Dirk Koetter

Raiders To Pursue Jon Gruden

Now that the Buccaneers are expected to retain Dirk Koetter as their head coach in 2018 (though Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk thinks that Tampa Bay could easily reverse course in that regard), the Raiders are upping the ante in their pursuit of Jon Gruden. Gruden, of course, previously served as head coach of Tampa Bay and Oakland, though his name has been more heavily connected to the Buccaneers in recent weeks.

Jon Gruden (vertical)

But ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Raiders are preparing to pursue Gruden with an offer so strong that it could include an ownership stake in the team. Schefter adds that Gruden, currently an ESPN analyst, will be tempted to accept the offer, though he would prefer to wait until the regular season concludes and Oakland formally makes a decision on current head coach Jack Del Rio.

There are complications to a potential reunion. For instance, if Raiders owner Mark Davis does indeed offer Gruden an ownership stake, the contract would need to be approved by all 32 owners and the league finance committee, and such approval could be difficult to attain, as ownership would not want to set a precedent. Furthermore, Del Rio and Gruden are represented by the same agent, Bob LaMonte.

Nonetheless, one has to figure that if the Raiders want Gruden, and Gruden wants them, the two sides will find a way to make it happen. After all, Gruden never wanted to leave the Raiders to begin with, and though Oakland has struggled this season, there are a lot of factors that make its head coaching job an enviable one. Plus, although Gruden has been frequently discussed as a highly-coveted head coaching candidate in past years, this is the first year that he has made calls around the league in an effort to piece together a potential staff.

Interestingly, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link) names current CBS analyst (and former Raiders QB) Rich Gannon as someone that Gruden has contacted as a potential quarterbacks coach.

Gruden declined to specifically comment on the Raiders’ position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers To Retain Dirk Koetter For 2018

The Buccaneers’ 2017 underachievement will not cost Dirk Koetter his job. Ownership informed the second-year coach he will receive a third season, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport also reports Koetter will coach the Bucs next season (Twitter link). The Bucs are 4-11 and have endured multiple five-game losing streaks, putting Koetter on most estimated chopping blocks. But the team will stick with the coach it paired with Jameis Winston last year.

In agreeing to bring back Koetter for a third year, the Bucs are giving him a longer leash than they gave Greg Schiano or Lovie Smith. Both coached two seasons in Tampa before being shown the door, Smith in favor of Koetter, his then-OC. The most recent Bucs coach to receive a third season was Raheem Morris from 2009-11. Koetter is 13-18 thus far in his NFL head-coaching career, but his 9-7 record last season represented Tampa Bay’s first winning season since 2010.

Winston’s shoulder injury played into the Glazers’ decision to stick with Koetter, Stroud reports. Stroud notes Winston has played well since returning from his injury-induced rest, leading the NFL in passer rating (114.5) and yards per attempt (9.25) over the past four weeks.

This news comes during a trying season, one that featured a reported rift between Winston and Koetter. The third-year quarterback shot that down, however, and proceeded to improve in the final part of the season. Koetter also said the reports of his job status being up in the air affected him. He no longer has to worry about that. Both he and GM Jason Licht — whose 2018 option was picked up in the offseason — are coming back next year.

That said, Koetter, Licht and Winston are set for critical years in 2018. Each’s stock having plummeted as a result of this underwhelming season — one that began with many projecting a Bucs playoff cameo.

This also ends the Jon Gruden speculation, but with Gruden’s 2007 Bucs outfit being the franchise’s last postseason entrant, Koetter’s seat figures to be scorching in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Breer’s Latest: Black Monday Preview

With the final week of the NFL’s regular season approaching, that only means two things; 12 teams will soon be focusing on reaching the Super Bowl, while the rest will start to look ahead to next season. One major part of looking forward is addressing who on the coaching staff will be returning in 2018. Many of these coaching questions are answered on the day following Week’s 17 conclusion, conveniently called “Black Monday”.

Veteran reporter Albert of Breer of Sports Illustrated, gave a preview of the coaches he expects to stay and the ones that will likely be shown the door in his most recent column. Breer ranked the potential firings as “Likely/Done”, “We’ll See”, and “It’s Complicated”. In total, there were 15 head coaches mentioned who could see their situations change starting next week.

