The Coach Behind The Face

December 7th, 2016


Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame Voter is Mr. Ira Kaufman, aka eye-RAH!, the esteemed columnist. Today, after much sniffing around One Buc Palace, Ira dives into the other side of Dirk Koetter not seen by fans and media.


At the three-quarter pole of the regular season, the race for the playoffs is too close to call.

So is the chase for Coach of the Year honors.

You’d have to think Jason Garrett and Jack Del Rio are the front runners — and both can stake powerful claims for the award. Andy Reid has done a nice job in Kansas City and Jim Caldwell is working wonders in Motown following the retirement of Calvin Johnson.

Dan Quinn has turned Atlanta into an exciting, winning team and, as always, there’s the looming presence of Bill Belichick.

But don’t sleep on a rookie coach who has the Bucs believing they belong with the big boys of the NFL. After a rocky start that had some Tampa Bay supporters wondering if he was an upgrade on Lovie Smith, Dirk Koetter has emerged as a credible Coach of the Year candidate.

That very notion would have seemed ludicrous a month ago.

No Coddling

With the Bucs sitting 3-5 at the halfway point, odds were even money that Tampa Bay would finish in the NFC South basement for a sixth consecutive season.

That’s right, I said No. 6 in a row.

Yet here we are, with Tampa Bay tied with Atlanta for the division lead and in the driver’s seat for the second NFC wild-card spot with four games remaining.

“One difference from last year is we’re having a lot more fun on Sundays,” says second-year guard Ali Marpet. “That’s a big thing for teams. When you play tight, you underperform. When you cut it loose, as Dirk Koetter says, we have a lot more fun.”

Let’s not get carried away, folks. If you’ve seen Koetter’s demeanor at a podium, you know he’s not exactly the life of the party.

If Koetter played things any closer to the vest, he’d need a new tailor. The next time he mentions the P-word (playoffs) will be the first time, and he seldom cracks a smile in public.

All that matters is his football team is playing loose, radiating enthusiasm in December and energizing a dormant fan base.

“Dirk’s a terrific coach,” Pete Carroll said before the Bucs dismantled the Seahawks. “We coached against him for years at Arizona State, so we’ve had our battles and I have great admiration for him. He’s tough on his players and demanding and all that and always puts out a tough, physical team.”

Koetter has learned on the go.

Injuries took an early toll and he made his share of mistakes, mishandling the clock against the Rams and showing little confidence in his team the following week against Denver as the Bucs fell to 1-3.

Tampa Bay has won six of eight games since that setback and Koetter’s steady demeanor helped a young team weather the storm.

“Anytime you have a boss who is consistent, that’s big,” says linebacker Daryl Smith. “When we struggled, yes he was on our ass to get better, but his approach has been consistent throughout … and that’s all you can ask for.”

Koetter’s critical relationship with Jameis Winston is based on mutual respect. He refuses to coddle No. 3 and you can bet Winston’s ill-advised interception late against the Seahawks was addressed in depth by the head coach.

Koetter wouldn’t have been named as Lovie Smith’s replacement 11 months ago if Winston had voiced any serious objections. With one sentence, Winston could have sabotaged the plans of the Glazers, but instead he endorsed Koetter wholeheartedly.

So far, so good.

A Mike Evans Clone

“He’s a phenomenal football coach, one of the best I’ve ever seen,” says Reid. “I had no doubt he’d get in this league as a head coach.”

The last time the Bucs had a legit Coach of the Year candidate was 2010, when Raheem Morris somehow squeezed 10 wins out of a Tampa Bay club that fell just short of a playoff spot.

Morris finished a distant second in voting that year to Belichick and the 14-2 Patriots.

If the Bucs can duplicate that 10-6 finish, Koetter’s stock will soar among his peers. He has already earned the respect of the men who count the most — his players.

“Coach Koetter knows how to put his playmakers in position to succeed,” says Mike Evans. “You (media) may not get to see it, but he’s a fun-spirited guy. He’s kind of like me. Once you get to know him, he’s a fun guy.”

10 Responses to “The Coach Behind The Face”

  1. Dewey Selmon Says:

    What are you talking about? Dirk doesn’t play it close to the vest. He is very candid and gives more a way that others coaches. Dude smiles a lot also.

  2. JMicSoundsNice Says:

    Just because he doesn’t like telling you guys (the media) how to do your jobs as much as you like telling him how to do his doesn’t mean he plays things close to the vest. He’s in a markedly different role now, but last year Dirk’s press conferences were the highlight of my week. He held no punches. And while his current position requires a tad more decorum and brevity, he’s still the same Dirk if you ask me.

