Dirk Koetter has had to make two difficult changes already this season: firing his long-time colleague and benching his franchise quarterback. We all see the writing on the wall. If Dirk doesn’t turn it around by the end of the season, he’s next. There are a contingent of fans that have been screaming all season for the firings of Dirk, his coaching staff, ownership, the players, the groundskeeper, the water boy, and that nice old lady that scans your ticket at the door.
I’ve been a fan for 10 years, not as long as many, but enough to know how this is going to go. The more we lose games we should win, or barely win games we should convincingly win, the bigger and louder that contingent will be. And they will eventually get their wish.
I want to recap my journey as a fan, which all of you have endured right alongside of me, in hopes of breaking this cycle.
My fandom started after the Bucs fired Superbowl-winning coach Jon Gruden, who can’t seem to recreate the success of his inaugural year, and brought in a no-name “youngry” coach that’s going to take our young and equally “youngry” team to the playoffs. Minimum. We nearly make it there year one of his tenure. The next we got the worst football Bucs fans have ever endured. To this day, it still takes the cake.
So we get rid of the young but undisciplined Raheem for a hard-nosed, no NFL-experience college coach. Greg Schiano inherits a team stacked with talent in all areas, until it turns out the lack of discipline didn’t leave with Raheem and some of the talent had to go. Oh, and by the way, they’re burning the place down as they leave. Schiano does what he can to bring in new talent in the draft and free agency, but it doesn’t save his job. “We have too much talent to lose eight in a row.” Buh bye.
Then we get Lovie, who, despite inheriting a team stacked with talent that Schiano was too inexperienced to know what to do with, makes it his first order of business to blow up our top ten offensive line. I mean, who needs an offensive line, anyway? Right? Right, guys? They’re so overpaid! And old! It didn’t get much better after that and to be frank I’d rather not relive it.
I’m sorry to bring up the past as I know first hand how painful these memories are. If you’ve been triggered by anything thus far it’s probably best if you stop reading now, and also maybe consider an interest in shuffleboard instead.
Lovie’s dumpster fire makes way for Koetter. Who has a roster stacked with talent that he’s spent three years acquiring, coaching, building. Who has too much talent to lose (and almost-lose) games at the rate we’re currently going, while at the same time is lacking talent in key areas like our secondary and offensive line. Oh, and not to mention our defensive coaching staff. Koetter, who, fires his long-time colleague in an effort to right the ship and brings a win to Tampa after nearly a month. The high of that win was short lived as the team (ahem, Jameis) stinks up the joint on the road, narrowly losing after Fitz falls short of digging us out of that hole with just a quarter left in the game.
Now, I don’t know if the change at quarterback will turn the season around. We’re halfway through the year and time is running out. But Dirk has done enough for me to stand behind him. In three years, he’s built an elite wide receiving corps that most teams will ever only dream of. In three years, he’s surrounded Gerald McCoy with so much talent that now McCoy is the least accomplished defensive lineman on the line. Let that sink in. He made the worst overall defense in the league look competitive. In. One. Week. He gives players the confidence to make a career-long 59-yard field goal after missing an extra point and a field goal.
I’ve been accused of being afraid of change because I’ll tolerate apparent mediocrity from a team that loses game it should win and barely wins games it should definitely win. News flash: firing a coach is not change. It’s more of the same, and has been Bucs’ fans answer for at least the decade I’ve been here (and I suspect longer).
Here’s the thing with new coaches: no matter how much talent you hand them, they’re going to spend the next few years building the team they want. Drafting players that fit their scheme. Trading expensive veterans that don’t. But as history would have it, it’s not long before we’re out of patience and he’s out of a job. Rinse. Repeat.
But, this time. This time. For real, this time. We’ll fire Koetter and definitely uncover the next Bill Belichick who will whip this team stacked with talent (with the exception of the offensive line and the secondary, special teams, and possibly the run game) into shape in an off-season and lead us to decades of winning, playoff berths, and Superbowl rings.
If any of you really think that’s true, I’ve got a bridge I’d love to tell you about….
I think we need to accept that while fantasy football and Madden certainly add another level to football fandom, it’s given us an unrealistic expectation of what it takes to run a successful NFL franchise. It’s just not as simple as plugging in the league’s best available player/coach into the weakest point of our scheme and BOOM, playoffs (see: Darrelle Revis). Good teams aren’t grown in an off-season. Not ones that last, anyway.
Koetter is the longest tenured coach we’ve had in ten years at a whopping three years. I repeat, three years is the longest a coach has lasted in Tampa in. Ten. Years. I think we should perhaps consider the possibility that maybe that’s the problem.