Let's straighten out a few things about the Bucs' hiring of Dirk Koetter as head coach.
Both general manager Jason Licht and Koetter were essentially hired by Lovie Smith. And based heavily on Licht's recommendation, the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, fired Smith after two seasons and an 8-24 record, including 3-13 at home.
A nine-day coaching search ensued with only two known interviews — Arizona offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, somebody Licht worked with that satisfied the Rooney Rule, and Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. Those coaches go head-to-head today in the NFC Championship Game.
As speculated when Smith was fired, Koetter was the top candidate because of the job he did with QB Jameis Winston and the fifth-ranked offense, which set a franchise record with 6,014 yards.
But the notion this was a coup on the part of Licht and Koetter is false. Koetter was asked about it on Pro Football Talk.
"I would say that's total, 100 percent (nonsense)," Koetter said. "I think that in all 32 buildings around the NFL, I know there's leaks everywhere but unless you're on the inside of a building, you have no idea what's really going on inside those buildings. Every job I've ever had in my life I think you've got to be able to look at the man in the mirror and know if you did your job or not. I can promise you 1,000 percent that from where I stand and what information I was privy to, there was nothing of the sort."
Koetter interviewed for the 49ers coaching job and had interest from other teams. He said replacing the man who hired him was, at best, a little awkward.
"I have the utmost respect for Lovie Smith, and I'm a firm believer as an assistant coach that loyalty is the No. 1 characteristic that you should have," Koetter said. "But that was a decision that wasn't made by me and at that point."
It's fair to question how invested Licht was in finding a coach when he likely believed Koetter was the man for the job all along. He has declined to comment on how many coaches were interviewed or discussed.
ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter surmised last week that the reason for the delay in naming Koetter was because of interest in Alabama coach Nick Saban. "Few owners are quieter about their intentions than the Glazers, who four years ago quietly inquired to see if they could lure Nick Saban out of Alabama," Schefter reported. "No one will confirm if they did the same this year, but there was some reason they waited over a week to eventually promote offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter when most expected he would be the man all along. Some people around the league believe the Glazers attempted a big swing again before hiring Koetter."
HOF push: John Lynch is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the third straight year. Trying to give him a push, the Bucs moved up his Ring of Honor announcement, buttressing the argument that he was a core player along with Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks on their Super Bowl team in 2002.
Only three defensive players are among 15 modern-day Class of 2016 finalists. Former Steelers and Panthers LB Kevin Greene would seem to have the best shot. But Lynch could make it to Canton, Ohio, either this year or next. Former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy also is a finalist.
Last week, Lynch shared what it took for the Bucs to turn around the culture of losing.
"It just took a lot of stubborn guys believing that we could undo a lot of tough and lean years and arrive at the top," he said. "We got knocked down a bunch of times. You always say that you want to retire with no regrets, and I think I did that with the way I played, but there are a ton of regrets because I feel like that team, the team that we had, was so special — not only the players, the talent, but the makeup, the fabric of it — that you feel like we should have had three or four of those rings. But to have the one was special."