Here’s a quick look at Breer’s takes on some of the league’s hottest coaching questions:

  • There were five head coaches included in the “likely/done” category including: BearsJohn Fox, BengalsMarvin Lewis, LionsJim Caldwell, ColtsChuck Pagano and and the Giants‘ interim coach Steve Spagnuolo. The four full-time head coaches on this list have all had their fair share of success in the league. In fact, three of them led their current teams to multiple playoff appearances during their tenure. However, Caldwell and Lewis have been unable to win a postseason game with Pagano and Fox having failed at continuing the past success they have shown during their careers in football. Breer notes that while the “expectation is that Fox will be gone”, the decision on the fate of general manager Ryan Pace is true question facing the franchise this offseason. There’s been rapid speculation about Lewis, Caldwell and Pagano throughout the year, so their inclusion on this list is no surprise. Finally, the Giants are currently interviewing general manager candidates who will almost certainly be looking to lead their own head coaching search once hired.
  • Breer puts six current head coaches in the ‘we’ll see” part of the list. This portion mentions the CardinalsBruce Arians, BroncosVance Joseph, RaidersJack Del Rio, BuccaneersDirk Koetter, TitansMike Mularkey and the RedskinsJay Gruden. There’s a variety of situations going on here with Breer noting that Arizona could see Arians retire, which could lead them to other current NFL head coaches: Todd Bowles and Bill O’Brien. Del Rio and Gruden have had their fair share of success because of quality quarterback play, but both have managed to decrease confidence because of an inconsistent 2017 season. However, Breer points out that both are signed long-term so their owners would have to eat the remaining years of their current deals. Mularkey and Koetter were rewarded for the relationships they formed with their QB’s, but there’s been disappointment with how this season has unfolded for their teams. Breer notes that should Mularkey lose this Sunday, he could be on the chopping block come Monday morning with the team looking to hire an offensive-minded coach like Josh McDaniels. Finally, Joseph has forced himself to the hot seat even in his first year of coaching the Broncos, though Breer says himself that this situation is “unpredictable” given that team president John Elway is just “not pleased with how the season’s gone”.
  • Browns head coach Hue Jackson, and the two previously mentioned O’Brien and Bowles of the Texans and Jets, find themselves on the “it’s complicated” section of Breer’s roundup largely because of just the many factors are at play in regards to their situations. Jackson got a vote of confidence from owner Jimmy Haslam himself, but new general manager John Dorsey could have his sights on implementing his own guy after a winless season. O’Brien has made the playoffs before, but has struggled committing to a QB even after the team selected Deshaun Watson in the first round. Bowles has done a lot with a little in New York this season, but ownership could go in a different direction with a new starting signal caller likely walking into the building next year. Also, there is the potential that all three coaches could move onto new head coaching gigs with the number of openings that could be available this offseason. The final and definitely most surprising inclusion on this list was Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who Breer mentions could retire at age 66 with a roster about to see major turnover in the next few years. Although, I would venture that nothing he’s said this season would indicate that being the case.

Job Security A Distraction For Bucs’ Koetter

After leading Tampa Bay to a 9-7 record in his first season as head coach, Dirk Koetter and the Buccaneers entered the 2017 season as breakout favorites in the NFC. Things have not gone according to plan, however, with the Buccaneers sitting at 4-11 entering the final week of the season. The dismal display has prompted talks about the coach’s future with the team, which have been a distraction in recent weeks, Koetter admitted to reporters including ESPN’s Jenna Laine on Tuesday. Dirk Koetter (vertical)

“It’s your life, it’s your life. It’s what you do. So just flip it around. Of course it is,” Koetter said. “But we all as players and coaches, we’re paid to do a job, and you try to do it to the best of our ability. That’s all you can do.”

His job security is not the only thing serving as a distraction in Tampa Bay at the moment. Koetter acknowledged that a screaming fit happened during the team’s Week 16 loss vs. the Panthers, with quarterback Jameis Winston and linebacker Kwon Alexander confronting defensive lineman Chris Baker about his late penalty that set up Carolina for the game-winning score and his lack of remorse for committing the infraction.

Koetter played off the incident by saying, “Emotions [were] running, and that game — we had a lot of nice opportunities to win, [but] we didn’t do it. No one’s happy about that. A shouting match … I don’t think that would be the first or last time that’s ever happened.”

Though his influence in the locker room appears to be dissipating, Koetter said he has no fears of having lost the team. With the disappointing season almost in the books, the Buccaneers appear like they could be looking for a new coach in the near future.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Jon Gruden, Buccaneers

While Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht is expected to remain in place, the “current thinking” is that Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter will be fired, reports Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is a candidate to return to Tampa Bay, per Florio, and many in league circles are “convinced” the Buccaneers will indeed make a run at Gruden, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com.Jon Gruden (Vertical)

Gruden, now an ESPN commentator, has been linked to a number of vacancies in recent seasons — including the Rams and Colts during the 2017 hiring cycle — but has always opted to return to the booth. However, Gruden didn’t rule out a return to coaching earlier this year, and has in fact been contacting former assistants regarding their availability, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link).

