Bucs fans should rejoice.
The team looks like they have found the quarterback they have so desperately needed for so long. Jameis Winston is having a pretty decent rookie season, passing for 3,422 yards and 20 touchdowns. He is one of the favorites if not the favorite to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Of course, a lot has to do with Winston's passing abilities. His confidence, arm strength and ability to make plays has the Buccaneers playing much better football this season. Last year, the team was 2-14. This year, the team has won four more games than last season, and have a chance at avoiding a losing rercord for the first time since 2010.
Another reason why Winston is playing well is because his offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, is a maestro when it comes to working with quarterbacks. He did it in Atlanta with Matt Ryan. He did it in Jacksonville with David Garrard. And he did it in college at Boise State with Bart Hendricks and Arizona State with Andrew Walter.
Koetter is good at what he does.
Despite injuries to key offensive weapons Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Buccaneers have played well, and even though they lost to St. Louis on Thursday night, the Buccaneers are one of the most improved teams in the NFL.
Koetter told Sports Talk Florida it's good to play your backup players.
"One thing about injuries, as you are forced to play other players even it's only for a couple games, it builds your depth," Koetter said. "It forces you to play those guys and then after they've played they figure out, 'Hey, yeah we can play."
Making quarterbacks better is just what Koetter does. In 2007, after he and Arizona State parted ways, he became the offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. During his tenure with the Jags, David Garrard became a Pro Bowler in 2009. The team also made the playoffs in 2007, finishing 11-5 and making it to the second round of the playoffs, where they fell to the New England Patriots.
After Jacksonville, Koetter moved to the Atlanta Falcons, where he helped Matt Ryan continue to become one of the premier passers in the game, making the Pro Bowl in 2012 and 2014. After Dan Quinn took over the reigns in Atlanta, Koetter decided he was ready for a new challenge, running the offense in Tampa Bay.
The 2014 Buccaneers offense was in a state of disarray. Newly hired offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford suffered major heart problems, and was unable to perform his duties. The team handed off to Marcus Arroyo, but he couldn't put the offense back on the rails. The running game suffered due to the injuries suffered by Doug Martin, and the team couldn't get the passing game going as well. Josh McCown struggled most of the season. Mike Glennon stepped in, but he couldn't cure what ailed the Bucs offense either.
Enter Dirk Koetter.
At the beginning of this year, Winston was in learning mode, trying to just avoid hungry defenses looking to sack the young Florida State passer. But as the season has progressed, Winston has really improved his game, including an incredible performance on November 22nd against Philadelphia, tossing 5 touchdowns and 0 interceptions as Tampa Bay crushed the Eagles 45-17. Last week, against a tough Rams defense, Winston showed no fear, throwing for 363 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Bucs staged a comeback against St. Louis, but just couldn't finish it in the end.
But it's just not Winston who has revitalized the Buccaneers offense.
Of course, Doug Martin is having a comeback season for the ages, running for 1,305 yards and 5 TD's. After a couple of seasons plagued by injury, Martin looks like the Doug Martin of 2012, and is a lock for his second Pro Bowl appearance.
Charles Sims has shown flashes of brilliance, both rushing and receiving. Rookie Adam Humphries has stepped up, including catching 6 balls for 60 yards in the Bucs 31-23 loss to St. Louis on Thursday. All this, despite injuries to Jackson, Seferian-Jenkins, Louis Murphy and their protection like Logan Mankins, Ali Marpet, Evan Smith and Demar Dotson.
Koetter is making chicken you-know-what into chicken salad.
Even though this team's playoff chances this year are slim to none (as I'm writing this on Sunday, the Vikings are beating Chicago, and Seattle hasn't played yet), there's no doubt that this team will be a playoff team in the very near future. If they can sign Martin, improve the receiving corps a little, and sign some offensive line help, this team could win 10 games or more next year.
And if they are going to do it, Dirk Koetter will be one of the integral pieces of that puzzle.
He makes things happen.