Dirk Koetter

Buccaneers Notes: Monken, Koetter, Pierre-Paul, Jackson, Hargreaves

The Buccaneers’ offensive explosion in Week 1 caught pretty much everybody by surprise. The Bucs scored 48 points and won fairly easily on the road in New Orleans. Ryan Fitzpatrick had one of the best games of his career, throwing for 417 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Although it was mostly the same personnel from previous seasons, there was at least one major change. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken was calling plays instead of head coach Dirk Koetter according to Jenna Laine of ESPN. Koetter had always called plays during his time in Tampa Bay, but relinquished the play calling duties to Monken after he excelled in the role during the preseason. If Week 1 is any indication, it doesn’t look like Koetter will be asking for the responsibility back anytime soon.

Here’s more from Tampa:

  • The injuries just keep piling up for the Bucs on defense. Vernon Hargreaves was recently placed on injured reserve, top corner Brent Grimes‘ status is still unclear, and now star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has a knee injury according to Laine (Twitter link). Pierre-Paul told Laine his knee was “jacked up” and that while he hopes to play this Sunday he’s “not really sure” if he’ll be able to.
  • The injuries aren’t only on defense. Receiver DeSean Jackson is in the concussion protocol according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). In addition to the concussion, Jackson is nursing a minor shoulder injury and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to go Sunday against the Eagles, although at this point it looks like he’ll probably play assuming he clears the protocol.
  • It was reported earlier this week that Hargreaves would miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, and now more details are in. The 11th overall pick of the 2016 draft has a torn labrum according to Laine. Although he struggled his first two years in the league, Hargreaves reportedly had a very strong camp to win the starting job, and it’s a huge blow to the Bucs’ already thin secondary.

Extra Points: XFL, Helmet Rule, Bucs, Bears

Although fewer details are known about the XFL’s relaunch compared to the Alliance of American Football’s debut, XFL 2.0 have an edge on the AAF when it comes to adding talent. The previous figure that’s surfaced regarding XFL salaries has been $75K, but league commissioner Oliver Luck said recently (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk) that exceptional players could earn more than $200K per season. (The NFL’s 2018 league minimum is $480K for rookies.) The AAF plans to structure three-year, $250K contracts. Both the XFL and AAF plan to have outs in deals in order to allow for players to try and make NFL rosters. Length of these contracts will vary from player to player, per Luck.

Additionally, the XFL plans to move forward with its location unveilings later this year. The AAF will station teams in Atlanta, Birmingham (Ala.), Memphis, Orlando, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and San Diego. It would stand to reason the XFL will choose other markets, but that’s not certain at this point. But this will also be an eight-team league. Both the XFL and AAF will feature 10-game seasons.

Shifting back to the NFL, here’s the latest:

  • The NFL’s helmet rule has probably been the most discussed topic during the preseason slate, and the competition committee convened this week to discuss the radical change. However, the committee determined the rule will not be tweaked at this time, despite the rule enduring scrutiny from all sides. NFL executive VP Troy Vincent added (Twitter link) instant replay will not be permitted to review these calls, but the committee did review feedback from players, coaches and referees. Additional video tutorials will be provided for what may be the defining component for the 2018 season.
  • Perhaps the 2016 and ’17 seasons’ defining sequences, the racial inequality-themed protests continue to spur meetings. Some NFLPA executive committee members will meet with a few owners Monday at the Giants’ facility to discuss the anthem controversy, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken has called plays during Tampa Bay’s preseason, but Dirk Koetter will take back the reins once the regular season starts, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Koetter enters the season on one of the hottest seats in the league, and his play-calling will go a long way toward determining if the Bucs can improve and if he’ll be given a fourth season as head coach. The Bucs have ranked 18th in scoring in each of Koetter’s two HC seasons.
  • Vic Fangio‘s coached pro football long enough he has USFL experience, and he had options to leave Chicago as new Bears coach Matt Nagy formed his staff. However, he returned in part because the Bears’ front office “badly” wanted him to stay, NFL reporter Adam Caplan tweets. Despite not having many household names on its 2017 unit, the Bears’ defense ranked as a top-10 group in both total and scoring defense. While Nagy and Ryan Pace made wholesale changes on offense, Fangio’s defense remains largely the same — albeit with Roquan Smith in the picture now.

Poll: Who Will Be The First Coach To Get Fired This Season?

It’s a new year for every coach in the NFL, but not every coach will survive the year. Already, there’s speculation about which coaches could be on the hot seat in 2018. Some coaches with shaky job security may include:

  • Hue Jackson, Browns: Jackson is the oddsmaker’s favorite to lose his job first. After compiling a 1-31 record in his two seasons at the helm in Cleveland, it’s hard to argue with the professionals. Jackson certainly has more talent to work with thanks to the arrivals of running back Carlos Hyde, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, and a vastly improved secondary, but along with that comes raised expectations. When also considering that Jackson is a holdover from the previous regime and not necessarily the preferred choice of new GM John Dorsey, it’s quite possible that Jackson could be ousted with another bad start.
  • Adam Gase, Dolphins: When Gase was hired in 2016, he was the league’s youngest head coach at the age of 38. He earned a playoff appearance in his first year on the sidelines, but last year turned ugly after quarterback Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season and replaced by Jay Cutler. Tannehill’s return should help matters, but it’s fair to wonder whether this team has improved much at all after losing Ndamukong Suh on the other side of the ball. The Dolphins’ early schedule may also hurt Gase as they open against the Titans, Jets, Raiders, and Patriots. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Dolphins split those games, like they did in 2017, but it’s also conceivable that they could open the year 0-4. As you can probably guess, an 0-4 start is historically difficult to climb out from. Of the 117 teams that have started 0-4 in the 16-game era, the ’92 Chargers are the ones to have reached the postseason with with an 11-win campaign. The 2004 Bills and the 2017 Chargers both rallied to win nine games, but neither club reached the playoffs.
  • Marvin Lewis, Bengals: The Lewis saga took some weird twists and turns last season. In the midst of a second-straight season without a playoff appearance, there was speculation about Lewis’ job security. Then, in December, we started hearing rumblings that Lewis might leave the Bengals to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Ultimately, Lewis was signed to a two-year extension to, theoretically, keep him under contract for his 16th and 17th seasons in Cincinnati. Lewis has avoided lame duck status for 2018, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll survive the year if the Bengals falter.
  • Vance Joseph, Broncos: Joseph was nearly axed after the 2017 season before John Elway ultimately decided to retain him. The Broncos’ defense is still jam-packed with talent and they have a capable quarterback in Case Keenum, so anything short of a playoff appearance will be a disappointment in Denver. This will be Joseph’s second season at the helm in Denver, but it’s clear that he is under pressure it win.
  • Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers: Koetter was already believed to be on the hot seat but he was placed squarely behind the 8-ball last week when quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for the first three games of the season. Even if the Bucs come out of September unscathed, they’ll be up against an overall schedule that is the fourth-toughest in the NFL, based on the combined win percentage of opponents in 2017.

The list goes on from there. Jay Gruden (Redskins), Todd Bowles (Jets), Bill O’Brien (Texans), Jason Garrett (Cowboys), John Harbaugh (Ravens), and Ron Rivera (Panthers) could also be in varying degrees of jeopardy with disappointing seasons. We’d be surprised to see a quick hook for Garrett, Harbaugh, or Rivera no matter what happens, but you may feel differently.

Click below to make your pick for who will be the first to get the axe. Then, you can head to the comment section to back up your choice.

[RELATED: The Average Age Of NFL Head Coaches In 2018]

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.