New Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter sees the Panthers not only as the NFC favorite, but Koetter says his team should also look at its division rival as a model as the Buccaneers continue to build and improve their team.
“I’ve said that multiple times,” Koetter said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “If you look, they drafted their quarterback, they drafted their middle linebacker. We’ve done the same thing. They’ve kept their coaching staff. I hope we keep our coaching staff. They’ve developed in the system, they’ve drafted well, they’ve hit on their free agents. They’ve kept their guys.”
After serving last year as the Buccaneers offensive coordinator, Koetter took over as head coach in January after the Bucs fired Lovie Smith . Prior to that he spent three seasons in the NFC South — seeing the Panthers twice a year — as offensive coordinator of the Falcons.
“Right now, Carolina has set the bar,” Koetter said. “[There was] a long time when no one could win the NFC South back to back and now they’ve won it three times in a row. Definitely they’re the team to beat and that’s why we added the players we did at the positions we did and with another draft, we’re going to try to close that gap.
“There’s always somebody you’re chasing, whether they’re in your division or not. You’ve got to give them their credit and we’re going to do everything we can to knock them off.”
Koetter cited his team’s pursuit of free agent defensive end Charles Johnson, who eventually returned to the Panthers for less money, as a sign of where the Panthers are a franchise.