Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.
FAB 1. WILL KOETTER GIVE UP PLAY-CALLING DUTIES?
Say it ain’t so, Dirk.
Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter created some mini-shockwaves at his season-ending press conference when he opened up about the possibility that he may turn over the play-calling duties on offense to an assistant coach in 2017 and just focus on his head-coaching duties.
“I have a lot of thoughts about it,” Koetter said on January 2. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I am probably not ready to make any crazy announcements on any of that today because I think about a lot of stuff all the time. I think all the time, how can I, in the stuff that I control, make us better and are there places where I am making us worse? I learned as a head coach, I’d love to have more time to get involved with individual players on a daily basis. When I do get a chance to talk to players one-on-one, I enjoy it. I enjoy the motivational part of trying to reach guys and different groups on the team.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston, head coach Dirk Koetter and OC Todd Monken – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
“As far as my schedule goes, I am asking myself all the time, are the things I have to spend my time on, are those in the best interest of helping the Bucs win games or am I spinning my wheels on stuff that doesn’t really matter and what’s the most important things to helping us win? So, those are questions that don’t all have to be answered today. Because of the changeover in the NFL, we have to see how some of that shakes out as well because it might not be possible for the staff to come back 100 percent the same way. We’ll just have to see how that works out in the coming days.”
The good news for Koetter – actually the best news possible – is that Mike Smith will stay on as the Bucs’ defensive coordinator for the foreseeable future. How does that play a role in Koetter continuing to call the plays on offense or surrender those duties to someone else? It makes it more like that Koetter remains the play-caller because he has full trust and confidence in Smith, whom he has spent five years coaching with in Jacksonville, Atlanta and Tampa Bay, running the defense without any supervision.
With Smith returning for his second season with the Bucs – and the team’s entire coaching staff remaining intact – Koetter can focus solely on the offensive side of the ball with offensive coordinator and trusted friend Todd Moken. Without Smith, Koetter might have felt more compelled to turn things over to Monken so he could spend more time sitting in on defensive meetings and making sure that there was cohesion and on-going chemistry among the defensive staff with a new defensive coordinator.
Koetter hasn’t come to any conclusions about turning over the play-calling to Monken or another assistant, and indicated that he’ll continue to think about it and analyze the possibility during the offseason.
“Until September 10th next year,” Koetter said. “I have that long.”
The guess here is that Koetter continues to call the plays, and the reason he even volunteered that possibility that he might not with the media on January 2 is because he’s a straight shooter and wears his emotions on his sleeves. There isn’t much reading between the lines when it comes to Koetter. The truth is in his words. There is no coach-speak, and that’s so refreshing.
“I’ve always been a play caller,” Koetter said. “I love being a play caller. That’s one of the best things about the game, but with
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images
being the head coach this year, I have more responsibilities and I have really enjoyed my interaction with the players. I’ve really enjoyed to go in and do the team meetings every day. That takes time. I don’t just get up there and wing it from the hip like I do in here [laughs]. It actually takes preparation time. Everything I say in front of the team. I take very seriously. So, I want to back it up, not just BS those guys. I try to never BS those guys.
“So, I ask myself, ‘If I spent more time on it, could I do a better job?’ But, at the same time, I look around the league at other, there are plenty of other coaches in the league that are doing it the way we did it here this year. You look at some of the guys I consider top play callers in this league; [Green Bay head coach] Mike McCarthy, [New Orleans head coach] Sean Payton, [Kansas City head coach] Andy Reid. They’re guys that have been the play caller, they’ve given it up and they’ve always taken it back. When that day comes when I do give it up, I don’t want to take it back. I want to be sure.”
The fact that Koetter is unsure how he would feel about relinquishing control of the offense to an assistant tells me all I need to know. He’s not going to surrender it, nor should he.
If Koetter wants to spend more time motivating players and talking to them he can accomplish a good deal of that in the offseason program now that the Bucs offensive and defensive systems have been installed and he has a year’s worth of experience as a head coach. There isn’t much time to do that during the season when Koetter is heavily involved in game-planning for the Bucs’ next opponent.
The challenge of being Tampa Bay’s play-caller and head coach for Koetter isn’t on Sunday wearing both hats. It’s in the days leading up to game day trying to split his time in different areas of the offense and the team in general.
