TAMPA — It was a startling admission, and maybe he was just thinking out loud. But after watching his offense take a few steps backward this season, Dirk Koetter said Monday he is contemplating giving up play-calling duties so he can spend more time on other obligations as head coach.
"I'm contemplating, 'How does our team get better in all areas?' " Koetter said. "And when we look at everything, is there someone out there who can do a better job to help us than me calling the plays? Then that's something we have to take a look at."
If you remember, it was because Koetter did such a good job calling plays for Jameis Winston in 2015 that the Bucs promoted him from offensive coordinator, firing Lovie Smith in the process. The thinking was to keep the continuity for Winston rather than hamper his progress by having him learn a new offensive system.
So how does Koetter go from the offensive mastermind to never mind in one season?
A few things to consider here. Nobody is forcing Koetter to do this. The ownership and front office are not going to meddle in this decision. A year ago, the Bucs set a club record with 6,014 total yards and averaged 21.4 points. This year, the Bucs fell from fifth to 18th in total offense, with 5,542 yards and 22.1 points per game.
Koetter seemed to suggest that the dropoffs might be because as head coach, with all its time constraints for addressing the media, preparing to speak in daily team meetings and other things that come across his desk, he might be shortchanging his preparation as a play-caller. He doesn't spend nearly as much time with Winston or the quarterbacks. He's still involved in the install meetings.
The biggest reason for the regression was injuries to running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims, who were four times more productive in 2015.
"I learned as a head coach I'd love to have more time to get involved with individual players on a daily basis,'' Koetter said. "When I do get a chance to talk to player one on one, I enjoy it. And I enjoy the motivational part of trying to reach guys and different groups on the team.
"And as far as my schedule goes, I'm asking myself all the time, are the things I have to spend my time on, are those in the best interests of helping the Bucs win games or am I doing stuff, am I spinning my wheels on stuff that doesn't really matter and what's the most important thing is to helping us win? Those are questions that don't all have to be answered today."
Koetter noted that several NFL head coaches such as the Packers' Mike McCarthy, the Saints' Sean Payton and the Chiefs' Andy Reid at some point handed the play-calling duties over to an assistant but eventually took them back.
"You know, when that day comes when I do give it up, I don't want to take it back," Koetter said. "I want to be sure."
Todd Monken, the Bucs receivers coach who has the title of offensive coordinator but doesn't call plays, would be the leading in-house candidate for the job as well as quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian.
It's becoming increasingly difficult for an NFL head coach to wear another hat. Some coaches thrive more as the CEO-type leader, such as the Steelers' Mike Tomlin. When Jon Gruden coached the Raiders and Bucs, he said he enjoyed the chess match of calling plays too much to ever give it up.
"I love being the play-caller," Koetter said. "I think that's one of the best things about the game. But, with being the head coach this year, I have more responsibilities. I have really enjoyed my interactions with players and I've really enjoyed to go in and do the team meetings every day, that takes time. I don't just go up there and wing it from the hip like I do in (news conferences). It actually takes preparation time.
"Everything I say in front of the team I take very seriously. I want to be able to back it up, and not just B.S. those guys. I ask myself, if I spent more time on it could I do a better job?"