Tuesday, 4 a.m.
From the looks of it, it's going to take Dirk Koetter some time to get the Tampa Bay Bucs going in the right direction.
The question is: Does he have it?
Koetter has dared to get off to a 1-3 start on a team that changes coaches like some people change shirts. Who knows how many games Koetter has to win to keep his job? Who knows how much progress he has to show?
Would four wins get him another year?
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I know, I know. Most coaches get at least two years before the Glazers get impatient. Lovie Smith lost eight of his first nine. Raheem Morris lost his first eight. Greg Schiano was 1-3, too, and started his second season 0-8.
But what if the Glazers don't see any improvement in Jameis Winston? What if last season's fifth-ranked offense slips backward? What if the Bucs continue to look like they're last-for-life? What if they think they have made a Cam Cameron-sized mistake? At some point, doesn't it at least have to be discussed?
Don't get me wrong. I like Koetter, and I think that before the Bucs turn it around – if they ever do – it will follow their decision to go long-term with another coach. They're going to have to find a coach to believe in, even when the fans don't.
Think about this: Since the Bucs fired Jon Gruden, there have been dozens of coaches hired. But only three -- Gary Kubiak, Pete Carroll and John Harbaugh -- have won the Super Bowl. The odds are against a team that constantly changes coaches.
Is Koetter the guy for the Bucs? After one win in a month, we don't know that. In a season where he still has to play Carolina twice, and Seattle, and Oakland, and Kansas City, and San Diego, and Dallas, and New Orleans twice (no quarterback has beaten the Bucs more than Drew Brees).
The climb is still uphill.
Would three wins do it?
Right now, Koetter has two challenges in front of him. One is to take a step forward with his football team. The second part of that is to guide Winston to the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks. One month in, neither is working. Winston has regressed from the quarterback we saw the last half of his rookie season.
“It needs to be discussed,” Koetter said Monday. “I have not talked to Jameis today, I’m sure I will here at some point, but it definitely needs to be discussed. And Jameis has always been fantastic about that in his time here, as far as after he sees the tape and Jameis is always hardest on himself, his own worst critic and I’m sure he already knows that."
Granted, part of the problem with the Bucs is that they're running out of players. Vincent Jackson hasn't been a major threat. Charles Sims is a poor substitute for Doug Martin. It pretty much leaves Winston with one receiver and no running game.
“It is a true statement that we’re not running the ball efficiently enough,” Koetter said. “Our numbers, our balance was better in the first half yesterday, I think it was 21-20. But the efficiency wasn’t there, we still had too many one-yard runs and that’s not always on the running back, there’s different reasons for that. But when we’re not being productive in the run game, we’re having to rely too much on our pass game, I think there is something to that. But even with that said, even if we as a team are throwing three straight incompletions and punting, that is still better, in the first half of a game, that is still better than turning the ball over and putting our defense on those short fields.”
“I think the real trick is, Jameis is such a competitive guy and Jameis always tries to – it’s a positive trait that he has – he’s always trying to make a play when sometimes there’s no play to be made,” Koetter said. “Sometimes that’s throwing the ball when he doesn’t need to, sometimes that’s trying to keep a scramble alive too long and taking an unnecessary hit.”
If you're a realist, of course, Koetter is only one over par. His team never should have lost at home to the Rams. The other two defeats were to Denver and Arizona, both better teams. So don't judge him just yet.
The successful coaches find a quarterback they can live with. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, Sean Peyton and Drew Brees, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers, Mike Tomlin and Ben Rothlisberger.
If Koetter is to succeed, it will be because he develops Winston, makes him efficient and dangerous. If Winston is to succeed, well, he's already been through one coach. He can survive another, but eventually, he has to find success.
If the Bucs are going to be different, then Winston will have to be.