“Oh, it’s during the week,” Koetter said. “Shoot, Sunday afternoons, if you are prepared – I definitely spend a lot of time preparing. The one thing that I wasn’t able to do as much this year as I have been in the past, is I’m in every offensive install meeting listening to the coaches. I used to do all the installs myself. The coaches did it this year. I’m right in there. I chime in from time to time. But, I’m not sitting in the quarterback meeting rooms as much as I used to just because my time won’t allow me. With that said, I also have a huge amount of confidence in the guy that’s in there running those quarterback meetings in Mike Bajakian. I think he does a fantastic job with Jameis [Winston] and with our other quarterbacks. So, for me to sit in there and listen to Mike talk for an hour and a half every day, I might have a better use of my time than that. If I’m not going to be doing the talking, I’ve got other things that I can be doing during that time as well.”
Koetter needs to realize that it was his offensive play-calling prowess and how he interacted with the offensive players and got them to follow his lead that got him the head-coaching job in the first place. The Bucs went over the 6,000-yard mark for the first time in team history in 2015 on Koetter’s watch. Last year’s production wasn’t quite as good, especially in the explosive plays department, but Tampa Bay’s offense still generated over 5,500 yards despite injuries to key weapons, such as running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims and receiver Vincent Jackson, in addition to the team releasing former second-round pick tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins prior to Week 3.
With some more weapons, more speed on offense and the team’s young players benefitting from another year’s worth of experience, Koetter’s offense should rebound and reach new heights in 2017. Kudos to Koetter for even considering giving up the play-calling if it would benefit the team.
“I’m contemplating how does our team get better in all areas?” Koetter said. “When we look at everything, if there is someone out there that can do a better job to help us than me calling the plays, then that’s something that we definitely need to look at.”
Very few NFL head coaches would put aside their egos to give any thought about relinquishing the play-calling duties. To Koetter it’s all about getting better and winning.
Nothing else matters to him aside from winning. I know that now more than ever after getting to know him better this year.
Of course what prompted him to think about the option of just being a head coach and letting Monken, Bajakian or offensive line coach George Warhop call plays are the ones that got away. It’s always the plays that didn’t work that burn up more brain cells than the ones that did.
“Every play that doesn’t work,” Koetter said when asked which plays he wished he could have back from his rookie season as Tampa Bay’s head coach. “I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding about that.
“I joke about it, but anything that doesn’t go right or doesn’t go the way I expected it to go or I planned it to go, eats at me. But what eats at me, I hope doesn’t ever hold me back from moving forward because you’ve got to move forward, you’ve got to move on. You’ve just got to learn your lessons and move on.”
The lesson Koetter needs to realize is that he will look back on 2016 and improve as both a head coach and a play-caller, but that he doesn’t need to give up the play sheet. Nor should he because he knows he will only regret it and take it back at some point.
“It’s demanding,” Koetter said of being the head coach and play-caller. “I thought I was ready for it and still think that today, but I also believe that you learn and you’ve got to admit your mistakes and you know what? Sometimes my mistakes that I admit to aren’t the same ones you guys think I miss. You guys are still criticizing me for some that I don’t think I miss. But the ones I think I’ve made, I’ll be the first to admit them. And I’ll be better next year than I was this year and I’ll be better the year after that than I am next year.”
After talking with some Bucs sources this week about this topic I would be shocked if Koetter ends up giving up control of the play-calling on Sundays.
“I made plenty of mistakes and I’m going to do better next year, I promise you,” Koetter said.
I believe him.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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
Scott I really enjoyed this article about Hendrickson.
He is SO competitive.
So do you think he may last till 4-5 rd. If so I say take him!
I also like his teammate AG that is a Buc LB when he played some this year I didn’t see a drop off. The only problem is he backups Kwon A.
Thank you, Buc 1976. I think Hendrickson’s ultimate draft ranking will depend on how he performs at the NFL Scouting Combine and his pro day. A fast 40-time could mean he’ll be drafted in the fourth or fifth round. I really like him and was very impressed seeing him in person at the East-West Shrine Game.
Scott I’m not sure you got my reply.
So again thank you.
I have to agree with you, Scott. I don’t think Coach Koetter will give up calling plays. He made that comment in the context of evaluating the whole team. The team needs to get Jameis some more weapons.
