When Bucs coach Dirk Koetter addressed players for the final time Monday morning, he acknowledged they had fallen short of their expectations, thanked them for their effort and warned that changes were inevitable in 2018.
"There's always change in the NFL and this year will be no exception," Koetter said. "Change is hard at first and messy in the middle and hopefully good at the end."
The fact that the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, decided to stick with Koetter after a 5-11 season that included a pair of five-game losing streaks, was a surprise to many.
This may be as well: Koetter says he plans for Mike Smith to return as defensive coordinator and Todd Monken to be back as offensive coordinator/receivers coach.
And unlike the end of last year when he waffled on the subject, Koetter says he will continue to be the offensive play-caller.
"That's one of the things in there, but I'm going to be the play-caller," Koetter said.
The Bucs struggled on defense this season, finishing last in the NFL by allowing 378.1 yards per game. They also had a league-worst 21 sacks. But perhaps barring Smith being hired as a head coach, he will run the Bucs defense in 2018.
"It's probably not 100 percent safe to assume anything. You know, just look at what's happening around this league today," Koetter said. "There's a lot of stuff (happening). Again, I am very appreciative of the Glazer family that they're going to give me and my staff the opportunity to come back and fix the things we didn't do good enough his year. I really appreciate that and I do think it took courage. You just look around the league and there's ones that surprise you the way they went and there's other ones that surprise you the way they didn't go. And I'm sure plenty of people are surprised by this. But I appreciate the opportunity and we're going to do our best to fix it.
"Yeah, as I stand here now (there will be no changes). But remember, a lot of stuff has happened since Friday at 3 o'clock. Our main thing was to finish out the season, finish out last night and we'll just have to see what happens here. Things are going to be moving fast these next few days, I'm talking about in the league. And anytime there's major things happening in the league it can have major implications to other teams in the league."
Two obvious areas must be addressed in the off-season, Koetter said. They have to score more touchdowns in the red zone and acquire defensive linemen who can rush the passer.
"We moved the ball up and down the field, we didn't score enough touchdowns in the red zone, we missed too many field goals," Koetter said. "Points win games. There's metrics that add up to points. Turnovers, explosive plays, sacks. But the bottom line is points. How do you get them?
"I believe we're 3-7 in one score games and you're going to have a hard time getting where you want to go winning 30 percent of one score games. It's got to be higher than that. We have enough talent on offense to score more points. So score more points, that's one issue. Number two, the biggest issue on our football team is we can't get pressure with a four man rush. Okay, I'm not telling anybody big secrets here. Those are the two big things on our football team that need to be addressed. There's a lot of other stuff in there, too. But those are two things right off the bat moving forward that have to be better if our team is going to be better."