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More Gruden than Lovie? Dirk Koetter’s Season so Far

The NFL season can be split into roughly three phases. First phase to play yourself into contention, second phase is to keep yourself in contention, third phase is to make it into the play-offs. With this in mind, the following is a review of Dirk Koetter’s first six games as Head Coah of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he has overseen the (very) Good, the Bad and the (downright) Ugly during his short reign…….

The (very) Good

Week 1 – Atlanta – Away

What a way to start his reign. An inspired performance against the Falcons where all three phases of the ball performed. The Bucs were aggressive on offence and defence and the real quality of this performance only became apparent once the Falcons started their impressive four game winning run after this defeat. Once Koetter got s team in front he kept the foot on the gas and went right after the Falcons. After Lovie Smith’s shambolic opening performances during his two year reign, the Bucs fans faith in Koetter appeared to be well placed. It was akin to the second coming of Bill Walsh.

The Bad

Week 2 – Arizona – Away

One disadvantage of having a team used to losing is that they don’t quite now how to behave after a big win. That was the case during preparation for week 2 where the Bucs were a mess. Believing their own hype and not putting the effort in during training, a sound thrashing was handed out by the Cardinals. Keeping Jameis Winston in all game whilst 30 points behind in the 4th quarter blotted Koetters week 2 copybook. Despite Koetter claiming that Winston wanted to ‘go down with his ship’, when you wait 40 years to get a Franchise QB, you make sure that he doesn’t get injured in a lost cause game. Still, an important lesson was learnt by the HC that last weeks result counts for nothing in the NFL.

The Ugly

Week 3 – Rams – Home

This result still hurts. I have witnessed plenty Bucs defeats in the past none have been as bad as this one. The Rams were just giving the Bucs opportunities to win this ball game. The Bucs ended up with the ball at midfield with just under two minutes left in the game with two timeouts and down 5 points. The players had just come back on the field after a 60 minute weather delay so had plenty time to devise a plan. The Bucs ran out of time with still one timeout on the board. Yes there were other reasons why the Bucs lost but running out of time with having a timeout in the bank is unforgivable. Still, an important lesson was learnt by the new HC that clock management separates the good from the bad.

The (very) Ugly

Week 4 – Broncos – Home

A game which yours truly was in the crowd. All week, the story was take care of the ball. Unfortunately, Jameis Winston didn’t get this message. Ironically, by throwing two easy interceptions to ex-Bucs Cornerback Aqib Talib, it was Winston who shot himself in the foot. Koetter took some heat for punting the ball away in 4th quarter when down two scores on a 4th and 7. When asked in the post match interview, he stated that he had no faith in his teams offensive capabilities to get the required yardage. Watching the match with my own eyes, I tend to agree with him but still, the game was pretty much out of reach so he should have gambled. But this punting decision wasnt Koetter’s horror moment. That came after a 90 minute weather delay. Down 20, and with 2 minutes left in 4th quarter, Winston is still in the game (unforgivable – see week 2) but then the decisions become farcical. On a 1st and 10 Winston scrambles and gets sacked. On a 2 and 18 Winston misses snap, goes chasing back to fall on ball and gets nailed by Broncos defender (should have been flagged but hey, it’s Denver remember) but incredibly Koetter calls time-out! Are you kidding me? The game is finished, our Franchise QB is taking a beating and I am drenched from head to toe! On a 3rd and 30, Winston gets sacked again and Koetter calls another timeout! Honestly, if the rain wasn’t running down my face you would have seen the tears! And then, the final shake your head moment! They go for it on a 4th and 43!!! I repeat a 4th and 43! I haven’t even seen a 4th and 43 in Madden, never mind in the NFL. Still, at least the Bucs didn’t leave any Timeouts on the board……
If week 1 made Koetter look like Bill Walsh, week 4 made him look like Bradley Walsh.

The Good

Week 5 – Carolina – Away

Week 5 and finally, similar to his rookie season, Winston remembers to take care of the ball. In a game the Bucs just had to win, Koetter  didnt leave Winston the option to throw as they relied heavily on RB Jacquizz Rodgers who ran his heart out as the Bucs ground out a tense win in Charlotte. A shaky night for kicker Aguayo didn’t give many hope that he would make the winning field goal as time expired but in fairness to Koetter he showed he had faith in his kickers ability by attempting the kick. Perhaps we will never know how much or little confidence he had in Aguayo’s ability but the HC did and the Bucs returned with the win.

The (very) Good
Week 7 – 49ers – Away

Similar to the week 1 opener against the Falcons with the difference being the Bucs gave the 49ers a 14 point head start. Despite this sluggish start, Koetter didn’t panic and stayed true to the game plan. Again looking aggressive on both sides of the ball, the Bucs steamrollered their way over the 49ers as Koetter refused to take the foot off the gas. Recently required Running Back, Jacquizz Rodgers, tore the 49ers to shreds. Rodgers’ had previously worked with Koetter at Atlanta and assume it was Koetters knowledge of his player that resulted in Rodgers taking over in Doug Martin’s absence.

So to summarise. Played six and currently sitting with a .500 record only one game behind the much praised Falcons, the Bucs have to be happy with Koetter so far. Yes there have been some rookie errors but Koetter, in my opinion, is genuinely the best HC the Bucs have had since Jon Gruden. Straight-talking, accountable with a great knowledge on the Offensive side of the ball, Koetter has also shown that when his team hits the front he’s more than happy to keep going for more points which is such a refreshing change from the previous regimes.

Dirk, you are the man!

Photo copyright : USA Today

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