Koetter sees the size of the job in front of him

by Gary Shelton on September 27, 2016 · 4 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Koetter admits his team needs to change its culture./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Koetter admits his team needs to change its culture./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Tuesday, 5 a.m.

This is the part of the movie where the good guy finally looks upon the beast.

It is huge. It is evil. It eats would-be heroes for breakfast. It has red eyes and sharp teeth and long claws. There are bones at its feet, and a bloody one in its hand.

It is the beast.

It is the monster that feasts on the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Dirk Koetter, three weeks in, has finally caught a glimpse of what he is up against. As they said in Jaws, he's going to need a bigger boat.

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A dozen times, a normal team beats the Rams on Sunday. Your quarterback throws for 405 yards against a team that had scored nine points all season long...and you lose. You get a pick six and lob-tossing Case Keenum … and you lose. You are within smelling distance of the end zone in the final minutes . . . and you lose.

Koetter didn't handle the clock well Sunday, either./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Koetter didn't handle the clock well Sunday, either./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

You lose because you are the Bucs, and you know the way home from here. You lose because of the ghosts of Booker Reese and Eric Curry and Keith McCants and Josh Freeman and Trent Dilfer and Leeman Bennett and Lovie Smith. You lose because you cannot manage the clock; Bucs  coachers rarely have. You lose because you have given up 87 points in two games. You lose because you're the Bucs, and this is what you've usually done.

It was telling that Koetter, in the echoes of the defeat, talked about the culture of the Bucs. Other coaches have referred to it from time to time, as well. It is that culture that, when the outcome is in the air, the Bucs have usually seized defeat.

It is that culture, that beast, that knocks the ball from the hands of Jameis Winston that is returned 77 yards for a touchdown. It is the ghost of Sabby Piscatelli that tells Chris Conti, oh, what the heck. You don't need to help out in coverage. It is the memory of Lars Tate that tells Charles Sims to tip another ball into the hands of the defense.


And so Koetter said the culture is not where it needs to be. He was talking about a swagger, an air, a belief that your team will make a play somewhere along the line and win. And after what we have seen, why should the culture be different?

Koetter tried to clarify on Monday.

“When I say ‘around here,’ I hope no one confuses that,” Koetter said. “When I’m talking about the culture, I’m talking about the culture of our football team, I’m not talking about our organization, I’m not talking about ownership, I’m not talking about this building, I’m not talking about our fans. I’m talking about the 53 players, the 10 practice squad guys and however many coaches we have. The guys that are coming up with the game plan, putting the game plan together and trying to execute the game plan. The best teams that I’ve been on beat with one heart and they count on the guy next to them to do their job every time and they win and lose together. And maybe our fans have cheered for a team like that at one point; hopefully all of our players have played on a team (like that).

“I know when I’ve been on teams like that, you can feel it and man, you want to grab it and hold onto its tail because it’s elusive. When you don’t have it, you can also feel it. We’re just missing something, I feel like — and as my title suggests, it’s my job to speak up. I feel like sometimes we find too many ways to lose a game instead of creating ways to win a game. Now, when I say that, I put myself right at the top. I’m number one on that list, so I’m not calling out any player or any coach above myself, but that’s just how I feel. And until we change that, we’re going to have nights like last night.”

Did Leeman Bennett feel that way when his team didn't sign Bo Jackson? Did Ray Perkins feel that when he was trying to juggle Vinny Testaverde and Chris Chandler? Did Sam Wyche feel it when he benched Trent Dilfer? Did Raheem feel it with his lousy defense? Did Greg Schiano feel it when he cut Josh Freeman? Did Lovie Smith feel it when he signed Josh McCown?

Most Bucs coaches realize, somewhere along the line, all that opposes them. Losing is so ingrained around here that it keeps spewing losses out like a photo copier.

“Again, it’s elusive, it’s an elusive thing,” Koetter said. “It’s not something that you can reach out there and put your fingers on. I think our guys believe for the most part, but I talked to the guys a lot about this today in the team meeting and as I’m sure you can understand, a lot of that needs to stay between the players and the coaches. I know the fans are going to speculate — hey, this is our most popular game in the world, I get it. We’ve got to figure it out and we ask the fans to hang with us; it makes a difference. We’ve got to find it and I just don’t think we should sit back and act like it doesn’t exist because in my eyes it does. I’ve been on those teams that have it and we’re going to keep looking for it until we find it.”

Don't believe it? Think of the New England Patriots? What makes them win, year after year, no matter which key players are hurt? It's an expectation, a confidence. And an uncommon amount of times in this day of the NFL, the Patriots win.

A team builds a confidence like that slowly. Oh, there are still holes in the roster. That's natural. There isn't enough speed. There isn't enough defense. The weapons need to be more dynamic.

You want to know what the culture of the Bucs really is? It's a coach who doesn't last more than two years. It's a draft that usually swings and misses on the second pick. It's a team that doesn't grow players; it's one that turns talent over to the rest of the league. It's a constant churning of the principals that leads to running in place. It's starting over and over again.

And it's losing to the Case Keenums of the world.

Stay tuned.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Myers September 28, 2016 at 10:48 am

The hope we felt in game one has just faded into thin air. The final play of the game Sunday just blew it away. Our first round pick, our savior, our franchise QB looked like a confused high school freshman on that last play. I was screaming at the t v screen…..”RUN WINSTON RUN”. We are what we have always been! Coach Koetter calls it a culture thing. I guess that makes our past Super Bowel victory a fluke…..a prefect storm…..like a winning lottery ticket. I’m still a fan. I’m not giving up on my Bucs. I will just try not get so blasted angry over the stupid losses. I really hope Coach finds that “culture thing” real soon.


Thomas Fredrick September 28, 2016 at 10:43 am

If you think my stuff needs editing then I ask you simply not include it under comments. I don’t mind being omitted, but do not wish to be responsible for some editorialized version of my thinking. Thank you.
Thomas Fredrick


Gary Shelton September 28, 2016 at 10:29 pm

No idea what you mean, Thomas. As other readers will attest, I do not edit comments. I reply, and if I disagree, I’m honor bound to say so.

I have deleted comments by accident (I have a lot of spam mail). When my attention has been called to it, I’ve gone into the trash and sifted through span until I find it. I have waited too long for some to approve. But I don’t change the sentences you write.


Thomas Fredrick September 28, 2016 at 10:33 am

What’s wrong with the Bucs? For one thing it’s the same disease affecting the general public for the past all too many years. Nobody THINKS anything anymore, they just FEEL LIKE. It’s the conversational equivalent of infertility, and it’s sprinkled all through the above statement of Coach Koetter. When we say what we think then we are open to critical analysis. Saying we “feel like” this or that, well isn’t everyone entitled to their feelings? It’s an insulation against accountability. It is about as self critical as an apology which begins with “I apologize IF” which is also a most common form of a non-apologizing apology. If it’s a better culture being sought, a good beginning is far fewer weasel words on the part of all of us—not just the Bucs.
Thomas Fredrick, Port Richey, Fl.


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