  3. Buccfan37 Says:

    Koetter has done a very good job as Bucs HC. The rest of the coaching staff have excelled also. I expect the Bucs to win at least two more games. That’s improvement any way measured. Koetter is Tampa Bays Coach of the Year.

  4. Stpetebucsfan Says:

    Agree Bucsfan this coaching staff has been excellent. That too is a great reflection on Koetter that he has enough confidence to attract talented assistants and then let them do their jobs.

    When you think of the injuries on the DL you have to give Jay Hayes a lot of credit for this year.

    Todd Moncken has worked miracles with receivers nobody has ever heard of…

    Warhop’s OL has survived it’s share of injuries…

    We’ve enjoyed good special teams play when Roberto Ohnono is making kicks, we have a solid group of coaches up and down top to bottom.

    I think what excites me as much as anything is that we are talking about a lot of people now…it’s now a good organization.

  5. James Allen Says:

    “… Ira dives into the other side of Dirk Koetter not seen by fans and media …”

    C’mon now. Ira bashing like that with a slanted take isn’t permitted.–Joe

  6. Erik w/ Clean Athletics 'The Kwon Alexander of Bucs Fans' Says:

    The only times Dirk ‘plays it close to the vest’ is when it’s ‘strategy’ or ‘injury-related’.

    How dare he???!?

  7. Rod Munch Says:

    Dirk has come a long way this year – he was flat out awful early in the season. Quiting on the team in the Denver game, not understanding how to use timeouts versus the Rams, giving points to the Falcon’s because he was scared of giving up more points, not knowing the rules in the game at Carolina – he had a really ruff start. BUT he really has improved, but as Ira said he still plays it way to close to the vest in my opinion. In that Carolina game at the end he was content to just run a few plays and punt the ball back to Carolina – he said so himself postgame – Winston made an excellent throw to get them out of bad field position then finally Dirk opened up the offense, and by that I mean he just ran the ball and played for a FG. In the Seattle game, we won, so that’s great – but he again just sat on a lead and hoped his defense could figure it out. After the opening quarter he just ran the ball up the middle for most of the rest of the game, he stopped attacking even though the Bucs were having success doing that. Hey it work – that’s all that matters. I’m really not convinced in the least that had Lovie still been here that this season wouldn’t be going the same, or perhaps better since without the coaching turnover early in the year perhaps they pull out that Rams game. But Dirk has really come into his own lately and the team seems to really be playing for him when it’s winning – that’s great. On defense they were awful all year but finally are getting a pass rush, amazing how that works, get a pass rush and suddenly your defense isn’t terrible – same would be true last year as well. If Dirk was going to get hired by someone else, say San Fran, then by all means I think Dirk should have gotten the Bucs job to keep him here as last year he did an incredible job with the offense – but man if he had stuck to offense only I think the Bucs have a better offense this year. Sounds like I’m bashing Dirk but not at all – the way he handled Evans and his moronic flag/bashing of the troops – that really made me like him a whole lot more, and that’s one area where I’m not sure Lovie would have handled it the same and might have let it spread. Dirk is bringing a different energy and it seems to be paying off. Hopefully this game against NO will be a showcase for the team – I just hope the bad Mike Smith defense doesn’t show-up and give up 600 yards and 45 points to NO since Dirk doesn’t seem to be willing to really open up the offense this year.

  8. 1sparkybuc Says:

    Lovie may have won over the Rams but no way in hell would he gotten by Seattle or KC. Koetter gets the respect Raheem never could, and the love and trust Gruden never could. Right now this team is just coming together. There are still holes to fill on the roster, but Koetter has put together a really great coaching staff. High hopes for the future of this franchise.

  9. Welcome Back Koetter Says:

    Tired of hearing he “mismanaged” the clock against the Rams. He took the blame but didn’t deserve it. He stated that he didn’t call a timeout because he wanted to keep the Rams in Cover 2 so he hurried the O to the line with a cover 2 beater play. He made the right call but Jaboo sailed the ball over a wide open V-Jax who could’ve walked into the end zone. Perfect call, bad execution. Jaboo hits that pass 95 times out of 100.

  10. The Buc Realist Says:

    Welcome Back Koetter is right!!!! When you run 5 more plays from the 15 yard line and did not score,,,, timeout management was not the problem!!!!!!!