Big news dropped Monday inside the walls of One Buc Place as the Buccaneers announced the firing of defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
It was simply time for the team to make a change. It wasn’t going to get any better, in fact, it was only getting worse as each week progressed. Linebackers coach Mark Dufner will serve as the interim DC for the remainder of the season.
It was a tough thing for head coach Dirk Koetter to do and something that he never thought he was going to have to do. Smith and Koetter go way back with each other and have a great friendship. It’s never easy to fire someone, but to fire your longtime friend is even tougher and Koetter acknowledged that today.
“Second most difficult, but it’s difficult when you have to let a practice squad player go. Mike and I worked together in Jacksonville as coordinators and I worked for Mike in Atlanta,” Koetter said. “I didn’t ever see this day coming, but it’s here. We have to make decisions that we think give us the best chance for our football team moving forward. That’s all you can do.”
There should be no guilt or regret on Koetters part because he gave Mike Smith three years to fix this defense and each year it got worse and worse. Koetter realized today that if he doesn’t make a change, he may be the next one out the door. When asked if it was solely his decision to fire Smith, Koetter gave a short “yes” in response.
Some may we wondering why now? The team did have a bye week and could’ve gave Dufner an extra week to prepare and get things in order. It’s a fair point, but at the end of the day I think Koetter believed the bye week would help Smitty and the defense. Koetter expanded on why the decision didn’t come before the bye week.
“Well, because we were going into the Bye Week. We’ve had quite a few things injury-wise not work out the way we had originally planned. I thought it was important that both sides of the ball be able to go through the self-scouting process during the Bye Week and see if we could make some adjustments that would help us play better as a football team,” Koetter said. “I do think that we had a good plan on defense for Atlanta. We did a lot of things that we had planned to do. We did some things differently, but it just didn’t work out that way. This is a production business and we have to play better on defense. We have to play better as a football team, but we have to play better on defense.”
Obviously a change at coordinator can result in a few things. It can either get worse (that’s actually not possible with this team), stay the same, or even get better, but player reactions are also a factor that has to be taken into account and Koetter wasn’t entirely sure how his team would react.
“I’m not sure. You know, I’m not sure. They just found out at the team meeting earlier today, so I’m not sure. They understand that it’s a production business and there’s guys in that room that I’ve cut before – that we’ve cut as a football team. Some that we’ve cut, some that we’ve brought back. I think everyone understands what kind of business this is.”
Believe it or not, the defensive players loved Smith and were trying to buy into what he was selling, but it unfortunately didn’t work out that way. The players should take this extremely personal because it wasn’t just Mike Smith. Linebacker Lavonte David alluded today that the whole team loves Coach Dufner and they are excited about the energy he brings. They need to start playing like it because sooner or later, each and every player on that defense will be held accountable.