Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dirk Koetter begins work on ambitious Bucs agenda

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."

Comments
Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

TAMPA — The Bucs and Falcons have each won three straight games on Monday nights as they face each other on a national platform tonight at Raymond James Stadium.How can Tampa Bay continue its streak and stop Atlanta’s? It won’t be easy, but given the...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

TAMPA — The beers and the "love ya, bros" were flowing Saturday night at the Hooters in Tampa. Jon Gruden, who will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor at halftime of tonight’s home game against the Falcons, worked the room, greeting family, frie...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

TAMPA — It’s ridiculous that it took this long to give Jon Gruden a night all his own, given the nights he gave Bucs fans. But it will happen this evening at Raymond James Stadium, a salute to the thermonuclear source of that Super Bowl season, that ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

NFL playoff chase

Playoff chaseNFCPos. Team Rec Div ConfDivision leaders1. Eagles-E-* 12-2 5-0 10-12. Vikings-N-z 11-3 3-1 8-23. Rams-W 10-4 4-1 7-44. Saints-S 10-4 3-1 7-3Wild card5. Panthers 10-4 2-2 6-46. Falcons 8-5 2-1 7-2Contention7. Lions 8-6 4-1 7-48. Seahawks...
Updated: 5 hours ago
NFL Week 15: What we learned

NFL Week 15: What we learned

First the Phillies sign ex-Rays reliever Tommy Hunter. Then Eagles backup QB Nick Foles steps in for MVP candidate Carson Wentz and throws four TD passes in a 34-29 come-from-behind win at the Giants. What a week for Philly fans, huh? The win clinche...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Published: 12/16/17
McCoy, David, Hargreaves all out Monday against Falcons

McCoy, David, Hargreaves all out Monday against Falcons

As if containing Julio Jones and the Falcons offense weren't challenging enough, the Bucs will try to so Monday night without perhaps their top two defensive players in DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David.Bucs coach Dirk Koetter on Saturday ruled bo...
Published: 12/16/17
Bucs’ Ward glad to be back, eager for rematch with brother Terron

Bucs’ Ward glad to be back, eager for rematch with brother Terron

Bucs safety T.J. Ward will make a healthy return Monday after missing two games with a concussion, and it's also a chance to face his brother Terron, a running back with the Falcons."Our whole family's going to be there, rooting us on," T.J. said aft...
Published: 12/16/17
Jones: Tony Dungy didn’t leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

Jones: Tony Dungy didn’t leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

It is and always will be the greatest debate in Tampa Bay sports history.Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy?You don’t even need to say anything more than that. Bucs fans already know what you’re talking about.Gruden or Dungy?Who was most responsible for the on...
Published: 12/16/17
Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

TAMPA — Bucs coach Jon Gruden did not win the Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team. Don’t believe me? Ask Dungy. "It wasn’t. They did a great job. They took it and tweaked it," Dungy said. "The same way I got a great (Colts) tea...
Published: 12/16/17