Dirk Koetter has been named the next head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as reported by the team’s official website. The Bucs will make the announcement official at a press conference scheduled for Friday afternoon. ESPN reported that both sides were putting the finishing touches on Koetter’s contract Thursday evening. Koetter will become the 11th coach in franchise history, replacing Lovie Smith, who was fired just last week.
The decision to fire Smith came as a head-scratcher around the league. He was let go after just his second season in charge despite a four-win improvement from his first year, with a rookie quarterback who started from day one no less. The decision to replace Smith with Dirk Koetter was not that surprising a move, however, as Tampa Bay’s front office seemed to believe Koetter was most responsible for the turn-around on offense. Koetter had just wrapped up his first season as the team’s offensive coordinator, receiving a ringing endorsement from Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer.
“Dirk has established himself as one of the top offensive coaches in our game while enjoying success at every stop during his college and NFL career. His success with our offense last season, along with his familiarity with our players and our organization, makes Dirk the right man to lead our team moving forward.”
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht echoed Glazer’s compliments, agreeing that Dirk Koetter was the right fit at the right time.
“When I started this search for a new head coach, the focus was on finding someone that could be a strong leader as well as a consummate teacher, and Dirk is both. He brings the passion and drive that will re-energize our organization and help us establish the winning culture that will help us become the championship-caliber team that our fans deserve.”
Dirk Koetter will become an NFL head coach for the first time in his career, after serving as an offensive coordinator since 2007 with the Jaguars, Falcons, and Bucs. However, he did serve as a head coach at the college level, both with Boise State and Arizona State, before being lured to the NFL. It appeared evident that Koetter was on a very short list to replace Lovie Smith when Licht was originally asked about his OC at a press conference a day after the Smith firing:
“I think any coordinator, quarterback coach in that role with a quarterback, particularly Jameis, a young quarterback, that’s an important bond. That’s a strong bond that they need to have. That was present.”
Licht was referring to Jameis Winston, the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, who took over as the starting quarterback almost immediately and will be in the running for the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Dirk Koetter helped guide Winston to throw for more than 4,000 yards, only the third rookie qb to do so. The Bucs finished the year 17th in passing and fifth in rushing, resulting in an offense that was the fifth best in football. Compare that to 2014 and a team that was near the bottom at 30th overall.
Dirk Koetter’s imprint on the offense was certainly felt, as aside from the passing and rushing improvements, the young offensive line tied for the fourth fewest sacks allowed. It’s the defense that Koetter and his staff will need to make a priority this offseason and in the draft. Under defensive-minded head coach Lovie Smith, the Bucs allowed 26 points per game, which ranked 26th in the NFL.
Koetter’s only other head-coaching interview came with the San Francisco 49ers who hired Chip Kelly on Thursday. The Dolphins and Eagles both sought permission to speak with Koetter, but ultimately decided to go in other directions. Aside from Koetter, the Buccaneers interviewed Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
[Feature Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]