Emotional Koetter takes over as Bucs head coach
Dirk Koetter talks straight and wears his emotions on his sleeve, which was wet Friday from the tears he wiped away as he spoke about the long journey he made to becoming the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“First, you know, it’s emotional, a day like this. It’s one of the happiest days of my life but also one of the most humbling,'' Koetter said. "It’s been a long time, a long time in the making.
“There’s 32 of these jobs in the world. I know I can do the job, even though I’m whimpering around a little bit up here today. I’m a little tougher than I’ve been coming across so far. I’m ready for it. Nothing that is said here today is going to affect us one bit in wins and losses. That all comes later. There’s a lot of work to be done. '
After nine seasons in the NFL as an offensive coordinator, at age 56, Koetter said he already had 'the best job in the world.' as the Bucs offensive coordinator before the team fired head coach Lovie Smith last week. At the time, Koetter had just returned home from the hospital after undergoing hip surgery. Nine days later, general manager Jason Licht hired Koetter because of his long track record of success on offense and recrod-setting performance he squeezed from rookie quarterback Jameis Winston.
Koetter, who signed a five-year contract, said he will remain the play-caller for the Bucs next season and said he hadn't decided on whether to have an offensive coordinator.
He also announced the Bucs had reached and agreement with former Falcons head coach Mike Smith to be the team's defensive coordinator. Koetter worked with Smith in Jacksonville and for three seasons in Atlanta.
“Roles are going to have to be juggled around a little bit, but there’s already a model that exists in the NFL for the head coach is the play-caller,'' Koetter said. "And I will continue to be the play-caller for the Bucs. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into football. One of my favorite parts of football is the strategy and game management part and play-calling part. I think I would be foolish to give that up. With that said, that’s going to cause some juggles and re-organization with the staff.''
The Bucs finished fifth overall in total offense last season under Koetter and set a franchise record with more than 6,000 yards. Winston thrived under his direction, joining Cam Newton and Andrew Luck as the only rookies to pass for 4,000 yards. Running back Doug Martin finished second in the NFL in rushing with 1,402 yards.
Koetter was a head coach at Boise State and Arizona State but admits he faces a 'learning experience every day,' during his transition in his new job. He thanked all the players and coaches he had worked with along the way for preparing him for the opportunity.
“To the fans, I hope you’re with me and with the Glazers and with Jason when we tell you this franchise is headed in the right direction,'' Koetter said. "Easy to say, harder to do because competition in this league is the best of the best. Every week. I’m fully aware of that. I’m ready for the responsibility. Ready for the challenge. It’s going to be a heck of a journey but we’ve got some great guys with us along the way.''
But Koetter's biggest job will be helping to fix a defense that finished 26th in points allowed with an average of 26.1 points per game.
“I had the greatest job in the world. Through the powers that be, it got bumped up a little bit,'' Koetter said. "Going back to my parents. My parents always told me you do a great job where you’re at. You do a great job and play your role and you do what you’re supposed to do and the rest works itself out.''
Koetter got emotional speaking about growing up the son of a football coach, Jim Koetter, who was watching the news conference on television from his hometown of Pocatello, Idaho.
"I know they’re probably watching right now,'' Koetter said, his voice breaking. "Whew, man. If you only knew the things they instilled in me along the way that led up to today. It’s an amazing journey, it really is.''