Every time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hire a new head coach, expectations among fans get higher. And head coaches have failed to reach those expectations every year since the Bucs hired Jon Gruden. Will this year be different? Don Banks of Sports Illustrated ranked the new head coaches by how likely they are to make the playoffs, and Dirk Koetter comes in second behind Chip Kelly.
The Bucs sacked Lovie Smith and elevated Koetter from offensive coordinator because they loved his developmental work with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, and that relationship alone gives Tampa Bay reason to have legitimate playoff hopes next season. The Bucs were 6-6 and looking dangerous before running out of gas in December, but there are young playmakers on both sides of the ball in Tampa Bay.
Winston threw for more than 4,000 yards at the helm of Tampa Bay's offense, which ranked fifth in the league, and with a strong Doug Martin-led running game (he's a free agent who wants to re-sign in Tampa Bay), the Bucs have a pretty solid formula to build on in 2016. I love Koetter's hiring of defensive coordinator Mike Smith, the former Falcons coach who knows how to teach and motivate a defense. Lovie Smith's defense had started to look outdated, but Mike Smith has a lot to work with on his side of the ball. It also helps that Tampa Bay plays in the NFC South, where only Carolina is a true NFC power.
Shorter Banks: Koetter has a quarterback.
Sometimes it feels like people have forgotten how crucial that is to winning actual NFL games. 'cause I see extremely little talk about this simple fact when it comes to the Bucs, even though the rest of the offseason talk is basically all quarterbacks -- in the draft, in free agency, and in re-signings. We're at the point where Kirk Cousins is about to be franchise tagged and Sam Bradford is going to get a third go at being a franchise QB somewhere. Having Jameis Winston quarterbacking your team is a big deal.
Of course, there are other reasons to believe the Bucs will make the playoffs. They have talent at most positions, Mike Smith is an experienced coordinator, their coaching staff looks good and they have to stop being horrible at some point, right? But that wouldn't be nearly enough to make the playoffs without Winston.