Ask Gary: Can Koetter get Bucs to next level?

by Gary Shelton on October 21, 2017 · 2 comments

in general

Koetter needs to separate himself from the pack../JEFFREY S. KING

Koetter needs to separate himself from the pack../JEFFREY S. KING

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In your Ask the experts column this week, Tim Ruskell appeared to take a shot at Dirk Koetter when he commented that the NFL is full of head coaches that can lift an average team to .500 but not much further and the same coaches can also pull an even better team down to .500. Do you think this is a fair assessment of Koetter’s coaching abilities? Are the Bucs doomed to be no better than a .500 team as long as Dirk Koetter remains the head coach?

Larry Beller

My opinion of Koetter is that his players get better. I can see improvement in Jameis Winston, although we all want more. I think Koetter is a sound football coach who inherited a very bad franchise.

Is he Bill Belichick? Is he Don Shula? Right now, there isn't that kind of evidence.  but you know what? There isn't another Belichick, and there isn't

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the next Shula, in the NFL. Most coaches flirt around (or barely above) the .500 level.

Pete Carroll has been a fine coach in Seattle, but he was 27-21 with the Patriots. The last three-plus seasons, Sean Payton is only 24-29. Until last year, Jason Garrett was 45-43 with Dallas. Take away Ron Rivera's 15-1 season, and he's 17-20.

That's the deal with the NFL. With their common draft, their shared revenues and their salary cap, the league has a giant pull toward 8-8 with teams like Carolina and Atlanta putting things together every now and again. It's amazing that a team like New England can survive, or a team like Cleveland can continue to smell.

Every now and then, a coach comes along and, through bluster, makes you think that he's more than he is. Mike Ditka was that way. Buddy Ryan. Jerry Glanville.

Remember, when Koetter took over the Bucs, they were one season removed from 2-12 and he had a lot of Lovie's deadwood to clear out. I thought he had a good year last  year; this year, he hasn't.

So is he more than .500 coach? At this point, there is no evidence to suggest he can be. I don't know that I see the coaching magic that Bellichick has.

But I also know that one of the flaws of the Bucs' organization is to blow up coaches regularly. Constant change usually doesn't  work. I think Koetter has the attention of his team, and I think he knows the game. He isn't coaching the kickers to miss or the defense not to have a pass rush.

If I were the Glazers, I'd give him more time. But that's just me.

Do you think Jameis Winston capable of truly becoming a top five quarterback?

Jim Wilson

Yes, Jim, I do. At least, I think he has a chance.

I'm not sure I'm as convinced as I was, say, after the Giants' game, but I think he's smart, I think he's competitive and I think he takes it seriously. That's a pretty good start.

Quarterbacking in the NFL is at a crucial juncture. Tom Brady won't play much longer. Neither will Drew Brees. Who knows about Aaron Rodgers. Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and Alex Smith are in the conversation.

That means that Winston is one of a group of fine young quarterbacks that includes Carson Wentz, Derek Carr, Jared Goff,  Dak Prescott, Marcus Mariota and DeShaun Watson. Let's throw Mitch Trubisky into that group.

With those guys,  you can rank them in any particular order. But Winston's numbers compare favorably with all of them. And  those are the next wave of quarterbacks. Like any era, some of them will fade and some will ascend.

The Bucs seem dedicated to getting everything they can out of Winston. That's why DeSean Jackson was signed and O.J. Howard was drafted.

I've been wrong on quarterbacks before. But I like Winston. I think he'll get there.

So what do you think of the idea, that perhaps Mr. Koetter wasn’t the answer everyone was looking for. That the whole "fire Lovie" crowd overreacted. The team was simply devoid of talent, and the only reason were competitive now is

1) Jameis is a leader

2) More talent on the team

Because one would say the defense is still a mess. Of course, losing two of your 4 best players, who are both linebackers, hurts.

Nick Houllis

Nick, as disappointing as this season has been, Koetter in his second year has still won as many games (so far) as Lovie did in his first. I'll be honest. I don't remember there being that much "fire Lovie" from the fanbase; maybe I'm short of memory. But he won three times as many games in his second season as he did in his first. There might have been some displeasure, but I don't think fans were storming the castle.

Remember this: If Lovie's team was devoid of talent, well, he shares the blame for that. He wasted millions on Anthony Collins, Michael Johnson and Josh McCown (and others). That's a sure way to get on the bad side of an owner.

As I said to Larry, there is no evidence to think the Bucs have an all-time great coach in Koetter so far. But I don't think he's the worst coach in the NFL, either.  I would blame him for the lopsidedness of the losses to Minnesota and Arizona. But you can't blame him for the loss to New England when his kicker went haywire.

What I think is going on is a fanbase who expected greatness and fell in love (through Hard Knocks) with the roster. But Winston hasn't been as good as you'd hope. DeSean Jackson still hasn't established himself. The running game has sputtered. There is no pass rush. There is little pass coverage. And there has been injuries.

And so Koetter becomes an easy target. And maybe he shares the blame. When Jon Gruden was here, and when Tony Dungy was here, they had presences that you felt. They walked into a room, and you knew they were there. Koetter isn't that guy.

Is he the right guy? We'll see. I still think he has a chance at growth with Winston. I mean, don't you give Koetter some credit for Winston's growth?

Is it too soon to declare that Nikita Kucherov has supplanted Steven Stamkos as the best offensive player on the Lightning?

Scott Myers
To me, it's a little soon. So far, Stamkos has 14 points. Kucherov has 13. Kooch has scored more goals (8-2), but I wouldn't count out Stamkos yet.
I don't think Stamkos' knee has completely healed yet. He still isn't getting full ice time, and he's been a bit tentative. He'll get better as the season goes along.
Now, Kucherov has gotten off to a terrific start. He's faster, and he can get off his own shot easier. I'll be honest. If you wanted to bet lunch, right now, and told me I could have either player, I'd take Kucherov. But Stamkos has led the Bolts in scoring too many times. I wouldn't assume that it's over after eight games.
But you know what occurs to me? It sure is going to be fun to watch the two of them on the ice at the same time.
World Series 2017. Who ya got? LA Dodgers or NYY (or Houston if they come back).
Rick Martin
I think the Dodgers are in the best shape on the mound. I like New York's lineup and their bullpen, but I think starting pitching will catch up to them. Frankly, I was suprised that the Yankees found life against Houston.
Last  year, the Cubs won and Joe Maddon talked about proving himself in Tampa Bay. This year, I say it's Andrew Friedman. Different guy, same speech.
And one more win for the big money.
Are you feeling pretty good about the Drouin trade these days?
Jim Willson
Sure I do. Most Lightning fans do. Mikhail Sergachev has been a find. He looks a lot like a young Hedman out there.
At the first of the year, I thought Tampa Bay should send him down. That way, they pick up the extra draft pick, and Sergachev (rhymes with Burger Chef) would have had another year to develop. But he fits so far. Neither of his Thursday night goals were flukes.
I'll be honest. I look a lot at the defensemen when the opposition scores a goal, and I haven't seen gaps in his game. You figure with Koekkoek, Dotchkin, Segarchev and  Cal Foote, the Lightning should be in good shape for years.
I think Drouin was a fine offensive weapon, but he didn't help out enough on the other end of the rink. He'll be a 20-25 goal scorer for years, but he won't be complete as he could be.

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