TAMPA — Dirk Koetter isn't going to return as coach of the Bucs next season.
That's not official. No announcement has been made. No press conference is scheduled. It's not an absolute fact. Not yet.
And this isn't a call for his job.
It's a prediction. A prediction based on what we're witnessing. A prediction based on history. We've all seen this movie before and we know exactly how it ends.
It's a lost season limping to a pitiful conclusion. Losses piled upon losses. And when it's over, someone ends up getting fired.
Happened to Jon Gruden. Happened to Raheem Morris. Happened to Greg Schiano. Happened to Lovie Smith.
And it feels for all the world like it's going to happen to Koetter.
The Bucs lost again on Sunday: 24-21 to the Lions. Ugly game. The Bucs turned the ball over five times. Five. That's embarrassing. That's Football Folly stuff. At one point in the third quarter, I was looking for a Glazer to walk out of the tunnel and down the Bucs sidelines with a pink slip in his hand.
The Bucs rallied to tie, but lost on a field goal in the final minute. That only made the loss only more gut-wrenching for the Bucs. But let's be clear: it didn't change a darn thing.
A loss is a loss, and at 4-9, they're guaranteed to have a losing season. Only three games left. All against the other really good teams in the NFC South. It's hard to imagine the Bucs winning even once more.
I just don't see how Koetter survives it.
Doesn't matter how close the games are. Doesn't matter how hard the team plays. Bottom line is the Bucs are going to end up losing 11 or 12 games. Someone has to pay for that kind futility, particularly in season with such high expectations. That someone will be Koetter.
Poor guy. It's not entirely his fault.
He's just one of the million problems the Bucs have. Mike Smith's defense can't stop anyone. The Bucs still don't have a pass rusher. Injuries are piling up. Quarterback Jameis Winston is trending the wrong direction. Now there's a report that Koetter and Winston don't get along. Who knows if it's true, but gossip and back-biting, fussing and angry denials tend to come oozing out of a team festering with failure.
For the record, Koetter and Winston denied any raw feelings between the two. But neither can deny that Winston has taken a step back this season. He turned the ball over three more times Sunday. He's not getting better and that's going to be what gets Koetter in the end.
The whole reason the Bucs fired Lovie was to make sure they didn't lose Koetter. And the whole reason they kept Koetter was because he's supposed to be a quarterback whisperer, an offensive guru, the one guy who could develop Winston into a franchise quarterback.
That simply isn't happening.
Look, I like Koetter. And the franchise needs to get out of this habit of changing coaches every couple of years. But if you're making a case for Koetter keeping his job, where do you start?
The team isn't winning. Winston isn't getting any better. Koetter's offense, allegedly loaded with weapons, sputters and stutters. What is it he can hang his hat on?
On top of all that, none of this seems like a fluke. Over the past two weeks, several players wanted to chalk it all up to be just one of those unlucky seasons, a season when the team just can't catch a break, a hiccup on the way to better things.
Is anyone buying that? Think the Glazers are buying that?
Maybe the Bucs are better than a four-win team. But they feel a lot closer to that than they do 9-7, which is what they went last season.
So let's just assume the season keeps heading down the same sewer. You start doing the math, looking for a path for Koetter to keep his job, and you just can't see it. It doesn't add up.
Maybe a three-game win streak to close out the season gives him a chance. But, come on, they'll be lucky to win one more, let alone three.
Because of that, Dirk Koetter should start saving boxes to pack up his office after the season.
And he should save a couple of boxes for general manager Jason Licht, too.
Contact Tom Jones at email@example.com. Follow @tomwjones.