TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' decision to retain head coach Dirk Koetter might not be a popular move with fans, but it brings some organizational consistency, particularly surrounding quarterback Jameis Winston, despite a 4-11 record with one game remaining in 2017.
The Bucs' previous two head coaches -- Greg Schiano and Lovie Smith -- were fired after two seasons. Schiano was put in a bad predicament with quarterback Josh Freeman, who was dealing with some personal issues at the time, and Smith didn't even have an offensive coordinator for his first year because Jeff Tedford was forced to take a leave of absence due to health issues. Yet both were still given the ax.
It appears the Glazer family, which owns the team, has learned an organization can't build much by changing head coaches every two years, and the changing philosophies that come with it. There's also a danger in changing too many variables at once. If you get rid of a head coach and a defensive coordinator and have significant roster turnover, you never isolate the problem and you often create new ones.
But in Koetter's case, has what he's done warranted another year?
His offense has been stagnant from a points-scoring standpoint, averaging between 18 to 20 offensive points per game for the three years he's been calling plays in Tampa. Yes, some of that boils down to execution and that part is on the players. But he's also struggled with clock management, even with a designated game-management assistant, and it's impacted his ability to call plays, a belief that is held by some within the organization.
His red zone package has also come under scrutiny. He'd be wise to get more input from his staff in this department as multiple assistant coaches around the league believe that it's one of the more predictable ones in the league. He admitted at the end of last season that he was seriously considering giving up playcalling duties to focus more of this time and energy on being a head coach. He continued to call plays in 2017, though.
His staff also has struggled with in-game adjustments on both sides of the ball and often didn't make the necessary ones until it was too late, if at all. It was telling that they attempted 14 different coverages in Week 12 in an attempt to stop Julio Jones, and the Atlanta Falcons receiver still finished the game with 12 catches for 253 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The following week, the Minnesota Vikings had Xavier Rhodes on Jones for much of the game and Rhodes held him to two catches for 24 receiving yards.
In the past few weeks, Koetter hasn't had much control of his players, either, with Winston having an uncontrollable outburst at the end of the Bucs' 22-19 loss to the Carolina Panthers in which several teammates and staffers attempted to restrain him. Then, there was a shouting match that broke out in the locker room after the game involving Winston, Kwon Alexander and Chris Baker.
Winston was also fined for his role in a sideline altercation in Week 9 with Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore in which Mike Evans then came to Winston's defense and hurled his body into Lattimore, resulting in a one-game suspension. One could say those incidents were the result of frustrations from losing, but it wasn't a good look from two of the team's most popular players, and that falls on the head coach.
What has been promising is that the past four weeks, they've lost either in overtime or by a field goal. So players are still competing hard, even as the roster has dwindled due to injuries. Winston also has turned in two of the highest quarterback ratings of his career the past two weeks, showing something to build on.
While Koetter's been retained, the verdict is still out as to whether defensive coordinator Mike Smith will return. After all, his defense arguably played a bigger role in the Bucs' five-game win streak in 2016. It's taken several steps back in 2017, however. Questions also remain as to what happened with Jon Gruden, as multiple league sources believed the Bucs were poised to make a push to lure him away from his ESPN Monday Night Football job.