After the game on Sunday, I began to see quite a few posts on social media about “firing Mike Smith and Dirk Koetter”. Now given the way the team performed in that game, I can kind of see the frustration. The Cardinals only needed 3 minutes to score their first touchdown, then did it again 7 minutes later. The Bucs were down 24-0 at halftime in Arizona for the second straight year and the second half didn’t start much better. Again it only took the Cards 3 minutes to score after the break before the Bucs finally decided to wake up and play football. Were they unprepared? Possibly. The question is, who’s fault was that?
I agree that it’s the coaching staff’s job to design a game plan every week and to prepare those players, the best way they know how to play football. However, those guys are “professional football players”. Isn’t there some kind of standard that they have to live up to? Shouldn’t they be able to get themselves mentally and physically ready to play football week in and week out? The defensive players have already admitted that they were not maintaining their gap integrity at the line of scrimmage in the first half which is the reason that Adrian Peterson was able to gain nearly 100 yards by halftime. So why should the coaching staff be blamed for something as simple as players not staying in their run gaps? The answer is they shouldn’t.
As “professional” football players, they have a responsibility to be ready to play every week. Clearly, this team was not. The coaches can take some of that blame because ultimately it is their team. As for the lack of aggression on defense and the lack of imagination on offense, that is definitely the coaching staff’s fault. But is the answer really to fire them and start fresh…AGAIN? I don’t think so.
Since John McKay was hired as the first head coach in franchise history, the Bucs have had 11 different head coaches in its 42 years of existence. McKay is the longest tenured having spent 9 seasons here in Tampa. After going 7-37 in his first three seasons, he took the Bucs to the playoffs and the NFC Championship game in just their 4th year. They would go on to make the playoffs in two of the next three seasons as well before he finished his time here going 8-24 in two losing seasons.
Leeman Bennett was the second head coach in franchise history but went 4-28 and was fired after 2 seasons.
Ray Perkins came to Tampa in 1987 but didn’t last long either going 14-33 in his first 3 seasons. He was fired in 1990 after going 5-8 in their first 13 games and the Bucs brought in Richard Williamson who finished the season at 1-2. Williamson continued coaching the team and went 3-13 in the 1991 season before being fired.
That’s when Sam Wyche came in and lasted 4 seasons going 23-41 in that span.
Now comes the Tony Dungy era when there was finally some stability at head coach for a while. Dungy spent 6 seasons in Tampa and despite going 6-10 in his first year, he had the Bucs at .500 above and/or in the playoffs for his next 5 seasons. Unfortunately, he could never get the team over that hump and after a loss to the Rams in the 1999 NFC Championship and back to back wildcard losses to the Eagles, he was fired.
That brings us to Jon Gruden who is the second-longest tenured head coach in franchise history with 7 seasons. In his very first season, the team went 12-4 (the best record in franchise history) and they won the Super Bowl. After that, he went 12-20 over the next two years before leading the team to an 11-5 record (the 2nd best record in franchise history) and another playoff birth. In 2006, his Bucs went 4-12 before he finished off his time in Tampa with back to back 9-7 seasons and one more playoff appearance. He was then fired and the “Gruden Curse” was born.
Since then, the Bucs have blown through four coaches in 8 seasons. Raheem Morris kicked things off in 2009 with a 3-13 record. He followed that up with a 10-6 season, one of only two winning seasons for the Bucs since Gruden’s departure. In his third and final year, Morris went 4-12 and was fired.
Greg Schiano came in next and lasted only two seasons going 11-21 in the process. He was fired.
Lovie Smith was brought in and everyone was excited to see one of Dungy’s best assistant coaches back in Tampa. He ended up with one of the worst coaching records in franchise history at 8-24 and was fired after only 2 seasons.
Then the Bucs chose to promote offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to head coach. The choice looked like a good one as he finished at 9-7 in his first season steering the ship. Now, just 5 games into his second season, some fans want him fired too. My question is…why? Wouldn’t Bucs fans like to see some kind of stability in the coaching staff once again? Shouldn’t the Glazers have a little patience for a change and give a head coach more than just two seasons to right the ship?
Look at all of the most successful franchises in the NFL and you’ll see they all have one thing in common…stability at head coach.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have only had three head coaches since 1969 and have won six Super Bowls.
The New England Patriots have only had three head coaches since 1993 and won five Super Bowls.
The Dallas Cowboys only had three head coaches from 1960 to 1997 and they were 334-222 in that span winning five Super Bowls.
From 1979 to 2002, the San Francisco 49ers only had three head coaches and won five Super Bowls.
The Green Bay Packers have had two head coaches since 2000 and have only had two losing seasons and missed the playoffs only four times in that span.
The New York Giants have had four head coaches since 1983 and have four Super Bowl wins in five appearances.
Andy Reid coached the Philadelphia Eagles for 14 seasons with nine playoff appearances including a Super Bowl loss. The Denver Broncos only had three head coaches from 1981 through 2008 and had 14 playoff appearances including five Super Bowls winning two of them.
Need I go on?
On the flip side, you can look at some of the worst NFL franchises and see the instability at the head coach position.
Since 1999, the Cleveland Browns have had nine different head coaches and only made one playoff appearance in 17 seasons.
The New York Jets have had three coaches since 2006 with only two playoff appearances in that span.
The Miami Dolphins have had nine head coaches since 2000 with only three playoff births.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have had four head coaches since 2011 without a playoff appearance or even a winning season for that matter.
The 49ers are an example of this side of the argument as well. They’ve had eight head coaches since 2003 and Jim Harbaugh was the only one of them to take his team to the playoffs which he did in three of his four seasons.
The Detroit Lions have had seven head coaches since 2000 and only three playoff appearances.
Which leads me back to the Bucs who have had four head coaches and only two winning seasons since 2009…coincidence? I think not.
This team has to have some continuity if it wants to be successful once again. The best way to do that is to keep Koetter and Smith here and let them work. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I happen to be a big Jon Gruden fan, but even I’m not on board with firing Koetter and bringing him in. I wouldn’t be too upset if the Bucs did decide to do that if the team has a losing record at the end of this season, but as of right now just leave this coaching staff alone and let them do their jobs. Smith has been a proven coach in this league for a long time and Dirk has plenty of experience too. Remember now, this is only his second season as a head coach. Give him time. Give this staff some time. Stop calling for coaches heads after every bad game. That’s part of the reason that ownership has been so impatient in the past.
I know it’s not easy. We’re all passionate about our team. We all want to see our team win. We all want to see a better product on the field. And I think it’s coming. We just need to be patient. The Glazers just need to be patient. This team has the talent. Now it’s time for these coaches to bring it all together.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!