Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jones: It would be a mistake to fire Dirk Koetter or Jason Licht, for now

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NEW ORLEANS — People lose jobs over games like this in a season like this.

The mob watches a game like the Bucs’ 30-10 loss to the Saints on Sunday, and the knee-jerk reaction is to grab pitchforks, torches and a handful of pink slips.

They want the coach fired. They want the general manager fired. They want the owners to sell the team and be on the first plane out of town. Forget cleaning house; they want the house doused with paint thinner and burned to the ground.

The Bucs have become the Yucks again. All that’s missing are the creamsicle uniforms, Bucco Bruce on the helmets and fans with bags over their heads. And when you watch the garbage juice the Bucs put on display Sunday, you can certainly understand the desire to shove everyone out the door.

It would be a mistake to do it now. I’m not saying Dirk Koetter should be Tampa Bay’s coach in 2018, but he should be coach for the rest of 2017. Same with general manager Jason Licht.

Firing either or both now accomplishes nothing except satisfying the bloodlust to make someone pay. You would do it just because it would feel good. Then what? It wouldn’t save a season already lost. It wouldn’t help next season.

Think about it. If you fire Koetter right now, you really have no choice but to promote someone on the staff just to finish the season.

Who would that be? Mike Smith? Seriously? You think the coordinator of a crummy defense deserves a promotion? Or Todd Monken? He helps coach an offense that can’t score.

You promote someone on the staff and two things happen. One, every single coach on the staff becomes as useful as a broken kicking tee because they will spend more time lining up a job for next season instead of doing their job this season.

Then, whoever becomes your interim coach becomes a candidate for next season if he does a half-decent job, and that’s often a mistake. (See: Williamson, Richard.)

Look, I get it. It’s a mess. This team wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near this bad, and there are serious questions about how Koetter and Licht have handled Jameis Winston and his bad shoulder.

Worst of all, the Bucs aren’t even competitive. It’s hard to tell if they don’t have enough talent, which would be Licht’s fault, or if they have good talent going to waste, which would be Koetter’s fault.

Sunday’s game epitomized just how far the Bucs have fallen. Delay-of-game penalties, false starts, a blocked punt, an unimaginative offense, a leaky defense that couldn’t do basic things such as tackle. The final was 30-10, and it felt way more lopsided than even that.

"I am totally embarrassed by it," Koetter said.

When asked if he’s worried about his job status, Koetter didn’t appear that surprised by the question.

"When you play like we did (Sunday), I am concerned about every aspect," Koetter said. "Obviously, that’s my responsibility."

So, yes, even Koetter realizes that calls for his firing aren’t outlandish.

And, you might ask, if you already know that Koetter and Licht just aren’t the guys and shouldn’t be here next year, why wait? Why not just fire them now and get it over with?

Because doing it now would be an emotional reaction to what might be nothing more than a really bad five-game stretch. This is still pretty much the same team that went 9-7 last season and added a few good pieces. Though they aren’t playing well, the Bucs are playing hard. It doesn’t appear as if Koetter has lost the locker room. Several players, unprompted, threw their support behind the coaching staff.

"These dudes in this locker room fight … and are a good group of guys," receiver DeSean Jackson said. "I definitely didn’t see this coming. But I’m not going to be the quitter."

No one looks like they’re quitting. So maybe the Bucs are just having a bad day. (Okay, a few bad days.)

If we all agree that this season is toast, there’s no need to rush Koetter and Licht out the door.

See how the rest of the season goes. If it continues to go south and is a weekly ash heap, then yes, absolutely fire them after the season. But if the Bucs rally in the second half, play better, win more than they lose, then maybe Koetter and Licht are the right guys everyone thought they were two months ago.

The day might come when Koetter and Licht should be fired. Today is not that day.

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