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.
Bucs will face two former head coaches at once Sunday
On the surface, the Bucs matchup with the Falcons that has both teams sitting at 3 – 7 doesn’t appear to have a lot of intrigue or subplots However, it is history-making for Tampa Bay and for their opponent.
That’s because, for the first time In franchise history the Bucs will go against a team that has two of their former head coaches on the opposing sideline at the same time.
Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter (above) was previously Tampa Bay’s head coach from 2016 – 2018. He was fired at the end of last season after back-to-back 5 – 11 finishes. Koetter has returned to Atlanta, where he was the offensive coordinator prior to coming to the Buccaneers in the same role in 2015.
The Falcons offense had been struggling, as the team began the year 1-7, but has come on strong the last two weeks behind perennial Pro Bowl QB, Matt Ryan.
And, Tampa Bay will see another one of their former coaches, Raheem Morris, on Sunday in Atlanta, too. Morris has been switched in midseason to the new secondary coach for the Falcons. He had been serving as the wide receivers coach for the past few seasons under coach, Dan Quinn.
The move has already paid off, as Atlanta’s secondary has seen improved play, as has the defense overall, in back-to-back victories at New Orleans and that Carolina. In those two games since the switch was made, Atlanta has not allowed a touchdown in either.
Morris was the Bucs head coach from 2009 – 11 and is the last coach to have a 10-win season for Tampa Bay. That came in 2010 when the Buccaneers finished 10 – 6. Greg Schiano, and Lovie Smith were both fired after two losing Seasons at the helm. Then, Koetter actually had a winning season at 9 -7 in 2016, but then the team regressed.
For his part, the new Falcons offensive coordinator said to the media this week that he will approach this game with his most recent team, as just any other game. And, that he’s actually a fan of Jameis Winston’s “except for the two games out of the year.” Those would be the ones where, they play Atlanta starting now.
Morris has kept a low profile and hasn’t had much to say, but his defense has done the talking the last two games.
If you are wondering, the last time the Bucs faced a former head coach before this weekend was in 2003. That’s when they very famously suffered a 21-point fourth-quarter collapse and lost to Tony Dungy (whom they had fired two years before), Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in overtime on Monday Night Football.
As for Winston, he currently leads the NFL with 18 interceptions and despite having thrown for 300 yards or more in each of the last five games for the Buccaneers, they have only won one of them.
So now, the pressure will be on for he and his teammates to try to get back on the winning track in a hostile Mercedes-Benz Stadium with two of their former coaches staring back at them.
Bucs coordinator Leftwich defended his offense Thursday
On the heels of a 34 – 17 defeat to the Saints that dropped the Bucs to 3 – 7, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich had his weekly scheduled media session Thursday. And, he did his best in trying to defend some of their shortcomings they’ve had.
"We’re trying to win every time we go out, and whatever the situation holds within the game, we’re going to do that to try to win the football game.”
➡️: OC Byron Leftwich pic.twitter.com/icf5qLsDNP
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 21, 2019
Most interestingly were when the subjects of the Bucs lack of run game balance came up and the struggles with Jameis Winston’s interceptions.
First on the lack of mixing the run (Tampa Bay ran it only six times with running backs in Sunday’s defeat) Leftwich told the media,
“We were just down early (13-0 in the first quarter). When you’re trying to win the game when it’s like that? You’re not going to have a lot of rushing attempts in that situation. It’s just how the game went.”
Still, the lack of a consistent run game has been obvious all year for Tampa Bay, and it also hinders them wanting to use play action passing.
Next, when he was pressed about Winston’s career-high 18 interceptions through 10 games, Leftwich deflected off of that by saying,
“I think we’re better as a whole…We’re trying to win football games. We’re doing things to put ourselves in the best position to win football games. When that doesn’t happen, it allows you guys (the media) to have this conversation, right? But, if we’re winning football games, it’s different, because all the numbers are not bad, right? …It’s just what you choose to pick. We got to have awareness on where we are not as good and try to improve on that.”
Some of the numbers are good, as Winston has thrown for 300+ yards, five games in a row, which is Tampa Bay record. And, WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are at the top of the NFL in combined receptions and yards.
As we wrote earlier this week, it’s the first time that coach Bruce Arians has not called the plays while being an offensive coordinator and a head coach over the course of the last 15 years in the NFL. And, there are many wondering if he shouldn’t take back over the play-calling down the stretch of this season?
For his part Leftwich made it clear in a joking manner that Arians has not let him know that anything is wrong, but that he would if he did feel that way,
“I know if he felt I was doing something wrong, he’d let me know. (Laughing) if he (Arians) felt something wasn’t going the right way, he’d let me know. That, I know.”
The Bucs head into Atlanta with a Falcons team that has stifled the Saints and the Panthers in back-to-back games, holding each without a TD. And, it will be a challenge for Leftwich, Winston, the Run game and the offense as a whole, to get it done this week.
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