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Dirk Koetter needs to find a defensive coordinator now

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Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Dirk Koetter is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new head coach, or about to be at least. That means the Bucs will almost certainly retain most of the offensive coach, if not all of it -- even though most of the hires were Lovie Smith's and came in before Koetter did last year. The big changes are going to have to come on defense: the Bucs fired or let the contracts expire of the entire defensive coaching staff, except for linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson and defensive line coach Joe Cullen.

Koetter's first big move will be finding a defensive coordinator to revamp the defense and finalize the defensive coaching staff. Mike Smith is the only name we've heard as a possible candidate, which makes sense: he was the Falcons' head coach when Koetter was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta, and the two worked together in Jacksonville in 2007, so the two have a history together. Smith also runs a 4-3 defense, albeit one with more 3-4 influences than most -- he had Mike Nolan install essentially a hybrid defense during the final three years in Atlanta. Smith could also help Koetter adjust to being an NFL head coach, given his own success in that role, while having the network necessary to bring in quality defensive assistants.

Mike Nolan himself might also be a candidate given Koetter's history, while Jim Schwartz is available as an experienced 4-3 coordinator. Koetter worked with Mel Tucker in Jacksonville too. Tucker's currently Georgia's defensive coordinator after winning a national title as Alabama's defensive backs coach.

Regardless of who Koetter decides on as his defensive coordinator, though, this hire will be absolutely essential. The Bucs have been a defensive-minded organization whenever they've been successful, though that's going to change with Koetter in charge and Jameis Winston running a very promising offense. But defense is still crucial, and the Bucs have a number of talented players alongside a slew of needs in the secondary and at defensive end. Finding a coach who can turn that side of the ball into a contributor rather than a liability will be essential for a potential playoff run in 2016.

And make no mistake: the expectation for the Bucs next season will be a playoff spot. That, after all, is why they fired Lovie Smith in the first place.