15 January 2016

Dirk Koetter is the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach

(Jim Damaske/Tampa Bay Times)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were likely the most surprising team to be searching a new head coach this offseason but their coaching search is now over. As first broken by Adam Schefter, the Bucs have promoted offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to the head gig, replacing the fired Lovie Smith. This will be Koetter's first NFL head coaching gig after serving eight years as a coordinator but he does have college coaching experience with stints at Boise State and Arizona State.

This was a key hire for the Buccaneers as the future of the franchise very much hinges on the right arm of quarterback Jameis Winston. Therefore, can Koetter help Winston develop while bringing Tampa Bay back to prominence.

As I noted, it really was a surprise to see Smith get canned. Yes, his first two seasons were a mess as he went 8-24 overall. However, Greg Schiano did not exactly leave the cupboard full when he got canned two years ago and plus, the Buccaneers showed some significant improvement this past season. Winston came along as the season came along and the team was even in the playoff hunt for a hot second before dropping five of their last six. All of that factored in and I saw no reason for Smith to get the ax.

So why did the team can Smith? Because an NFL team down Alligator Alley was interested in Koetter to potentially be their head coach and therefore, not wanting to lose Koetter, threw Lovie overboard in order to keep Koetter in the Big Guava. What is rather weird is that it took the team this long to make it official.

Koetter had been an offensive coordinator for three NFL franchises (Jacksonville from 2007-11, Atlanta from 2012-14 and Tampa Bay in 2015) and all in all, I think he has done a solid job at each stop. And promoting Koetter does mean for important continuity with Winston as the two worked well together last year and Winston is a great fit for Koetter's scheme. With Koetter calling the plays, Tampa Bay jumped from 30th to fifth in terms of offensive yardage while Doug Martin rebounded from a pair of lost seasons to the best season of his career.

But while you should factor in the relative success that Koetter has had as an offensive coordinator, you also have to factor in Koetter's coaching record. Boise State started to become Boise State under Koetter as he went 20-5 in his final two seasons with the Broncos but his six seasons at Arizona State was rife with underachievement and an inability to take down the powerhouses of the Pac-10. His tenure in Tempe also saw some instances of him ignoring off-the-field incidents with key contributors.

However, it has now been almost a decade since Koetter got canned by ASU so perhaps he has learned something. His reputation has grown in the NFL thanks to his solid playcalling jobs in Jacksonville, Atlanta and now Tampa. And ultimately it was his relationship and his familiarity with Winston that got him this job. It's not the most inspiring hire in the world but given the situation at hand, it does make sense.

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