New Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter joined Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio to discuss his first NFL head-coaching job, which came after more than 20 years at the college level and more than 30 total years in coaching. While the ascension was a long time in the making, it happened fairly suddenly, with coach Lovie Smith surprisingly fired after two years on the job and Koetter elevated from offensive coordinator after only one season with the team.
The situation has sparked plenty of speculation within NFL circles regarding the possibility that a coup was staged, with Koetter parlaying interest in Miami and San Francisco into a promotion at the expense of the guy who hired him. I asked Koetter to respond to the theory that more than a few in the NFL industry have espoused in the last two weeks.
“I would say that’s total, 100 percent B.S.,” Koetter said. “I think that in all 32 buildings around the NFL, I know there’s leaks everywhere but unless you’re on the inside of a building you have no idea whats really going on inside those buildings. Every job I’ve ever had in my life I think you’ve got to be able to look at the man in the mirror and know if you did your job or not. I can promise you 1000 percent that from where I stand and what information I was privy to, there was nothing of the sort.”
He nevertheless admitted that taking the place of the guy who brought him to Tampa wasn’t the most comfortable development.
“It’s awkward in the beginning because I was surprised as anybody when the announcement was made that Coach Smith wasn’t going to be retained,” Koetter said. “I have the utmost respect for Lovie Smith and I’m a firm believer as an assistant coach that loyalty is the number one characteristic that you should have. But that was a decision that wasn’t made by me and at that point. At that point, even though I was under contact with the Bucs there was a couple other teams that reached out to me about being a head coach. So that opportunity was there as a possibility and then when the possibility presented itself to possibly be head coach of the Bucs as well. At that point it becomes more about business and more about, you know, there’s nothing I can do about the first part of it. . . . I didn’t know for a while there was I going to be a head coach in the NFL, was I going to be in the same role with the Bucs or was I going to be coaching my son’s high school team as an assistant coach? I mean you just don’t know.”
Coaches also don’t know when it’s going to end, which gives Koetter no concern about the possibility that, as ownership did with Jon Gruden in 2009 and Smith this month, a decision can be made that the franchise would like to replace the current head coach with a member of his staff.
“I have zero concern about that,” Koetter said, “because I don’t have any control over it. Ownership, they own the team, so I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure the Bucs are achieving up to the standards of the talent that we should be able to achieve. Other than that, I don’t have control over any of that. I don’t think there’s anything to history having to repeat itself like that. I think you’re judged on the job that you do and I’m sure I will be judged in that same fashion. Bottom line is every team in the NFL, every team is hiring their coach to win games.”
With Koetter running the offense, the Bucs won three times as many games as they did the prior year, when offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford took medical leave right before the regular season began, and never returned. For Koetter to return on a year-in, year-out basis, he’ll need to quickly get the wins closer to 10, and beyond.
And also to hope, at some level, that no one on his staff catches the eye of ownership.
For the full Koetter interview, check out the podcast of Wednesday’s show.