While Gruden hasn’t been on a sideline in nearly a decade, he’s still only 54 years old. He’s reportedly worked through any issues with the Buccaneers ownership group that would prevent a return to Tampa Bay, and while the club typically waits until after the season to finalize coaching hires, a Gruden addition could occur quickly, reports Pelissero.

In seven seasons with the Buccaneers, Gruden posted a 57-55 record and won a Super Bowl trophy. Prior to leading Tampa Bay, Gruden managed a 38-26 mark with the Raiders.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Panthers, Cardinals, Bengals, Bucs

There’s plenty of uncertainty when it comes to the Panthers organization, as owner Jerry Richardson is shopping the team and they’re currently rolling with an interim general manager in Marty Hurney. However, the team is looking to establish some stability by locking up head coach Ron Rivera.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that the organization is prioritizing locking up their head coach long term. While talks have just started, the reporter expects negotiations to quickly heat up. Meanwhile, many in the organization are hoping that Hurney is promoted to full-time general manager, although the team will presumably explore their options before committing to the executive.

Rivera last signed a three-year deal worth $19.5MM. That deal would take the head coach through the 2018 season, meaning there isn’t a whole lot of urgency for the organization to lock up their head coach this offseason.

Let’s take a look at some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Cardinals coach Bruce Arians hasn’t informed the organization about his future, but Rapoport reports that the team is “more confident than ever” that he’ll return. Still, since there is some uncertainty, the organization is exploring other potential options, and Rapoport notes that one of those candidates is Texans coach Bill O’Brien. If available, the Cardinals have made it clear that O’Brien would be atop their list of targets. Arians is under contract through the 2018 season, but there’s been chatter that the 65-year-old could retire to better focus on his health.
  • Unsurprisingly, there’s some concern that Browns head coach Hue Jackson may have lost his locker room, reports Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. This concern recently came to a head when running back Isaiah Crowell “liked” a series of tweets that were critical of Jackson. Meanwhile, Florio notes that there are whispers that some of the team’s defensive players are upset with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his son, Blake, who is the Browns’ linebackers coach.
  • The Bengals are eyeing Jackson or Jay Gruden for their impending head coaching vacancy, reports Florio. It’d be a homecoming for the pair, as both Jackson and Gruden served as offensive coordinators for Marvin Lewis. The writer notes that Lewis could ultimately be promoted to a front office role.
  • Even if Dirk Koetter sticks around as the Buccaneers head coach, Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders is convinced the organization will require some other coaching changes. Specifically, defensive coordinator Mike Smith could be on the hot seat, and the team could look towards former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley as a replacement.

Bucs Picked Up 2018 Option For Jason Licht

Jason Licht is under contract through the 2018 season thanks to an option Buccaneers ownership picked up in his contract recently, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The Tampa Bay GM did not receive a contract extension, per Stroud, but did see a 2018 option picked up at some point during this past offseason. This ties Licht to the Bucs through next season but does so somewhat loosely, Stroud writes, adding it’s uncertain how significant a role Licht will have in hiring the team’s next head coach.

The Bucs are expected to move on from Dirk Koetter after two seasons, with Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk calling this a “certainty.” With Licht having fired Lovie Smith and promoted Koetter, he may not be safe. It could well depend on what the next Bucs head coach thinks of the job Licht has done.

In place for four seasons as Tampa Bay’s GM, Licht will have seen his teams finish with sub-.500 records in three of those campaigns. Their playoff-absence streak will stretch to 10 after this season. This campaign’s current 4-9 mark may look the worst, given what was expected of a team believed at one point to be on the rise.

Stroud notes the GM’s latest draft — which produced O.J. Howard, Justin Evans, Chris Godwin and Kendell Beckwith — should work in Licht’s favor, while the 2016 second-round selection Roberto Aguayo — whom ownership lobbied for — will stick to the executive’s resume. Of course, Licht is tied to the mercurial Jameis Winston as well. But it’s probably still too early to pass definitive judgment on the Bucs’ starting quarterback at this point, his 2017 struggles notwithstanding.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jameis Winston Addresses Rift With Koetter

On Sunday, reports surfaced from NFL.com’s Ian Rappoport that the relationship between Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter was “not in a good place.” Winston addressed the reports before the team’s Week 15 showdown with Atlanta, saying, “there’s nothing to see here,” according to NFL.com’s Jeremy BergmanJameis Winston (vertical)

Winston told reporters, including the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud (Twitter link), “When you lose, people are always trying to find something to nitpick and nag at, and definitely attacking the relationship of a head coach and a quarterback is a way to get this locker room in a panic. We don’t condone that at all.”

