The 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2018 season is quickly approaching. With training camp starting next week, here is reason number three in the “Reasons to Believe in the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers”.
It was the last game of a very disillusioned season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 4-11, with one last game to play against the New Orleans Saints who were on the cusp of winning the NFC South. All they had to do was win. The week leading up to that game, the Glazers made the decision to retain Dirk Koetter as head coach.
Not a whole lot went right for the Buccaneers that game. Star quarterback Jameis Winston had thrown three interceptions, Pat Murray had missed an extra point earlier in the game, the special teams gave up a 106 yard kickoff return. After all that happening, the Buccaneers were only down by one point.
The Buccaneers offense moved the ball down the field in a hurry, no timeouts left, and the game clock was at 15 seconds when the ball was snapped. Jameis Winston threw a beautiful ball to rookie wide receiver Chris Godwin, who had been playing most of that game with an injured ankle, who then catches the ball and drags the defender into the end zone.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the season finale.
The Buccaneers were down 1 point. All that was really needed, was a quick 5 yard pass to get out of bounds and then have the kicking unit come out onto the field to attempt the game winning kick. Koetter said the hell with that and called a play that the opponent would not be expecting and put it all on the line.
Reason 3: Dirk Koetter
Many fans and media called for Koetter to be fired after one losing season in his second year of coaching. Fans wanted Koetter to be replaced by Jon Gruden because they had lost faith and trust in Koetter.
I did not share that opinion, in fact only a handful of people shared my opinion.
Let’s not forget his first season in 2016, when the Buccaneers went 9-7 and beat quality teams. For instance, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons made a trip to the Super Bowl that year (que the 28-3 t-shirts). That season wasn’t smoke and mirrors. There are reasons why Koetter won in 2016 and there are many reasons why he can return the 2018 Buccaneers to victory.
First, I need to get this off my chest. Bringing back Jon Gruden would have been a mistake and a costly mistake at that. The Buccaneers would have had to pay Gruden 10 million dollars a year for the next 10 years. All guaranteed.
Gruden hasn’t coached in the last ten years and he only observed the games by the booth. The NFL is different now than it was 10 years ago and trust me, there will be adjustments Gruden will have to make. With that being said, how many winning seasons did Gruden have in his six years in Tampa?
Look at what Gruden is doing now in Oakland. He is already imposing his power and pushing the general manager, who has built the team the last few years, all but out the door. Gruden has never been known for great evaluation of talent and that hasn’t changed.
Look at his most recent draft.
Gruden never developed a quarter back the entire time he was in Tampa Bay. He relied on veteran quarterbacks like Brad Johnson, Brian Griese, and Jeff Garcia. He never developed Chris Simms or Bruce Gradkowski.
That is not someone who I would trust with a young quarterback like Winston. I will forever be grateful to Jon Gruden for bringing this franchise a Super Bowl, but it was time for the Buccaneers and the fans to move on from Gruden.
Enough about Gruden, back to Koetter.
The players respect Koetter and rave about how honest and straightforward he is. This is one of the most important qualities a coach can posses. Players have to trust in the coach’s system. Trust in his process and trust in him as a human being. That trust was never broken between the players and Koetter, which was the biggest reason why he was brought back as the head football coach.
The opening scenario was a depiction of the last game of the season coming off a four game losing streak. Keep in mind that all four of those games were lost by seven points or less, which validates the point that they never once gave up on Koetter.
The Buccaneers never gave up and they fought hard the entire game. They didn’t just throw in the towel and start thinking about their vacation the following week. They wanted to show the world who the Buccaneers really are and they wanted to win for Coach Koetter.
Making the Right Moves
This offseason has been quite impressive from the draft to free agency, to the trade with the Giants.
As a fan, it is always easy to say this and that person needs to go, but when you’re a coach, it is not an easy move to make. Some are more obvious than others.
The point is Koetter can make those tough decisions because he has to do what is right for the rest of the football team. Think back to 2016 for a moment. During the off-season workouts, Koetter sent Austin Sefarian-Jenkins home when he came to practice and looked lost.
Later that season, Sefarian-Jenkins ended up getting a DUI and Koetter sent him home packing. Although many fans are asking why the Buccaneers released a second round pick, it was overall for the betterment of the football team.
Bringing in the right Coaches
There were some other moves that needed to be made specifically to the coaching staff. Jason Licht and Dirk Koetter recognized the weakness on their team and made and effort to fix it. Early on in the off-season there were questions about how many of the assistant coaches would be brought back.
For a while it looked like all coaches would be brought back when their options were picked up. Until Licht and Koetter fired the defensive line coach Jay Hayes and replaced him with a Brenston Buckner. It didn’t stop there.
Koetter promoted the Wide Receivers Coach/Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken to full-time Offensive Coordinator, which in turn left a vacancy later filed by Skyler Fulton.
Moving the ball
Last season many fans were calling for Koetter to give up play calling. That’s something Koetter admittedly contemplated in the off-season, but he also did not want to give it up temporarily. He wanted to be sure that once he gave it up, it would be gone for good.
Part of the game is strategy, and being a play caller, you have to be able to come up with a good strategy. Each play is a chess match and only one side will win. The Buccaneers offense could move the ball effectively down the field almost at will.
In fact, they were eight in the league in that category, but the issue was when they got in the red zone. The Buccaneers’ offense seemed to stall which in return gave them the 22nd ranking in scoring.
I got news for you. Most offenses go through that same struggle as well. Naturally, the field shrinks and defensive players don’t give up a ton of space which is why it is harder to score in the red zone.
Red Zone Blues
Mike Bajakian earlier this off-season had made a comment during one of the press conferences stating, “When I looked at the tape to see what other teams were doing in the red zone, I expected to see some new wrinkles and that just wasn’t the case. Most teams were running the same exact plays as we were running but they were just able to execute.”
He was right. Most of the red zone issues were because of failed execution and not play calling. Many times last season we heard the same thing from both the coaches and the players.
One of my theories as to why the Buccaneers couldn’t execute in the red zone was the inability to run the ball consistently or effectively. Koetter has made it a point this off-season to be more committed to running the ball this year by drafting Ronald Jones II. Jones along with an improved offensive line should help the run game tremendously.
The Right Mentality
The theme of this offseason was to bring in players with the right mentality and Koetter and Licht have done a fantastic job of doing just that. They wanted players who were mentally and physically tough, players who knew how to work hard, and players who had goals to better themselves.
These were players that were going to show up and give it their all in practice and during game day. A prime example would be Jason Pierre-Paul who two years ago seriously injured his off his hand in a firework incident and still played 92 percent of the snaps. That 92 percent included 8.5 sacks.
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Christian Worthen has been a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 22 years. He currently is a contributor/writer for Full Press Coverage Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To see more of his work or the work by Full Press Coverage follow @FPC_Buccanners on Twitter.