And now we wait.
For how long, only the Glazers know. Or do they?
The Buccaneers owners have waited beyond the NFL’s infamous “Black Monday” to make a call regarding the future of their head coach before. They did it with Jon Gruden and Lovie Smith. Could they do it with Dirk Koetter as well?
It seems unlikely given Koetter’s record the past two seasons. At 10-22, Koetter seems to fit best as an offensive coordinator, not a head coach, so his run as the latter, at least with the Bucs, is likely over.
But, given even the list of candidates the Bucs will have to wade through to find a replacement, it might make some sense to wait a while before making a call on Koetter. After all, it’s possible they could do much worse.
The general consensus around the NFL is that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh are the top candidates to fill head coaching vacancies in the NFL.
Sorry, but the feeling here is that this is not a very impressive group, and here’s why:
McDaniels has failed as a head coach before, and while that was years ago in Denver where he was forced to play Tim Tebow at quarterback, he seems a lot like Koetter, meaning he’s probably best suited to be a coordinator.
Fangio has never been a head coach and has never really been in the running for such a job until now, and the only reason he’s hot now is because the Bears defense just wrapped up its best season in years.
That alone tells you how weak the head coaching candidate pool really is. One good season for a career-long and seldom celebrated coordinator makes him a head coach candidate? Sorry, but I’ll pass.
Riley is 35 and on the rise in the college rankings, but he’s never coached in the NFL, which he says not interested in jumping to right now. Again, the fact his name is even on the list suggests this is a shallow pool.
McCarthy is an option because he’s available and he’s got the experience the Bucs need, but if you can’t make it work in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers, how are you going to make it work in Tampa Bay with Jameis Winston?
And then there’s Harbaugh, who has already said he plans to stay at Michigan for now. Now, it’s possible he could change his mind for the right job, but does anyone really think the Bucs are the right job?
There are other names out there, to be sure, and it’s possible the Bucs could pull off some miracle maneuver the way they did with Gruden and somehow pull Brian Kelly away from Notre Dame or Bill Cowher out retirement.
But barring just such a miracle, you get the feeling the Bucs would be firing Koetter just to fire Koetter and move on, which may not be the best reason to fire Koetter at all.
Granted, he’s failed as a head coach. He has at least since starting off his head coaching career with a 9-7 finish three years ago. But he is the architect of the franchise’s two most potent offenses (2015 and 2018).
Given where the NFL appears to be headed, it might make a lot of sense to hold on to a guy who seems capable of producing a playoff-caliber offense and simply arm him with the pieces to build a playoff-caliber defense.
And a kicker. Let’s not forget that much of the Bucs struggles this year stem from their confounding inability to find a kicker who can consistently make extra points and even routine field goals.
It may seem like a lot to some, but shoring up the defense, finding a competent kicker and bolstering the offensive line can all happen in an offseason, and if the Bucs do that 2019 could look a lot different than 2018.
It can if Koetter’s around. It could if someone else in charge, too, but a newcomer would likely seek to make even more changes, which could actually set the franchise back a year or two.
The bottom line here is this. There is no easy answer to the Koetter question. A good argument can be made for him to go and a good argument can be made for him to stay. Which will it be?
We can only wait and see.