Dirk Koetter's coaching staff won't return intact for 2018 after all.
Six weeks after the season ended, defensive line coach Jay Hayes confirmed that he has been fired, despite being under contract for the upcoming season. The decision was made on Friday.
The Bucs finished last in the NFL with 22 sacks, among the lowest season totals in franchise history. The lack of a consistent pass rush was a problem at the heart of Tampa Bay's defensive struggles, and correct that will include a change in the coaching staff.
Hayes joined Koetter's staff in 2016 after 13 years in the same role with the Bengals. He and Koetter have known each other nearly 40 years, since they were college rivals at Idaho and Idaho State, along with Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.
Koetter had said after the season that he didn't anticipate major changes to the coaching staff. He also changed Todd Monken's role to allow him to focus on being offensive coordinator, promoting Skyler Fulton to receivers coach. Hayes' firing was first reported by Pewter Report.
The Bucs dealt with injuries at defensive end, with Noah Spence re-injuring his shoulder and missing most of the season, and Jacquies Smith never fully recovering from his knee injury and getting waived. But free agent Robert Ayers and newly re-signed Will Gholston could not get to opposing quarterbacks and the ends combined for just 8.5 sacks.
Defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald led the way with six and five teams and McCoy made the Pro Bowl for a sixth straight season. But the line as a whole fell short of expectations, which could lead to significant turnover on the roster this offseason. Ayers and tackle Chris Baker can be released without any cap consequences, and McDonald is an unrestricted free agent.
Defensive line has been an issue for the Bucs, long before Hayes' arrival. No Bucs player has had 10 sacks in any season since Simeon Rice in 2005, the longest such drought in the NFL.
Koetter has promoted from within for his only two openings since setting his original staff, but the unit's overall performance may make it unlikely that assistant defensive line coach Paul Spicer is promoted. Koetter may have an assistant targeted from the staffs that changed head coaches in this offseason.