Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dirk Koetter begins work on ambitious Bucs agenda

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TAMPA

Whether you agree or disagree with the Bucs blowing out another head coach after only two seasons — Lovie Smith's 8-24 record notwithstanding — there are several things Dirk Koetter has to do quickly to make his hiring work.

The Bucs believe they have a franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston, which means they have a chance. The offense finished fifth in the league in total yards with 6,014, a franchise record. That's not bad considering they started five rookies in 2015 and several other second-year players.

But the team was 20th in scoring at 21.4 points a game.

Keeping Koetter was the safe choice. It provides some continuity and the same voice for Winston. Just through his maturation, the point total should increase next season.

But having an offensive play-caller as your head coach when you have a quarterback such as Winston is never a bad thing.

There's a lot of chatter about how Smith's run-first, conservative approach on offense kept the team from producing more points.

Koetter disagrees. But he will have to be more aggressive in 2016 for the team to take a necessary step and make this coaching change work.

"In no way did Lovie Smith tell me as an offensive coordinator do and don't do this," Koetter said. "Lovie Smith was as supportive for me as a head coach could be. Lovie told me what kind of offense he wanted to have and we tried to emulate that thought.

"I will say when you're the head coach and play-caller, you have a license to be a little more aggressive. That's how I was when I was a high school coach, that's how I was when I was a college coach. Now, that comes from inside me because you have the power to decide. You have the power to decide, are we going for it on fourth and 1? You have the power to decide, do we need to throw it deep three times in a row or do we need to give it to Doug Martin three times in a row? You don't have to worry about the head coach second-guessing you. You are the head coach."

As for Winston, the only voices Koetter wants in his head belong to himself, quarterback coach Mike Bajakian and the offense line coach (currently George Warhop.

Here are other observations about the team under Koetter:

• It will demonstrate more passion. It's truer in the NFL than any other sport that teams tend to take on the personality of their coach.

After the Bucs' loss at Carolina in Week 17, Winston questioned whether some players cared about winning or losing. Koetter didn't disagree when asked about it Friday.

"I know the kind of passion Jameis has for winning," Koetter said. "I know the kind of heart he plays with on the field. That's one thing you couldn't judge in the scouting tapes when we were getting ready. I skyrocketed in my opinion of Jameis when I learned about that firsthand. I think as a team we need to have more players that play with the same heart and passion as Jameis. All players want to win. I'm not going to break down every single word he said. But across the board, could we play with more heart and passion? Do we need more players that take it as personal as Jameis? Yes."

• The defense will be better prepared under defensive coordinator Mike Smith.

It will continue running a 4-3 because it best suits the defense's best players such as Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. Smith's defenses in Jacksonville finished in the top 10 in scoring defense four times in five years.

"What I would say was the hallmark of those defenses was how thoroughly prepared they were," Koetter said. "Mike's attention to detail is second to none. He's a great communicator. He's a teacher."

• The team will be more disciplined.

Tampa Bay led the league in penalties last season.

Koetter wasn't willing to divulge his plan for making players more accountable when they commit penalties. But he knows the Bucs beat themselves last season as many times as they were outplayed, perhaps more.

"First off, there is no question in my mind that more games are lost than won in the NFL," Koetter said. "With that said, penalties, I know that's a hot point right now. That's one of those things I'm not going to tell you right now. But I think if you look at my track record with penalties, this year notwithstanding, and Mike Smith's record as a head coach — Mike Smith set an NFL record three years in a row with the least-penalized team in the NFL. No. 1, I think we've got to do a great job on educating our players on what are the most important factors on winning and losing in the NFL. Penalties is in that top 10."

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