former candidate for Franchise QB was on his way until he had A serious back injury and after surgery looked nothing like his former self, similar to our High Paid Guard who we just dumped, so Gruden knows he needs a new Franchise QB to make him a big success as his own GM. I also believe Jameis loves football and knowing he will be out of football if he doesn’t stick to no alcohol no partying, that… Read more »

matador
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matador

If the tables were turned, we had Carr and Winston was cut you’d be laughed off the board for suggesting we pick Winston up. Carr has elite accuracy, if Winston can close half of the gap between his play and Carr we are a playoff team. The encouraging thing is that he just might, the frustrating thing is we can’t tell yet. I’m ready for some football.

Naplesfan
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Naplesfan

Putting Koetter on the hotseat but recommending a fat contract extension for Licht, before any games have been played, makes zero sense. Lict has produced a worse win loss record in his tenure than Koetter has so far, and, uhhh, Licht hired Koetter. If the team does not produce again this year, then both Koetter and Licht have to go. We’ve done this every season since Licht got here. He makes a supposed big splash in free agency that typically draws yawns from the rest of NFL world, and similar responses, and in training camp we declare the Bucs are… Read more »

Dy-nasty D
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Dy-nasty D

Scott, having touted yourself as a Christian man, this paragraph baffles me: “Winston is helping himself and protecting himself by being as vague as possible, and I don’t blame him. He wants to put this ordeal behind him and not have it linger on with any potential civil suit that he could inadvertently open himself up to by being more forthcoming.” Well, yeah, of course he’d like to move on and avoid a lawsuit or legal consequences. He would have liked to have gotten away w his initial lie and not faced any consequences from the NFL. He also would’ve… Read more »

Ken - Kfromfla
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Ken - Kfromfla

Thanks for the balance and insight Scott Reynolds. Nice piece of reality reporting.