Koetter: Loyalty to Bucs assistants was a given
After watching the defense give up 1,087 total yards and eight touchdown passes to the Raiders and Falcons about six weeks ago, it would not have been surprising if the confidence was shaken in defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
But Bucs coach Dirk Koetter was unwavering in his support of Smith and the defensive coaching staff.
The result was a remarkable turnaround in which the Bucs defense has allowed 12.8 points and produced 14 takeaways to spark a five-game winning streak.
Koetter has a long history with Smith. They coached together as coordinators in Jacksonville and as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, Smith hired him to run the offense there. Loyalty is what Koetter says he’s all about.
"That’s what football is. That’s what coaching is, figuring it out," Koetter said. "Like loyalty, you ask anyone who knows me, loyalty is my No. 1 thing. As an assistant coach, as a head coach -– I mean, I’m a son of a coach, so I learned all about that loyalty stuff. Your staff, that’s your guys. That’s your generals and your captains. They’re carrying the message to the soldiers, the men in the trenches. Whether I’m the head coach or the assistant, you’re going to have differences throughout the year and you’ve got to work them out and have a united front when you go to the players. That was never in question about whether I was going to be loyal and I hope it’s the same way from them to me."
Smith and his defensive staff used the 10 days following the Thursday night football loss to the Falcons to meet and improve communication while tightening up the coverage in the secondary.
"The way we say it to the players is, 'the cavalry is not coming,'" Koetter said. "Whatever the exact word is, we dug ourselves in, it’s up to us to get ourselves out."
In the end, even though the Bucs were 3-5, Koetter felt they would win games. In addition to running into a couple of hot quarterbacks in the Raiders Derek Carr and the Falcons’ Matt Ryan, he believed they had better than the record indicated.
"I didn’t ever doubt we were going to win games when we were 3-5," Koetter said. "The way it’s worked out, the turnaround from going minus 9 in turnovers to this incredible run we’re in from a turnover standpoint, no one could forsee that coming. But I just know we had a more talented team than we showed. Everyone is acting like in those two games that we just totally got our (butts) kicked. I mean, we had Oakland beat. All right? We had Oakland beat (but for) a penalty in the end zone and Oakland was a hot team. So was Atlanta. I mean, we ran into two red hot quarterbacks. If there’s one thing everyone should know about the NFL is that it’s streaky. Derek Carr could not have been more hot when we played him that time and he could not have looked more cold when he played last week. His numbers last week, you wouldn’t even think it’s the same guy.
"But that happens in the NFL. It’s going to happen to us at some point. There’s going to be a game where we cool off. I hope it’s about 2021."