Monday, April 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fennelly: Countdown starts now for Dirk Koetter to fix the Bucs’ mess

TAMPA — Not one car horn honked, not one pot or pan was banged. And today, exhilarated by the return of coach Dirk Koetter as Bucs coach next season, Jameis Winston and his teammates will go out and lose to the playoff-bound Saints. What says wait ’til next year like 4-12?

Maybe it was something as simple as the owners, the Von Trapped Family, coming to their senses to realize they can’t fire coaches more than they shoot off those ridiculous cannons.

Maybe it was one brave Glazer standing up to say, "Hey, we were the ones who wanted Aguayo."

Maybe it was this: They can finish last again with Koetter or with someone more expensive while still paying Koetter.

Maybe Jon Gruden turned his phone off.

So, Koetter (13-18) gets one more swing, as does his inconsistent, hotheaded quarterback. Already the prospects for 2018 seem underwhelming. This looks like a holding action until Drew Brees retires. Translation: Hard Knocks will not be at Bucs camp. I expect to see Chucky surface with the Cowboys in 2018, or maybe in Vegas.

The Bucs disaster that was 2017 should serve as a shot across the franchise’s bow. The Glazers should know it, and Koetter should know it, and so should Bucs general manager Jason Licht, who has yet to show he is the man to build a winner any more than Koetter has shown he is the man to coach one. Here’s a final chance for them to prove they’re not losers.

Yeah, that’ll sell tickets.

Take a deep breath and get things done.

Get rid of nice-guy Mike Smith and make a new defense.

Admit your mistake, buy DeSean Jackson another car, tell him to get in it and leave.

Trade down from the No. 4 or 5 pick. Everything should be based on 2019 and 2020.

And change uniforms so you never again look like you’re wearing Christmas pajamas.

Cross your fingers if you’re a Glazer and hope that Koetter finds his game and Winston does, too. Yes, you risk utter irrelevance, the abyss beckons, but what do you have to lose in 2018 except more games?

This is about a major renovation and Koetter realizing his limitations.

Dedicate yourself to saving Winston, and with it, yourself. Throw away everything else, including play calls. Hire a real offensive coordinator if need be. Winston is why the Glazers hired Koetter in the first place.

And get a stinking pass rush. If your personnel people can’t find one, get new personnel people. If your GM can’t find the personnel people, get a new GM. No more of this baloney. A league-worst 20 sacks are one of the all-time jokes. Smoking gun alert: 10 picks after the Bucs selected kicker Roberto Aguayo in 2016, Jacksonville chose defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. He has 12 sacks this season — tied for fifth-most in the league — and 20 in two years. The Jaguars are going to the playoffs.

Most of all, the Bucs need to get physical. Remember when Koetter talked in the offseason about having a bad-you-know-what team?

Stockpile picks. Take every Big Ten offensive lineman you can. Lose Donovan Smith. Look at today’s opponent. A few year ago, the Saints were one of the softest teams in the league. Now they’re a two-dimensional menace. Third and short is their down, Mark Ingram gets the ball. Rookie Alvin Kamara adds to the fun. Brees is freed up.

The Bucs have been pushed around long enough. Make teams hate playing you even if they beat you. Give Winston a run game and see what balance does for him. Leave no excuses when evaluating him. Make 2018 make or break for No. 3. A possible suspension might not help.

It’s hard to explain exactly how Koetter kept his job. He couldn’t keep his players from a Hard Knocks hangover. He mismanaged the ends of games. Winston acted like a clown at times and remains under investigation by the league. There was nearly a fight in the locker room after the Carolina loss.

Onward.

The road to 2019 starts here. The new coach is the old coach. Koetter is on the clock.

He already was.

Honk, honk.

Comments
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