Dirk Koetter has no one left to blame for Bucs’ failures

By Vincent Frank
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

It seems that Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter has more lives than a cat scaling a skyscraper in a blizzard. It’s pretty darn ridiculous how he’s been able to hang on to this job while going full Cris Carter fall guy on pretty much everyone in Tampa Bay.

Sunday’s brutal 42-28 loss to the Carolina Panthers is the latest example of this. Having already fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith and benched former No. 1 pick Jameis Winston, Koetter is now all out of options.

How bad is it? Tampa Bay’s defense yielded 35 points and 263 total yards to Cam Newton and Co. before the third quarter even started. That included this horrific attempt at playing defense on an otherwise brilliant touchdown run from Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel. It also included a total of four first half touchdown runs for Carolina.

To put this into perspective, Tampa Bay entered Week 9 with the NFL’s second worst pass defense — yielding nearly 320 yards per game. Opposing quarterbacks had posted 20 touchdowns compared to one interception for an absurd 123.5 passer rating. Yes, that would be an NFL record for futility. We can now add this unit getting absolutely destroyed on the ground by Carolina.

On offense, Ryan Fitzpatrick seemingly went full Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay’s initial drive of the game. Entering Week 9 with the NFL’s best quarterback rating, he completed 24-of-40 passes for 243 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in the humiliating defeat.

It’s just the latest example of Fitzpatrick playing pretty well despite the rest of the team stinking it up big time.

Where do Koetter and the Buccaneers go from here? They’ve now given up an average of 34.3 points per game this season. Yes, that would also be a franchise record for futility.

Just how many more lives does this head coach have in Tampa Bay? Remember, he entered Sunday’s action having posted an 8-15 record since a surprise 9-7 initial campaign back in 2016.

One of the primary reasons Koetter was promoted following the Buccaneers’ premature decision to fire Lovie Smith was his offensive-minded philosophy and perceived ability to help Winston progress under center.

In no way has that happened. In fact, Winston was among the worst players in the entire NFL through the first half of the season — having posted 10 interceptions while losing four fumbles in four games (three starts).

Without any sign of improvement from Winston, Koetter has proven himself to be a downright failure in Tampa Bay.

Could this lead to him being the second head coach fired in the NFL this season? Only time will tell.

One thing is clear. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken has proven to be among the best young minds in the game. His offense has been taken to a whole new level since the assistant took over play-calling duties from Koetter.

That’s the crux of the issue here. If Koetter isn’t calling plays. If he’s unable to oversee progression from Winston. If he’s already found two fall guys. If all of these components are in fact part of the issues in Tampa Bay, what’s the point of him remaining the team’s head coach?

We’ll find out soon enough what the Buccaneers’ brass thinks about this moving forward. Because, right now, the status quo is unacceptable.