Rappoport attributed the fractured relationship to Winston not feeling supported properly when he was playing through an injury early in the season. Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken added his own thoughts to the source of the issue:

“You know what the strain is? The frustration of being 4-9. That’s a frustration. When you put everything into it, what you’ve got is a quarterback that’s very competitive, a guy that wants to be great and has had a frustrating year, probably some things on and off the field, and a head coach that does an unbelievable job coaching our players and quarterback. And that becomes news? Holy cow! News flash! We’ve got a strain in our relationship. There’s not one person that can’t say that’s ever happened before. That is a flat-out joke that that even becomes news.”

The Buccaneers entered the 2017 season with high hopes thanks to a young offense that appeared on the verge of breaking out. That hasn’t happened and it is easy to see why the team’s star quarterback would be frustrated. Whether the stain is the record or the lack of support, it’s a story that might not go away too soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Rodgers, Bucs, Eli

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will undergo a CT scan this week to determine if he will be medically cleared to return to game action, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). Rodgers has been practicing since December 2, and Rapoport says the star quarterback has looked incredible on the field. However, Rodgers’ return will depend on how his surgically-repaired collarbone is healing. Green Bay has been hoping for No. 12 to suit up for next week’s game against Carolina, and there is a very good chance that will happen.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • Per Rapoport, the relationship between Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter and quarterback Jameis Winston is not in a good place, and part of that tension stems from Koetter’s predictable play-calling. Indeed, as ESPN’s Jenna Laine tweets, defensive assistants from opposing clubs have said that Tampa Bay’s offense is as predictable as it gets. Koetter, though, could be fired at the end of the season, so the team may not have to deal with that strained relationship much longer.
  • The Giants intend to start Eli Manning not just this week, but going forward as well, per Rapoport (video link). The team’s prior plan to get rookie Davis Webb an extended look is on hold indefinitely, though New York still wants to give him a shot a some point. We also learned earlier today that Dave Gettleman has emerged as the frontrunner for the team’s GM job.
  • The Vikings were among the most vocal of the teams speaking out this week against the perceived inconsistencies in punishments doled out by the league, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes. Minnesota safety Andrew Sendejo was suspended for a game earlier this year due to a hit he delivered on Ravens’ wideout Mike Wallace — and that suspension was upheld on appeal — but when Bengals safety George Iloka had his suspension for a similar hit reduced on appeal this week, Vikings officials were quickly on the phone with the league office.
  • Lions head coach Jim Caldwell‘s contract expires at the end of 2018, so his contract status will not impact his future with the team.

South Notes: Koetter, Colts, Jaguars

Preseason playoff projection darlings, the Buccaneers are floundering and reside alone in last place in the NFC South. They are likely going to miss postseason play for the 10th straight year, and second-year coach Dirk Koetter could be on the hot seat. The team’s former OC made an interesting comment about one of the components that could be behind the Bucs’ five-game losing streak.

What happens when a team loses is sometimes (the players) are not confident in the coach, or the scheme, or the other side of the ball or their teammates,’’ Koetter said, via Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders. “That’s human nature. That happens in every aspect of life. Do I think there is possibly some of that going on (here)? Yeah, there probably is. The easiest way to fix it is (to) play good team football and get a win.’’

The Bucs will now be playing without Jameis Winston for multiple games and will attempt to snap their skid Sunday without Mike Evans as well.

Here’s the latest from the South divisions in advance of the Week 10 Sunday slate.

  • Andrew Luck is seeking possible non-traditional medical treatments in Europe, but the Colts quarterback’s background in Germany — where he spent much of his childhood — may make him more amenable to these techniques, sports injury expert Will Carroll tweets. The Indianapolis Star’s Stephen Holder also doesn’t view the 28-year-old quarterback’s decision as an alarming development regarding his progress (Twitter link), assessing it as “incremental” in Luck’s rehab process. The goal regarding Luck’s overseas trip is to not only reduce the pain he’s experiencing but to address muscular function as well, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).
  • Clayton Geathers joined Luck in being sidelined for the Colts’ first nine games, but the third-year safety looks set to return after a scary neck injury soon. Stashed on the PUP list, Geathers has looked “tremendous,” per Chuck Pagano (via Holder, on Twitter). Indianapolis hopes to deploy Geathers coming out of its Week 11 bye. He started in nine games last season but has missed over a year of action due to the neck injury he suffered last season. Geathers underwent surgery in March.
  • The Jaguars aren’t ready to activate Dede Westbrook. The rookie wideout won’t play in Jacksonville’s Week 10 game against the Chargers on Sunday, Mike Kaye of First Coast News tweets. The Jags designated Westbrook to return from IR in late October but have just more than a week to decide if he will play for them this season or spend all year on IR.