The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired Dirk Koetter after a week-long search that limited itself to just two other candidates, at least as far as the public knows. There are reasons why the Bucs focused on Koetter from the start, and why general manager Jason Licht settled on him in the end. Let's go through five of them.
This is the main reason. Winston had a terrific rookie season, albeit not a perfect one, and Koetter's offensive design had a lot to do with that. Winston completed 312 of 535 attempts for 4,042 yards, 22 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and just 27 sacks. Given the importance of continuity early in quarterbacks' careers, keeping the same coach in charge of the offense was likely a major reason to hire Koetter. General manager Jason Licht said as much in his post-Lovie Smith firing press conference.
"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."
The Bucs offense was arguably the best in team history. Not that the team has had many successful offensive seasons, but they set a record in terms of yardage, Doug Martin had arguably the best season of his career, and managed to march up and managed to get receivers wide open down the field multiple times per game. And they did all that despite starting two rookies and a street free agent on the offensive line.
One caveat: the Bucs struggled to score in the red zone throughout the year, putting up just 342 points, ranked 20th in the NFL. That's the key thing Koetter will have to work on this offseason, at least on that side of the ball.
One impressive season in the building
"He’s put a good resume in front of him for this year," Licht said last week. "Historically the best offense we’ve had here in Tampa Bay. He’s a good communicator. He’s done great things with Jameis. There’s a lot of good football coaches out there. Dirk’s one of them."
The Bucs had a year to work with Dirk Koetter, and he left an impression. Not just in the results, but the way he went about his business. That much was obvious in his press conferences. As much as they don't really matter, he was clear and detailed in his answers throughout the year, and very comfortable in front of the media. He managed to convey his enthusiasm about football -- something most coaches struggle to do at the podium. If he was the same way inside the building, and most indications are that he was, that's a big reason to keep him.
His players love him
We saw universal praise for Koetter from his players this season, though that's not necessarily surprising: no one's going to slag the person who's keeping them employed and on the field. But it was obvious when Lovie Smith was fired too, with tight end Brandon Myers tweeting that Koetter has "been the man since he walked in the door." That's extra surprising given that Myers was inactive for the final quarter of the season and is extremely unlikely to be retained this offseason.
Dirk has been the man since he walked in the door— Brandon Myers (@myersb83) January 7, 2016
A long track record of NFL success
Dirk Koetter has had a long track record of NFL success. Since entering the league in 2007 he's consistently had productive offenses, regardless of the personnel involved. He helped David Garrard and Matt Ryan have career years, and only Blaine Gabbert could stop his offenses from being at least average.
Of course, there's one caveat here: he has been a head coach before -- in college. He did a good job at Boise State, going 26-10 and winning two Humanitarian bowls. But he struggled at Arizona State, going 40-34 in six seasons with just two minor bowl wins before being fired -- and a slew of off-field problems. Still, that was a decade ago and I'm sure he's learned from that experience.
It's rare for a successful coordinator not to get a head coaching job after a few years of success, and Koetter's had nearly a decade of success before he got one. Now he'll finally get to prove his worth at that position in the NFL.