When the Buccaneers promoted Dirk Koetter to head coach, it was an interesting move. Yes, it was expected, by everybody, but it still could be considered interesting. The fact is the Bucs were on the right track with Lovie Smith. The team went from two wins to six wins under his watch.
Don’t worry, I know why they made the move. I understand that his defensive system wasn’t working. But fact is we don’t see coaches relieved of their duties when the team improved by four games.
But we saw it here. And it’s a good thing that Jason Licht did it, because promoting Dirk Koetter was absolutely the right thing to do.
Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been perfect. We have documented his issues with time management many times, and they did loom large. The game against the Rams comes to mind as a big one, and that game was costly. He makes curious decisions in-game at times.
Which coach doesn’t? Even Bill Belichick famously lost to the Colts on a very curious decision to go for it on fourth down in his own end several years ago.
The offense did take a step back if you look at the numbers. They were ranked fifth last year but dropped to 17th in 2016. Surely that means Dirk was not the right guy, right?
This team fought through a lot. The injury list was enormous. At one time, Doug Martin, Charles Sims, Robert Ayers, Noah Spence, and Luke Stocker were all out of the lineup. Licht and Koetter were literally bringing guys in off of the street, aka Jacquizz Rodgers. Not that injuries are an excuse as every team has them, but with that many, is it any wonder the Bucs struggled out of the gate?
At 3-5 many thought the team was left for dead. Remember the clip of Jim Mora when he coached the Colts, saying “Playoffs?!!!” At the midway point of this season, if you told any Bucs fan that they would be in the playoff race, that is exactly how they would have reacted. Nobody thought this team was going to be relevant.
What happened? They stayed together, that’s what happened. They stuck with the program, got healthier, and won five in a row. Their game against the top team in the NFC was flexed! When are the Bucs ever flexed? They are now, under Dirk’s watch. The Bucs “sieged the day” and stormed back to relevance, so much so that they could still make the playoffs, though it is more than highly unlikely.
That program belongs to Dirk Koetter. He kept this team together. This team believed, you could see it in their eyes. A team that believes is something you cannot quantify in the stat sheets. When a team buys in, it creates magic that makes them better than they are. Dirk is creating that magic as we speak.