The Bucs are 3-5 at the halfway point in their season, meaning Dirk Koetter's rookie season as an NFL coach is half over. The Tampa Bay Times' Bucs coverage team assesses and grades Koetter's performance so far:
Docked a letter grade for finding ways to lose
By Tom Jones, @tomwjones
Yes, the Bucs have been beaten up by injuries, mainly to offensive weapons Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson. But all teams get hit by injuries. Dirk Koetter has had coaching issues: play calling, clock management and, most glaring, inconsistency from the one guy he is supposed to be helping the most: quarterback Jameis Winston.
But here's the bottom line: The Bucs have lost at least two games (to the Rams and Raiders) that they should have won; instead, they found ways to lose them. Instead of 5-3, they are 3-5. And that's not good enough.
Winston will be fine, and that's what's important
By Martin Fennelly, @mjfennelly
Dirk Koetter's offensive scheme looks good, and QB Jameis Winston will be fine, which is the important thing, or Koetter would be packing at the end of his first season. Can't really blame Winston for having only one weapon. Koetter seems to get something out of guys like tight end Cameron Brate. Koetter has game-awareness issues (Winston still in there at Arizona) and game-management issues (I think he's saving timeouts to hand out as Christmas gifts), and he is saddled with kicker he doesn't trust.
It's hard to find more than three wins the rest of the season without a run offense. Bottom line: Koetter goes as Winston goes.
Better marks than Licht, Smith
By Ernest Hooper, @hoop4you
Some might argue that Dirk Koetter's grade should be lower, but the Bucs' 3-5 record reveals more about their talent deficiency and injuries than who's guiding the players. Koetter does deserve criticism for Jameis Winston's inconsistencies because, after all, the owners elevated him to head coach with the belief that Winston would improve with the continuity of having the same offensive coordinator in his second season. Beyond that, this team needs another talent infusion from the draft and free agency. I might not be as kind if asked to give grades for general manager Jason Licht and defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
Injuries warrant grading on a curve
By Greg Auman, @gregauman
I didn't expect the Bucs to be better than 4-4 at this point, and the injuries at running back and defensive end are a fair asterisk to their struggles.
The Bucs had running back Doug Martin for one full game, the opener, and won it. The pass rush has been dinged up, which only partially excuses the Bucs' defensive regression. So though 3-5 isn't a step forward, it's understandable given how short-handed the Bucs have been.
What Lovie's firing didn't fix
By Thomas Bassinger, @tometrics
If the reasoning behind Lovie Smith's firing as coach after last season was that he didn't give the Bucs as good a chance to win as offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, we've yet to see the results to validate that decision. The questions that lingered after last season persist. Jameis Winston's erratic play has hindered the offense, and the defense is on pace to allow more points than it did last season. The Bucs need to add talent and build depth, but Koetter's game and clock management have cost them opportunities.
How about a home win?
By Rick Stroud, @NFLStroud
The Bucs are 3-5 but have failed to win a home game. Dirk Koetter's clock-management decisions potentially cost them a win versus the Rams.