TAMPA — The sun was shining and the breeze was strong enough Monday to unfurl the oversized Buccaneers flag outside the team's training facility, one day after a 37-32 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. It was pleasant enough to blunt any sense of urgency.
Perhaps that's why Bucs coach Dirk Koetter talked to his players about changing the team's culture after a 1-2 start and five straight losing seasons.
"We're just missing something, I feel like, and as my title suggests, it's my job to speak up," Koetter said. "I feel like sometimes we find too many ways to lose a game instead of creating ways to win a game. Now, when I say that, I put myself right at the top. I'm No. 1 on that list. So I'm not calling out any player or any coach above myself, but that's just how I feel. And until we change that, we're going to have nights like (Sunday) night."
The Bucs blew a 20-10 lead against the Rams and self-destructed almost every way imaginable. Shaky rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo missed an extra point and 41-yard field goal. The fumble lost by quarterback Jameis Winston was returned for a touchdown. The defense gave up two more long touchdown passes of 43 and 44 yards. And after a 69-minute weather delay, even Koetter mismanaged the clock, failing to call one of his two timeouts after running back Charles Sims failed to get out of bounds.
The game ended when Winston was tackled at the Rams' 5-yard line on second down.
"Charles absolutely does the right thing by going for yardage right there," Koetter said. "I mean, he is so close to pulling out of that tackle and we've got Vincent (Jackson) and Cameron (Brate) ahead of him with one guy left. I mean, if he pulls out of that last tackle, he's going to score. So at that point, we have a guy in the press box that's keeping an eye on the clock management. He was doing exactly what he was supposed to do. He was saying, 'Timeout, timeout, timeout!' That's 100 percent me. We had a play that I'd been wanting to get to the whole game in no huddle and I thought had a chance to be the game-winner. I wanted to keep the defense from huddling, I wanted to keep it going."
It all backfired, of course, and the Rams, which came in with the league's worst offense which had not scored a touchdown in two games, left Raymond James Stadium with a win.
Koetter wanted to make it clear Monday the change he is advocating has nothing to do with the Glazer family which owns the team.
"I'm talking about the culture of the football team. I'm not talking about our organization," Koetter said. "I'm not talking about ownership, I'm not talking about the building. I'm not talking about our fans. I'm talking about the 53 players, the 10 practice squad guys and however many coaches we have. You know, the guys that are coming up with the game plan, putting the game plan together and trying to execute the game plan. The best teams I've been on beat with one heart. They count on the guy next to them to do their job every time and they win and lose together. Maybe our fans have cheered for a team like that at one point. Hopefully all our players have played on a team like that. I know when I've been on a team like that, you can feel it, and man, you want to grab it and hold onto its tale because it's elusive. When you don't have it, you can also feel it."
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The worst thing, according to Koetter, would be to deny that the Bucs are struggling to find a winning culture. But they will want to find it quick. In the next two weeks, Tampa Bay will play both Super Bowl 50 participants. The world champion Denver Broncos (3-0) visit RJS Sunday, then the Bucs travel to Charlotte, N.C., for a Monday Night Football game against the NFC champion Panthers.
"We've got to find it," Koetter said. "I just don't think we should sit back and act like it doesn't exist because in my eyes it does and I've been on those teams that have it and we're going to keep looking for it until we find it."