The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a disappointing 5-11 2017 campaign, and will look to bounce back in 2018. While many fans have zero confidence in Head Coach Dirk Koetter, I happen to have quite a bit of faith in the third year head coach to right the ship, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Many fans wanted Dirk Koetter to be fired, but taking all things into consideration, Tampa Bay had a lot of distractions last season and the injury bug didn’t necessarily stay out of One Buc Place.
The team had suffered key injuries to a handful of starters including Jameis Winston, Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves III, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention Tampa Bay also had to play 16 straight games due to their week one matchup being postponed because of Hurricane Irma. Dirk Koetter could have been better last year and we all know that, but the team as a whole could have been much better, and I think Dirk Koetter was deserving of a third year from the Glazer Family. I’m sure some of you will stop reading this article at this very point because I am defending Dirk Koetter, but hear me out.
With the above circumstances mentioned, the Buccaneers still managed to have the 9th ranked offense in the National Football League averaging 363.5 YPG. Keep in mind that they averaged 363.5 YPG with absolutely no threat of a running game, and two rookie targets in Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard. The team also dealt with a shoulder injury to Jameis Winston that lasted from week 6 until week 13. The offensive line was one of the worst in the entire NFL for a good majority of the season, and lost Ali Marpet and Demar Dotson to season ending injuries midway through 2017. Those are just problems on the offensive side of the ball. All things considered, I give Koetter credit for finishing with the 9th ranked offense last season.
An area in which I think Koetter deserves a failing grade last season was the teams stats in PPG and red zone efficiency. The Buccaneers ranked 18th in PPG with 20.9. That is simply unacceptable and an area in which if the Buccaneers are to be successful in 2018, they need to improve. The offense also finished 24th in red zone efficiency at 49.06%. The Jacksonville Jaguars had the best red zone percentage at 68.97%. The Buccaneers need to focus on red zone efficiency because it has been a problem for many years, and the team hasn’t finished in the top 10 in red zone efficiency since the 2012 season.
The addition of Ryan Jensen to the offensive line gives them a nasty hard-nosed football player which should help in both pass protection and establishing a more effective run game. With Ali Marpet moving to left guard, Tampa Bay now has their three best run blockers in Jensen, Marpet and Donovan Smith on the left side of the offensive line. Tampa Bay is also expected to draft a running back early in the NFL draft which should help with the team’s threat of a running game, and will open up more play action passes inside the red zone.
It also wasn’t Dirk Koetter’s fault that the Tampa Bay defense ranked last in nearly every important category. The defense finished last in sacks, yards against per game, passing yards against per game and 3rd down percentage. Yes, he is the head coach, but Mike Smith controls the defense and Koetter has said himself in the past that he doesn’t spend much time on that side of the ball. I don’t put much of the blame at all on the failure of the defense on Koetter.
The Buccaneers have lost a lot of close games since Koetter took over the reigns from Lovie Smith in 2016. Tampa Bay is 7-12 in one score games since 2016, and that has to improve as well going into 2018. However, I believe an improved pass rush will help this team close out games in the fourth quarter. There is no excuse anymore for Gerald McCoy to not get a sack in the fourth quarter. He now has the help that he needs to make a Warren Sapp type of play to win a football game.
I truly believe that the Buccaneers performance at the end of the season, against all teams who were fighting for a playoff spot, sealed the envelope in terms of Koetter coming back this year. I commend the Glazer family for choosing consistency over constant change. I also see the side of the angry fans who wanted Koetter out the door. All I’m saying is give him a chance with an improved offensive and defensive line. Give him a second chance with all of the weapons in the same system.
It’s a “do or die” season for Koetter and company, and I have great faith in the coaching staff’s ability to turn this talented team into a playoff team.