Every year, Rotoworld’s Patrick Daugherty ranks the NFL head coaches, from 1 to 32. He did so this year, too, and Dirk Koetter lands in a respectable but middle-of-the-road 17th place, up from unranked as a rookie coach last year.
The Bucs fired Lovie Smith to make then 56-year-old OC Dirk Koetter a first-time NFL head coach. It was a massive gamble on a man whose previous biggest accomplishment in football was back-to-back Big West titles in 1999-2000. At least in 2016, it worked. After a rocky start, Koetter continued to develop Jameis Winston, and coaxed a “bounce-back” campaign from third-year pro Mike Evans. Koetter wasn’t afraid to lead, benching an ineffective Doug Martin down the stretch even though he was in the first season of a five-year, $35.75 million contract. Most impressive of all was the way Koetter’s team finished, closing out the year 6-2 while allowing just 17 points per game. The hot streak included wins over Kansas City and Seattle. It all added up to Tampa’s first winning campaign since 2010, and genuine reason to be optimistic about one of the oldest rookies you will ever come across.
There’s a lot to be said about this — to what extent was the defensive success really his instead of Mike Smith’s, for instance, and how harsh should we be on his failure to lift the offense into higher spheres this season?
But what stands out to me is Dirk Koetter’s age. He’s 56 — people don’t often become first-time head coaches at that age. Pete Carroll, for instance, was 59 when he became the Seattle Seahawks head coach in 2010, but that was 16 years after he first became the New York Jets head coach.
That...doesn’t really mean much. We’ve seen old coaches succeed (Carroll) and fail (Chip Kelly). And while Koetter’s old, he’s certainly got at least a decade of coaching left — which, you know, suggests that his age isn’t exactly an imminent concern. It’s more of an interesting factoid.
Of course, these rankings are highly subjective and mostly reflect recent team success. Which is, of course, about the team’s head coach — but also about many other things, including personnel, coordinators, front office, luck, injuries and I don’t know what else. So this ranking doesn’t really mean much anyway. Like Koetter’s age, it’s just an interesting factoid.