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Dirk Koetter leaves behind many core Bucs who flourished in his offense

Mike Evans, Cameron Brate and Chris Godwin are examples of offensive players who had their best years in his offense.
Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin (12) gets tackled by Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford (23) on a failed two-point conversion during the fourth quarter. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin (12) gets tackled by Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford (23) on a failed two-point conversion during the fourth quarter. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Dec. 31, 2018

TAMPA  — Dirk Koetter didn't win enough games in Tampa Bay. But, in building one of the league's best offensive units, many of his key offensive players are better off having had him as their head coach.

The Bucs' offense this season was the best in franchise history — setting new team records for total yards, touchdowns, passing yards, first downs and yards per play — which, in itself, is a main reason why Koetter's inability convert that firepower into wins led to his firing on Sunday.

But for many players who make up the team's core — especially on offense — they played their best years under Koetter. Each of Koetter's offenses — first as offensive coordinator in 2015 and then as head coach the past three years — are among the top 10 scoring offenses in Bucs history. This year's team scored a franchise-record 396 points

Now, Koetter leaves behind for his successor the core of an established unit.

"It was awesome (playing for him)," said wide receiver Mike Evans, who emerged as one of the game's top receivers under Koetter. "The fans might put stuff on him and the coaches, and that's how sports works. They always look at the head coach, but he's an awesome guy. I'm very fortunate to have played for him and met him. He took my game to new heights."

On Sunday, Evans set a new Bucs single-season receiving mark with 1,524 yards and became the sixth player in NFL history to record 6,000 career receiving yards in his first five seasons.

Under Koetter, Cameron Brate went from an undrafted player to one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the league. Brate caught 14 touchdown passes in 2016 and '17, which was third-most among NFL tight ends.

"I pretty much owe my career to Dirk," Brate said. "I'll forever be grateful to him. I think if you ask everyone at One Buc, he's a well-respected guy. He always brings good energy every day. It's just kind of unfortunate we haven't been able to get enough wins for him."

And second-year pro Chris Godwin made tremendous strides under Koetter this past season, finishing second on the team with 842 yards and seven touchdown receptions.

"He was the one who gave me the opportunity to play in this league," Godwin said. "I'm forever grateful for that. He's a great man, a great leader."