I have to admit, I am intrigued by the possibility of Adrian Peterson becoming a Buc. I know he’s been hurt the last few seasons. But, when he is on the field, defenses have to account for him. I don’t know if that’s the case with the current roster of running back. But, I do understand your point, Scott, that it is highly unlikely.
Go Bucs! Next season can’t come soon enough.
I think with Smitty back, Koetter won’t be giving up play calling any time soon. He doesn’t have to worry about that side of the ball and can focus on the offense. Having Smitty back is just so important, it can’t be understated. We finally have continuity on both sides of the ball.
As for the rest of the stuff, it was good seeing those smaller school guys getting some pub as most of us don’t get a chance to see these guys in college. That TE from Toledo is damn HUGE! what a mismatch he could create. I like the demeanor of Hendrickson. That’s the kind of attitude you want on your defensive line. Gonna be a long offseason, I’m too excited for next year already.
Out of all the tight end draft prospects I’ve seen and evaluated this far, I might like Toledo’s Michael Roberts the best. I don’t think he’s the best tight end in the draft. That would be Alabama’s OJ Howard. But in terms of talent AND value, I like Roberts as a Day 3 pick. He can block and catch and I think he’s exactly what the Bucs are looking for right now.
I do agree that Koetter believes in continuity with players on offense. Which is why he probably has a higher opinion of Sims/Martin combo or even Sweazy.
But I do not see how the Bucs can ignore OL and RB position if there are upgrades out there.
If Sweazy and Martin stay it will be crowded and overly redundant to draft RB and OL. But with that cap space can from Sweazy/Martin can they do better? I believe so.
I think there is a better chance that the team looks to upgrade the RB position and add a new runner or two. I’m not as convinced the Bucs will do much on the O-line based on what I’ve heard. Not ruling out a Day 3 OL pick, though.
There was a disconnect between Q.B., and play caller this year. Last year when Jameis made a bad play it was Koetter who talked to him on the sideline, Koetter who put his head back on straight, that didn’t happen this year. Koetter has to be head coach. He can no longer spend time with his young Q.B. between series. The other coaches Koetter mentioned who call plays happen to have pro bowl, and some super bowl vets for Q.B.’s, no comparison. Trust Koetter when he says maybe he was spread to thin this year. We saw what stress did to the Jets, and Denvers head coaches. I also think it’s a better dynamic for the coaching staff. How are Koetter’s asst coaches like Monkin his O.C. going to get ahead without play calling duties? Koetter, do the right thing, let it go.
I think things will be better communication-wise in 2017. Dirk Koetter, Todd Monken and Mike Bajakian all get a long and all want the same thing. I think they’ll work on everything this offseason and improve.
Hey Scott- this Fab-5 is what I love about what you do; bringing us information and potential players that most of us would never have thought about. Well done. I do have a few suggestions and would love your thoughts. 1- on offense, I don’t think we should go after speed for speed’s sake. I think we need to think about playmakers and ignore 40 times. Thoughts? 2- I think JL has built enough talent on this team that we can draft best player available and put position in the background. This is a VERY deep draft in WR and RB on offense. 3-I think, assuming they hit the market, we should go hard after two and ONLY two FA. Both are great players and more importantly GREAT leaders and will fill positions of need for us. My guys are Eric Berry and Calais Campbell. Agree?
It’s like Fab 5 Fridays, gotta love it.
Really good information this week. Fab 5 and all the rest of the articles put out there about our choices coming up in the draft.
It’s seems like this is a good draft, deep in WR and RB candidates. Last year I had a much clearer idea about who we should target. This year not so much. It’s like going to Baskin Robbins, you now it all taste good , but damn it , It’s hard to chose.
But I still believe that we target OL or DL first. If they are confident Sweezy comes back strong get 2 DL men.
Then go hog wild with BPA.
Koetter will not quit calling plays ,or at lest I hope so. If he does turn over those duties I’m sure that he will keep an eagle eye on who is.
This quote is why I really like this guy.
“I made plenty of mistakes and I’m going to do better next year, I promise you,”
Heart felt? I hope so.
Men acknowledge their short comings and try to improve. It’s a great quality in any supervisor , at my work place or the BUCS.
Man the future looks bright in Tampa Bay. Now I just have to get through the doldrums of the off season.
I have been high on Ryan Smith being the eventual replacement for Brent Grimes for awhile now and I am very glad you see that potential in him too, Scott.
