Dirk Koetter mentioned earlier this year that the Bucs still have a losing culture that needs to be changed; and though it seems from the maturation of Jameis Winston as Bucs leader and the winning of 6 of the last 8 games of the year, that losing culture is in the process of being evicted from One Bucs Place. Kudos to OC.
As good as Winston is for a 22 year old young man playing QB in the NFL, it was the DEFENSE that really made the change in the second half of the year that enabled the Bucs to go 6-2 on the tail end of the season. Game, set, match DC.
Put it all together, and the Bucs are rocking their OC⚡DC act all the way to the bank as the Glazers signed off on giving Mike Smith Head Coaching money for being the Defensive Coordinator (in case you didn’t know what DC part stood for!); where have we heard that before? Monte Kiffin-
Before you can fully understand why the Bucs gave Smith all the dough, we have to have a quick run down on Atlanta Falcons history Because Mike Smith isnt some hack D.C. who got a chance to become Head Coach and was over his head, dismissed after lackluster performance as the Top Dog and now looking for another shot. No, all Mike Smith did was become the winningest coach in Atlanta Falcons history.
For the Falcons, life in the NFL had been an inconsistent ride. After decades of mostly looking inept, there was Leeman Bennett to give them a taste of success in the promised land, the playoffs. Almost offing the mighty Dallas Cowboys in 1980 and losing only by 7 to Dallas in 1978, Bennett was loved by Atlanta fans, until in 1982 in a watered down playoffs in strike year found the Falcons losing in the first round to Minnesota and fired afterward. Years later Dan Reeves took the Dirty Birds all the way to the the Super Bowl, but couldn’t beat the strangely-odd but not-enough-to-dwell-on-it Vikings again, this time in the NFC Championship game. Jim Mora couldnt take Atlanta back even with the weapon the caliber of Michael Vick.
But one thing all of these coaches had in common with every other HC from Atlanta’s past: No Falcon HEAD COACH ever led Atlanta to Back to Back winning seasons. On a rare occasion they would go 8-8, but never did the Falcons have a winning record and then do it again the next season; until Mike Smith. In his rookie year, Coach Smith took the Falcons to 11-5, then the next year, even though not qualifying for playoffs, Atlanta went 9-7 and after decades as a franchise brought in the 60s, had back to back winning seasons.
On ne change pas une équipe qui gagne! Translated; Never change a winning team. Real life translation? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
So When Atlanta fired their best coach in history, and let go of its Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter in the process, Bucs fans had no idea but it was time rejoice. Now here is when its time to face up to facts; As smart as we think we are, were NOT smarter than the actual people who do this stuff for a living. Case in point, the Bucs fan base from back in preseason speculated that if Smith had a killer season with the Bucs D, that he would be swooped up by an NFL team to take over their program. He probably didn’t even need to have a killer year, yet the Bucs showed noticeable improvement over last year under Smiths Tutelage.
If WE fans can figure this out, didn’t you think the Bucs front office knew it too? It wouldn’t surprise me if a plan was put in place last year on what to do if Mike Smith leaves after year one for an HC job.
Simplest answer; a replacement was already on the Bucs staff, a position coach well versed in Smith’s system who could step in and take over, perhaps putting his quirks and branding on the product. Maybe a bit more complex, a short list of possible Head Coaching jobs was open to Smith, and promise was made to match or match in an adjusted form. Word is once Jacksonville went with Marrone, the LA people were next up looking to snag the ex HC, but somewhere that opportunity exhausted itself, and the Bucs stepped in to make him one of the best paid DCs on the list.
Of course the alternative was, If the Bucs do not promote, and no one is hired in the first week, then the Culture at One Bucs should be considered nothing short of Walt Disney World; as in Micky Mouse.
The Falcons probably fired the Bucs OC⚡DC duo when then coach Smith went to Falcon owner Arthur Blank and told him his team wasn’t tough enough. Out went the staff, in came some ‘help’ for GM Demitroff, and the Falcons started drafting better again. If anyone can understand how poor drafting can undermine a coaching staff, its Bucs fans with the drafting under Mark Dominik.
Compare the two teams top draft picks;
2009 Bucs QB Josh Freeman Falcons- Peria Jerry- Jerry had 5.5 sacks in 5 years, at least Freeman set some Bucs records and put his name there until Jameis Winston evicts them.
2010 Bucs DT Gerald McCoy Falcons- Shawn Weatherspoon- McCoy is only Buc left from ’09 draft. Falcons 4th round pick will sound familiar; Joe Hawley.
2011 Bucs Adrian Clayborn Falcons- WR Julio Jones- Barron yet another wasted no.1 pick, while Atlanta scores big. Round three Falcons give Bucs another pick; Jacquizz Rodgers.
2012 Bucs Bucs S Mark Barron and traded up to get RB Doug Martin Falcons- C Peter Konz –Martin has had two great years, 3 terrible. Konz was gone in 2 seasons
How important is good drafting? The Cleveland Browns are…well, the Cleveland Browns, and they are what they are for a good reason: 2011 The Browns were the talk of ESPN how they were making moves with trades and building up a roster; yeah, a roster of nobodies. Check out the trade below…
2011 1st Round #6: Cleveland → Atlanta. (D) Cleveland traded this pick to Atlanta for Atlanta’s first (27th overall, which later became #26), second (59th) and fourth-rounder (124th) and also Atlanta’s first- and fourth-round selections in 2012.[source 1]
Atlanta uses the pick to take…. Julio Jones. Instead Cleveland got two players destined for anonymity. Even if they weren’t interested in a WR, 5 plays later was J.J. Watt. Of course, we know that you can’t play this game, its not fair grading a draft picking based on current knowledge and What ifs. But it does go to show you the power of drafting.
Tampa Bay since Jason Licht stepped in? 2014 Mike Evans. Pro Bowler 2015 Jameis Winston. Pro Bowler 2016 Vernon Hargreaves III. Part of an improving defense.