Thursday, June 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs coach Koetter's future tied to Winston improving

TAMPA

The single biggest reason for the Bucs' hiring of Dirk Koetter as head coach was to continue the growth of quarterback and designated savior Jameis Winston.

But what happens if Winston not only doesn't win games but becomes the chief reason the team is losing?

If 1-3 turns into 2-8 or 4-12, Koetter might not have enough sweat equity and professional bandwidth to avoid becoming a one-and-done coach given the Glazer family's impatience and desire to win.

In fact, you could argue that no head coach's future is as dependent on the success of his quarterback as Koetter's.

Winston's eight interceptions are second most in the NFL, and only the 49ers' Blaine Gabbert and the Jets' Ryan Fitzpatrick have a lower passer rating than his 72.9. He also has lost two fumbles.

There are a lot of factors in Winston's sputtering. The loss of running back Doug Martin might be the biggest. Without the league's second-leading rusher last season, who has missed parts of three games with a hamstring injury, the offense has been one-dimensional. (Although he was averaging only 3.4 yards per carry). As a result, Winston has attempted more than 44 passes per game, most of any quarterback.

"At times, I do try to do too much, and that's a part of the problem," Winston said. "I've just got to do my job and let the players play."

But Koetter is the Bucs' play-caller, and the failure of the offense, regardless of injuries, rests squarely on his shoulders.

Against the Broncos last week, the Bucs had 20 first-down plays that gained 1 or fewer yards. That's an astounding amount of failure, albeit against arguably the best defense in football.

"We talk about efficient plays, efficient plays on first down that'll be 4 yards or more," Koetter said. "When we say, 'Staying ahead of the chains,' we did a horrible job."

After a fantastic season-opening win at Atlanta, which now leads the NFC South at 4-1, the Bucs have lost three in a row heading into tonight's game at Carolina on Monday Night Football. They laid an egg at Arizona, which plays tough man coverage, then couldn't handle the Broncos' combination of coverage and pass rush with cornerback Aqib Talib intercepting two passes in the first half.

If there is another valid criticism of Koetter through the first quarter of the season, it's his poor clock management.

It's surprising since he spent some time thinking about how to manage end-of-half and end-of-game situations while also wearing the hat as the team's play-caller. That's why he appointed assistant receivers coach Andrew Weidinger to be in charge of game management.

But two weeks ago, Koetter ignored his plea to call timeout after Charles Sims failed to get out of bounds at the Rams 15 trailing 37-32 with less than a minute left and two timeouts in his pocket. The Bucs lost at least 16 seconds, which would've equated to two more plays when Winston got tackled at the 5 on second down to end the game.

Koetter also hasn't handled end-of-the-half situations well. Yes, the Bucs attacked late in the first half at Atlanta and were rewarded for it. But against the Cardinals, trailing 17-0 with 1:30 left in the second quarter, they used only 25 seconds in their final possession of the half, giving Arizona enough time to score a touchdown and effectively end the game.

Then against Denver last Sunday, despite three turnovers in the first half, the Bucs trailed only 14-7 when they got the ball back at their 21 with 1:46 left. Three incomplete passes used only 15 seconds before a punt, and the Broncos had enough time drive for a field goal.

Attacking is a good mentality for a head coach and play-caller to have. But depending on the score, you have to accomplish two things: move the football into scoring position; or, failing that, use enough time so your opponent can't score.

Finally, trailing 27-7 with 7:30 left in the game and the ball at the Denver 46, Koetter elected to punt rather than go for it on fourth and 6.

"That is a ridiculous play-call," Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote on MMQB. "How do you assume you'll get the ball three times in the last six minutes (max) of the game?"

It's ridiculous to suggest that the buzzards are circling over Koetter. Players and the owner­ship still believe in him. He's a first-year head coach who is going to make mistakes and experience growing pains. The hardest part of the schedule will be behind the Bucs after tonight's game.

But Winston needs to play better. Soon. Koetter is depending on it.

NOTE: Linebacker Cameron Lynch was promoted from the practice squad for special teams help, waiving wide receiver Jeremy Butler to make room on the 53-man roster.

 
Comments
Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

TAMPA — The NFL is planning to suspend Winston three games for violating the personal conduct policy. He will be allowed to participate in training camp and all four preseason games.The suspension, which could be announced as early as...
Updated: 1 minute ago
Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Tampa Bay Times beat reporter Rick Stroud isn't buying an ESPN radio report that any suspension levied against Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston by the NFL would stem from Winston's failure to report an alleged incident between him and a female Ub...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: When will we know about possible Jameis Winston suspension?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: When will we know about possible Jameis Winston suspension?

Rick Stroud talks about when we will know about a possible Jameis Winston suspension and why DeSean Jackson hasn't been more productive with the Bucs on today's podcast.Plus, who might the Rays trade next? Will the Lightning make any b...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston could be suspended for up to three games  next season following the league's investigation into allegations he groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016, a Tallahassee radio station reported.Jeff Cameron, a&#...
Published: 06/20/18
Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Just to preface this, the NFL Network's annual countdown of the league's top 100 players is a made-for-TV deal, good for summer offseason conversation but not carrying any huge amount of real significance.Having said that, it's worth noting that for ...
Published: 06/19/18
Bucs defensive end Will Gholston says ‘no excuse’ for disappointing 2017 season

Bucs defensive end Will Gholston says ‘no excuse’ for disappointing 2017 season

Will Gholston is painfully honest about a 2017 season that wasn't anything close to what he wanted it to be. Ask him about last year, and there are no parentheses in his world to soften what he remembers here."I just played (crappy), completely. That...
Published: 06/18/18
Ex-Bucs WR Lawrence Dawsey worked with team during OTAs

Ex-Bucs WR Lawrence Dawsey worked with team during OTAs

The Bucs had four extra coaches during organized team activities last month as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, including former Tampa Bay receiver Lawrence Dawsey.Dawsey, 50, played for the Bucs from 1991-95, finishing his time ...
Published: 06/18/18
Bucs journal: O.J. Howard poised to take off?

Bucs journal: O.J. Howard poised to take off?

TAMPA — There's always a lot of attention on the rookie class this time of year, rightfully so. There's a reason the Bucs focused on defense, and DT Vita Vea, CBs M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis and S Justin Whitehead all look like they could have ...
Published: 06/16/18
Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Times wiresVISTA, Calif. – Former Bucs and Hurricanes tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was jailed without bail Friday after pleading not guilty to nine counts of kidnapping, rape and other charges.If convicted on all counts, Winslow, 34, could face...
Published: 06/15/18
Bucs still don’t know when Jameis Winston will throw another pass that matters

Bucs still don’t know when Jameis Winston will throw another pass that matters

TAMPA — The last pass thrown by Jameis Winston in a regular-season game was his best. The perfectly arced, 39-yard strike to Chris Godwin for a touchdown with nine seconds left gave the Bucs a 31-24 win over New Orleans at Raymond James Stadium...
Published: 06/15/18