I thought it might be interesting if we changed up the actual play caller from week to week to reduce the likelihood of developing tendencies. One week Koetter, the next week Warhop and then Monken. At points during this past season it seemed we must be somehow telegraphing running plays that were often ineffective.
I really enjoy learning a little more about the youngsters participating in today’s East-West Shrine game. I learned a long time ago not to fall in love with any of them until they become Buccaneers. We have plenty of needs, but none are so desperate that Licht will have to stray from taking the best player for the Bucs at each opportunity. There is little doubt that the “Weapons for Winston” theme will become more evident in a few weeks when Free Agency begins, at the end of April and throughout the off season.
Scubog it is not very difficult to know when we would run or pass because of run plays had certain players and pass play had certain players.
This is something Coach K. Will see after he watches film part of the problem was not strong enough up the middle, so a upgrade at Center and maybe LG can solve this. Just my opinion and opinions are like you know what everyone has one
I do remember that one 76. Some folks seem to have a much bigger one and expose it more than others.
Scott, are there any limitations on the Air Force players due to military obligations?
I don’t believe so. It’s up to the DOD, but I think they’ve changed their policies allowing servicemen to play right away in the NFL now. Their service commitment is deferred until they’re done playing. Then they go into the reserves. That’s what I’ve heard.
Guards a plenty but we don’t have a single quality tackle. We need speed at WR so that is likely where we go in round 1 but we have to get an OT in here that can keep JW upright. With his windup he could use the extra half second, and maybe without feeling as much pressure he will be more accurate and stop throwing high so often.
We need to upgrade C as well, if there was a foundational center available in the 2nd round I would definitely grab him. Tempting to trade down given how thin the overall roster is but we probably can’t get enough to make it worthwhile.
I agree with you about the Center position. My question is about the Center from Ohio St. Is he in the draft if so I think if available in 2-3 rounds take him the Center from LSU just seems to tall, isn’t he 6’8 and only 315 lbs I know 315 seems big but at 6’8?
As always, go BAP, and try to place as little emphasis on need as you can afford to.
In that vein, picking a quality center, like LSU’s Pocik, in the second round would be an excellent addition to our offensive line, even if it is not a dire need.
The better we can do in free agency, the less the need, say, for a running back, or a tight end. Wide Receiver is probably the one position that is of most need, particularly if he is a speedster with at least some size (6-2 or better), especially if he can double as a kick/punt returner, where we sucked last season. Going there in the first round, where there are a lot of talented WRs available, seems to be a no brainer.
Thanks, Scott, very informative and insightful Fab Five, yet again!
As for Koetter giving up playcalling, I hope he doesn’t. If he needs additional coaching resource to help attend to all of the things that head coaches need to do, he’s got the perfect resource already committed: Coach Smith. Let him pick up some additional duties as the “Assistant Head Coach”. Now that he’s got his defensive staff and system fully implemented and a core group of defensive players who now are proficient in it, the burden on Coach Smith is less than it was last season.
As often as not, or more often than not, head coaches with astrong offensive background like Dirk Koetter, after giving up playcalling, end up grabbing it back. Why risk wasting a season doing something like that? This past season was clearly a success, not only a winning season for the first time in six years, but improving our win total by three games. If it ain’t broke, for god’s sake, don’t try and fix it. Just tune it up a little bit, and take advantage of hard earned lessons learned from 2016.
I enjoy your player profiles Scott, particularly from a second tier event like the Shrine Game. Contrary to what a lot of fans and sportswriters think, GMs really earn their salaries mostly on their Day 2 and Day 3 picks more than on Day 1 picks, and even in UDFAs. That’s where the real value picks are found that can really upgrade a team without breaking the bank. Jason Licht has proven to be a superb talent evaluator for these supposedly lesser talents.
Hey there, PR faithful. I decided some time ago to stop visiting PR due to the incessant pushing of religion on readers disguised as just covering the team. I heard from a friend that since that last instance of said peddling, it hasn’t happened since. I’ve always loved the information PR provides with great inside sources, and I also learned that Trevor Sikkema is now regularly writing here, which should help the previously lackluster play analysis that I felt was a problem.
