Dirk Koetter took to the podium on Wednesday for his last press conference of the 2015 season.
The first-year Tampa Bay offensive coordinator – responsible for turning last season’s 30th ranked unit into the seventh in 2015, all while having a rookie quarterback and several other first-year players – addressed a range of topics at One Buc Place. From the progression of Jameis Winston to the regression of the offense the past three weeks to his 2016 wish list, the straight-shooting Koetter was candid and detailed in every response.
Starting with Winston, the offensive coordinator-quarterback relationship has left Tampa Bay with a lot of hope for the future. Under Koetter’s guidance, Winston has thrown for 3,849 yards – third most for a rookie in NFL history behind Andrew Luck and Cam Newton – and 23 touchdowns, which is just three less than Peyton Manning, who threw 26 in 1998. Though, Manning also threw a rookie-record 28 interceptions, whereas Winston has just 13, seven of which were thrown in the first four games. In short, Winston’s progression and command of the system has been evident and Koetter deserves a great deal of credit.
The OC was asked what impresses him the most about Jameis Winston 15 games into his young career.
“Number one, his resiliency,” Koetter said. “This guy [has had] ups and downs, some incredible downs, where you would think he would be really in the tank. He’s got a really unique ability, we’ve said it many times, to put the last play behind him, put the last game behind him and move on to the next play. That is a huge characteristic to have. Then his toughness. Even though our sack numbers are good, Jameis has taken a lot of hits and he gets up. He’s scared me a few times on the sideline. I’d say, ‘Hey, are you okay?’ and he is tough as nails. That is also something you need in this league. His resiliency and his toughness are probably the things that have impressed me the most.”
While Koetter isn’t one to take credit for his own performance or talk about the offense’s considerable improvement since his arrival, he had no trouble making a case for his quarterback for Rookie of the Year.
“Let me preface this by saying to those other candidates how extremely biased I am. With that said, I’ll do my politicking right now,” Koetter said. “When you have a guy that touches the ball every single offensive snap of the season, that guy is going to be really tough to beat. Not one other guy that you mentioned has touched the ball every snap of the season. You look at everything Jameis has done; his numbers for a rookie quarterback are pretty darn good. Obviously, he has had his ups and downs. Like I said, the three other guys you mentioned [Marcus Mariota, Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley], I have a ton of respect for all three of them, but for a guy to play every snap in his rookie season and to do the things that Jameis has done, to me that’s a no-brainer.”
Of course, Winston is hardly the only player on offense who’s had a promising season. Doug Martin, who’s in the final year of his rookie contract, had arguably the best season for any Buccaneer in 2015. The fourth-year pro has rushed for 1,354 yards, ranking him second in the league behind Adrian Peterson and needing just 101 yards this Sunday to surpass his rookie season mark set in 2012.
Koetter would love to see Martin back in pewter and red next season, but understands the reality of the business and the aspects out of his control.
“I’ll lobby hard,” Koetter said, speaking also of Vincent Jackson who he called ‘the glue of the passing game.’ “The guys that make that decision, they’ll make the decision that’s best for the Bucs. I mean heck, as a coach you want all your guys back. It’s hard to say goodbye to anybody. Reality is after next Monday it’s never going to be the same. There’s going to be turnover, that’s just reality. It’s hard, but I told the guys the other day, coming off a hard loss to Chicago, I can never get mad at the guys in our room. I can get mad at them in the short term, but those guys have given us effort this year. They have played hard, they’ve play physical every game. There isn’t one game that we didn’t play physical enough or we didn’t play hard enough. We made plenty of other mistakes that have hurt our football team and have hurt our chances to win, but when your guys are playing hard and playing physical, it’s hard to stay mad at them for too long. Even though some of the faces are going to change, I would lobby for all those guys. That’s the coach in you. People with higher titles than me have to make harder decisions about personnel.”
And finally, what has gone wrong for the offense as of late? Since improving to 6-6 and being in legitimate playoff contention, Tampa Bay has seen its offense stall during the three-game skid. Sure, the defense didn’t help its case but flat starts and a third-down conversion rate of under 40 percent plagued the once-surging unit.
Along with cleaning up procedural penalties and limiting turnovers (the Bucs have had five turnovers in three games), Koetter emphasized the need to improve on third down in 2016. Once leading the league in third-down efficiency, the Bucs have converted a combined 9 of 29 times on the money down since Week 14.
“The last three weeks we’ve been 36, 30 and 25 percent,” Koetter said. “In the last three games you combine five turnovers with not converting your third downs, there’s your answer. I think we had 10 possession in the game the other day against Chicago. One of them was a one-play possession on the blocked punt. We had three turnovers, so that’s four of your 10 possessions. We had another third-down we converted and got a penalty, there’s five of your 10 that you’re not giving yourself a chance. That’s beating yourself. That’s the number one thing that’s hurting us right now, we talk about it all the time, is turnovers and third downs.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Again, the problem is not with the Offensive Coordinator; the problem is the Defensive Coordinator who should be fired.
I’m not a hater, but both CD’s should be gone. Don’t care who comes as DC, keep the OC & get on with it….
but both DC’s should be gone…. corrected!!!
Correction PR, NFL stats has Winston with 13 INT’s.
I’m for firing the DC and keeping the head coach. LOL.
I hope the Bucs don’t fire anyone. Hasn’t everyone learned this lesson. Stick with the coaches. Look at the teams that have succeeded. They keep their coaches through thick and thin.
I think Lovie needs one more year to get the guys he needs to play his style of football. It doesn’t happen in just 2 years. That first year the roster was still full of Shiano’s players. This year Lovie got some of his style of players, but I’m sure not the ones he really wanted, and there was an improvement. If there isn’t a greater improvement next year, then I think people would be justified in calling for his job. But any coach needs at least 3 years. The first two years your still dealing with a lot of turnovers, and leftovers from the previous regime. The third year should tell the tale.
I want to add, we also need to look at the fact that in reality only the offense has got any real attention for improvement. Which was a dire need, and the improvement worked. Now we need to see what Lovie can do with the defense. It’s been nothing but patchwork the first two years and anyone who knows football knows that really never works unless your already a top notch defense and just missing a piece or two. Which we wern’t and still are not there.
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