Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter admits rumors are distracting

By The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 26, 2017 at 10:58 PM
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter says he has not spoken about his future with the Glazer family, which owns the team, but he admits that constant speculation about his job status is a personal distraction.

"Well of course. You know, it's your life. It's your life," Koetter said. "It's what you do. So, just flip it around and of course it is (a distraction). But we're all -- players and coaches -- we're paid to do a job and you try to do it to the best of your ability. That's all you can do."

Koetter has three years remaining on his contract, but the Bucs are in the midst of their second five-game losing streak this season.

Injuries have been a big part of the story, particularly since quarterback Jameis Winston missed three games with a sprained shoulder and struggled through three others trying to play hurt.

But since returning to the lineup in a 26-20 overtime loss at Green Bay Dec. 3, Winston has played his best football and the last two games his passer rating has been over 130.

Meanwhile, there has been speculation since the middle of the season that Jon Gruden -- who coached the Bucs from 2002-08, won Super Bowl XXVII and is in the team's Ring of Honor -- would consider leaving ESPN to return to the sidelines in Tampa Bay.

Despite that, Koetter said he has not had any talks with the Glazer family about whether he will return in 2018.

"I do not have discussions with them about that, no," Koetter said.

Whether Winston has improved will be part of the decision with the Glazers involving Koetter.

"There's a million ways you can slice up statistics, and if you look at the games Jameis was healthy this year, his statistics are awfully good," Koetter said. "It's hard to say which games he was entirely healthy and which ones he wasn't, but we know there was a part there in the middle where he wasn't. I think health is the No. 1 thing with Jameis' recent performance and then he's been making excellent decisions."

Koetter has reason to be nervous. Certainly, the Glazers haven't shown much patience with the other three coaches they hired since firing Gruden three weeks after the 2008 season. Raheem Morris was gone after three seasons. Both Greg Schiano and Lovie Smith were each shown the door after two years.

Koetter's record is 13-17 despite a 9-7 mark his first year as head coach.

--An ugly screaming match that erupted into a scuffle between teammates in the locker room following the Bucs 22-19 loss at Carolina Sunday. It involved the offside penalty by defensive tackle Chris Baker.

Apparently, several Bucs players took issue with Baker smiling and lack-of-remorse attitude following the game.

During the incident, captured on the postgame radio show, linebacker Lavonte David is heard yelling to stop quarterback Jameis Winston from confronting Baker.

"Yo, yo, Jameis! Jameis! Jameis!" David shouts.

Then middle linebacker Kwon Alexander begins swearing at Baker. David left the interview to intervene.

Here was the flash point: The Bucs were up 19-15 with 3:05 to play and the ball on the Panthers 31-yard line. It was fourth-and-7. Head coach Dirk Koetter tried to make it a seven-point lead.

Patrick Murray missed a 51-yard field-goal attempt wide right. The Panthers took over at the Tampa Bay 41 and in four plays were deep into Bucs territory.

Facing fourth-and-3 at the 5-yard line, Baker was warned by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and others to watch the hard count of quarterback Cam Newton, who had drawn several encroachment penalties.

"Yeah, he had a good hard count," Baker said. "We were aware of that at the beginning of the game. We've got to be aware of his hard count. I just had a mental error, because right before the snap, Gerald and the other guys told me to be alert for the hard count and I just got anxious and made a bad play."

McCoy confirmed he had warned Baker.

"Yes I did," McCoy said. "Whatever. Moving on. Next."

The penalty made it a much easier fourth-and-1 situation for running back Jonathan Stewart to convert.

On the next play, Newton fumbled the snap, but still ran for the winning touchdown.

Baker, who signed a three-year, $15.75 million contract as a free agent from the Redskins, hasn't lived up to expectations this season. He has 32 tackles and a half sack.

NOTES: WR Mike Evans needs 54 yards receiving Sunday against New Orleans to give him 1,000 yards for each of his first four seasons, joining Randy Moss and A.J. Green as the only NFL players to accomplish that. ... WR DeSean Jackson missed Sunday's game with a foot injury and his status against the Saints is unknown. ... RB Peyton Barber started the last two games for the Bucs in place of Doug Martin. ... WR Bobo Wilson's first NFL reception came on a touchdown pas from Jameis Winston.

REPORT CARD VS. PANTHERS

--PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus -- QB Jameis Winston had another good day, completing 21-of-27 passes for 367 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked six times, losing three fumbles. Good performances by rookie WRs Chris Godwin and Bobo Wilson.

--RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The Bucs didn't run the football very well. Barber had a 34-yard run in the first quarter. But they finished the game with 24 carries for 64 yards. In fact, Doug Martin rushed only six times for 7 yards.

--PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Bucs got some pressure on Cam Newton, who didn't have a great day throwing the football. He passed for only 160 yards with no touchdowns and was intercepted once, by Kwon Alexander.

--RUSH DEFENSE: C-plus -- The Bucs did a decent job bottling up Cam Newton, who led the Panthers with 52 yards on 14 carries. Christian McCaffrey was most effective with a 4.3-yard average. But the Bucs had several encroachment penalties and did not get off the field on fourth-and-1, allowing Johnathan Stewart to convert.

--SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The Bucs allowed a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. K Pat Murray made his first four field goals but missed wide right from 51 yards that would have given the Bucs a seven-point lead with 3:05 to play.

--COACHING: D -- Dirk Koetter's team outplayed the Panthers and got a great performance from Winston and still lost. It's a team that beats itself.

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