Posted on December 29, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Dirk Koetter’s job as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is safe for at least one more year. Reports surfacing Friday indicate that the team has informed Koetter that he will not be fired after Sunday’s season finale and will return to coach the 2018 season. Koetter has led the Buccaneers the past two seasons with mixed results. However, despite a rough 2017 season, the Bucs have enough faith in Koetter to give him at least a third season at the helm to get the team to the playoffs.
Tampa Bay finished the 2016 season 9-7, coming up just a little short of a spot in the playoffs. Heading into 2017, some were predicting the Buccaneers to have a breakout season and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007. However, things did not pan out that way. The Bucs enter Week 17 at 4-11. There’s a chance that they end up being the only team in the NFC South not to reach the playoffs.
Of course, Tampa Bay’s struggles this year can’t be blamed entirely on Koetter. Quarterback Jameis Winston has missed time due to a shoulder injury. There have also been games in which he’s clearly been hampered by an ailing shoulder. That alone doesn’t excuse a 4-11 record heading into the final week of the regular season. But it may be enough to grant him an extra year.
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Despite reports of tension between Winston and Koetter, Tampa’s starting quarterback has been supportive of the head coach.
“He came in — then he was the OC — as the head coach, it has been kind of different, but Dirk is the man,” Winston said of Koetter earlier this week. “I think he has taught me a lot, especially just me playing quarterback. You just don’t understand that relationship in that quarterback room. We spend so much time together — me, him, Coach Mike Bajakian (and) those other quarterbacks — it’s like a family. Everybody has their different characteristics, but at the end of the day we all love each other.”
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, an important member of Tampa Bay’s defense, has also voiced his support of Koetter in recent days.
“Coach Koetter and (former Oklahoma head coach Bob) Stoops are on the same level to me for guys that I’ve played for,” said McCoy. “Just for who they are and what they’ve been to me and just how they are as coaches. I love Coach Koetter.
The fact that the Bucs will have Koetter back for another season comes as a surprise. There has been speculation that Koetter would be let go following the season. Meanwhile, there have been reports that current Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden was contemplating a return to coaching. In particular, Gruden is interested in becoming head coach of the Buccaneers. But if Koetter is coming back in 2018, the Buccaneers job will not be open for Gruden to take.
Of course, Koetter coming back in 2018 doesn’t necessarily equate to job security. Coming off a disappointing 2017 season, he will undoubtedly begin 2018 on the hot seat. If the Bucs don’t make a swift turnaround next season and compete for a playoff spot, Koetter will likely be fired. With the NFC South being arguably the best division in football, Koetter has his work cut out for him. Nevertheless, he should consider himself fortunate to be getting another chance next season.