Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bucs coach Koetter: We're better than most people think

TAMPA — Dirk Koetter will be 57 when he makes his NFL head coaching debut Sunday, an age when many careers are winding down rather than ramping up. He doesn't have time for nonsense, which is why the curly haired boss of the Bucs prefers straight talk.

So when Koetter was asked how good his team is, he didn't hesitate. "I think they're better than most people give us credit for," Koetter said from his office at One Buc Place.

"When I got this job, I knew in my heart I think we're a more talented team than people give us credit for. I still think that. I think we added some really good pieces through free agency and the draft (in the offseason). But you've still got to put it together 16 times during the fall."

Though the past isn't always a prologue in the NFL, the Bucs have managed to remain wretchedly consistent recently. They have finished last in the NFC South six of the past seven years, including five straight. The Bucs haven't won the division since 2007.

But as the Bucs begin the season at Atlanta on Sunday, trying to improve from last year's 6-10, Koetter has a franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston, three years of productive drafts and a roster fortified by free agency.

"The thing that any coach probably undervalues is how good everybody else is," Koetter said. "Put it in perspective. Six hundred really good football players got cut. Six hundred. You go from there being no good players on the street to all of a sudden, look at that waiver wire. Six hundred good players. That tells you how competitive this league is.

"So do I think we're a deeper team, a more talented team than we were a year ago? Yes. Probably all 31 other teams are saying the same thing."

Not everyone is convinced the Bucs are better. CBS Sports' Pete Prisco predicted Tampa Bay will be 5-11 and finish tied for last in the NFC South. However, his colleague Jason LaCanfora believes the Bucs are one of the sleeper teams.

"The thing is, it really doesn't matter what's going on outside," Winston said, "who's doubting us or even who's for us. What matters is the 63 guys that we have in that locker room and the support from our fans, because we're really in this together.

"You're judged on wins and losses. The more wins we can put out there, obviously, the more confident we can be and we just can see where this thing can go."

Ending an eight-year playoff drought won't be easy for the Bucs, who are just trying to the close the gap on three-time defending division champion Carolina.

Winston led the way a year ago by passing for 4,042 yards and 23 touchdowns, and rushing for six more scores. Also helped by running back Doug Martin, the league's second-leading rusher last year with 1,402 yards, and receiver Mike Evans, the Bucs set a franchise record for total yards and finished fifth in the 32-team league in average yards per game on offense.

Defensively, the Bucs are still constructed around four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. But defensive coordinator Mike Smith, who coached the Falcons from 2008-14, should have an edge in Sunday's game at Atlanta. The additions Koetter is so excited about include free agent cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive end Robert Ayers. The draft this year brought cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and defensive end Noah Spence.

"Since I got here in 2013, each year we increased, as far as production and the way we've played," defensive end William Gholston said. "It's an extremely exciting thing to see to really have a chance to get it rolling for 2016."

The Bucs swept the Falcons last season, and with a road game in Week 2 at Arizona, Koetter has emphasized starting fast against a division opponent on the road.

"The main goal is to go there, play our best game and get a win," Winston said. "Teams are judged on wins and losses. No matter what happens throughout the game, if you get a win, people ignore everything else."

Bucs coach Koetter: We're better than most people think 09/07/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 10:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Little separates McElwain and Muschamp eras of futility at Florida

    College

     Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain watches the second quarter of the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville.
  2. Mikhail Sergachev scores twice as Lightning shuts out Blue Jackets (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mikhail Sergachev said he blacked out for a few seconds after his first NHL goal Thursday night, a rocket slap shot from the point.

    Mikhail Sergachev, front, looks like he’s very in the moment with teammate Dan Girardi after scoring his first NHL goal, though he says he blacked out for a bit. He scores again in the second.
  3. Dodgers rout Cubs 11-1 to win pennant, head to World Series for first time since '88

    Ml

    CHICAGO — Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.

    The Dodgers celebrate their Game 5 victory Thursday night over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, putting Los Angeles in the World Series for the first time since 1988.
  4. Joe Smith's takeaways from Thursday's Lightning-Blue Jackets game

    Lightning Strikes

    While Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov grab the headlines, don't sleep on their linemate, Vladislav Namestnikov. Namestnikov is far from a third wheel, with eight points in eight games. "He might not have the names the other two have, but he's as pivotal and vital to that line as the others," coach Jon Cooper said.

  5. Lightning journal: Derrick Brooks helps J.T. Brown make a difference

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown's decision to stop his anthem protest began to take shape just a few days after he raised his right fist before the Oct. 7 game against the Panthers in Sunrise.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown (23) on the ice at Lightning hockey training camp in Brandon on Monday (09/18/17).