Anyways, I’m coming back. Not that is probably matters to SR and other PR writers, but if the super forward, in your face Christian stuff starts regularly coming up again, I’ll be out. Again, not that anyone cares, but I spent most of my life as a devout Christian. It was everything to me. For various reasons I’m not going to get into here, I ultimately lost my faith and have moved on from it. I, and I think most people who aren’t Christian, have a really, really strong idea of what it’s about. I don’t need sports outlets trying to push me back to something that I long ago evaluated for myself and walked away from. Not trying to bring this whole subject up again, but just trying to explain why I got so sick of it and why, if it starts up again, I’ll be done here again (for whatever that’s worth).
Thank God you’re back, toofamiliar17! Glad to see you again.
Thanks, Scott. Hope all is well with you. No offense on any of the stuff written above. I mean that.
Now, as for the content of this Fab 5 – I’m dismayed to learn of the team’s thoughts on a few different things. For one, we seem to take an incredibly rosy view of pretty much all of our own players:
(1) Donovan Smith will magically get his feet out of concrete and stop blowing backside blocks on runs away from him. Yea, because players so often change their entire physical abilities and become completely different players than they’ve been since their first year in college. Okay, sure.
(2) Joe Hawley is flat out bad. He was just as bad in 2015, but an otherworldly season from Doug and help on his left from Mankins resulted in his constant failings not showing up too much on the stat sheet.
(3) I like Pamphile for what he is, but what he is NOT is starter quality material.
(4) STILL on the O line, I’m glad the team like Wester, but he’s still essentially a total unknown. Sounds like we have long term expectations of him being the solution at RT, which is just silly.
(5) In short, it seems that there’s this constant them on the line – that for reasons not remotely supported by actual game film, our coaches think our O line is just fine. It’s not. Sweezy only has a couple million in guarantees left. I’d be thrilled if we admitted that mistake (seriously, it was a pretty rough signing when he was actually, ya know, remotely healthy) and went after a Kevin Zeitler or Ronald Leary this offseaosn, but apparently, we have no interest whatsoever in going into 2017 knowing that we have at least one starting caliber LG on the roster. Our line needs a lot of work. It’s a rough draft for that need, but again, there are guards to replace Sweezy available, and there are two centers (Pocic and Elflein) that most seem to think are going to be worthy of a 2nd or 3rd round pick in April. It drives me bonkers to hear that we feel so good at an area that is very clearly such a tremendous weakness.
(6) Ryan Smith, whose CB film in college was borderline terrible, is suddenly going to be a long term starter? We’re going into the deepest CB draft in a long time. It’s no fewer than 13-15 deep on guys who would easily be 2nd round picks in most drafts. Smart front offices identify talent surpluses at specific positions in drafts and take advantage of them to find 1st or 2nd round talents in the 3rd or 4th rounds of drafts. But, obviously, with an aging Brent grimes and that former 4th round pick who was a miserable corner in college, we’re totally set. Brutal…
(7) Lastly, regarding Licht saying that our focus is on resigning our own guys – that’s great, and I’m happy to hear it. But it’ll be flat out wasteful is we sit out free agency due to that “focus”. Even if we resigned literally every guy who’s currently slated to hit FA, and we did so at their full market values, we’ll easily have $50M+ of cap room going into this free agency period. There is ample talent at positions of significant need that is likely to come available. We’d be foolish to take such an optimistic view of our own roster that we feel good about leaving all of that money in pockets rather than being spent on improving the team. I’m not implying that the Glazers are cheap – I’ve never bought that narrative at all – it would just be STUPID to not even pursue or give real offers to guys Eric Berry, Dontari Poe, the aforementioned guards that will be available, one of a handful of WRs that could better enable us to go true BPA in the first round in April, etc. Jameis’s rookie deal won’t be here much longer, which means that we’re not afforded much more time to take advantage of having him for so cheap by distributing money that might normally be being spent on him to other areas of the team. This is our opportunity to do what the Seahawks did during Russell Wilson first contract, when they (just as an example) built almost an entire elite pass rush with fairly high dollar free agents.
Oh, and one more thing – I could be interested in AP, but I had to stifle an actual laugh when I read that he’d be seeking money like that. If that’s true, then he’s a delusional fool. No team that’s worth a thing would pay a 32 year old RB coming off multiple injuries in recent seasons money like that. I was trying to figure out whether or not I’d be good with paying him Martin level money on a two year deal, haha. A contract north of $10M per year would be idiotic, and anyone who gives him a deal like that WILL regret it.
Welcome back too!
When can we get our old jerseys back??
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