The sight of Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter at a Tampa-area tax collector’s office earlier this week sparked speculation he was there to buy Bucs vanity plates ahead of being named the team’s new head coach.
That wasn’t the case. Koetter was simply renewing his vehicle registration.
But the vanity plates might not be a bad idea.
Koetter was officially named the 11th head coach in team history today, according to a news release sent out by the Bucs, who will have a 2 p.m. news conference to introduce Koetter to the public.
“We are excited to announce that Dirk Koetter will lead the Buccaneers as our new head coach,” Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said. ”Dirk has established himself as one of the top offensive coaches in our game while enjoying success at every stop during his college and NFL career. His success with our offense last season, along with his familiarity with our players and our organization, makes Dirk the right man to lead our team moving forward.
In his first season with the team, Koetter directed the most prolific offense in Bucs history. Tampa Bay totaled 6,014 yards during the 2015 season as quarterback Jameis Winston became the third rookie in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards.
Tampa Bay fired Lovie Smith last week after he posted an 8-24 record in two seasons, including 3-13 at Raymond James Stadium.
The Bucs finished last in their division each of the past five seasons and have been spinning their wheels since Jon Gruden was fired at the end of the 2008 season. Tampa Bay had three coaches the past seven seasons: Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano and Smith.
The elevation of Koetter, a nine-year NFL coaching veteran who has engineered four top-10 offenses with three different teams, doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Described by general manager Jason Licht as a “strong candidate’’ for the job at the start of the team’s search, Koetter has been considered the favorite to win the job.
“When I started this search for a new head coach, the focus was on finding someone that could be a strong leader as well as a consummate teacher, and Dirk is both,” Licht said. “He brings the passion and drive that will re-energize our organization and help us establish the winning culture that will help us become the championship-caliber team that our fans deserve.”
Koetter has not been a head coach in the NFL, but was a college head coach at Boise State for three years (1998-2000, 26-10) and Arizona State University for six (40-34) prior to coming to the NFL in 2007.
In addition to his work with Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Koetter ran a balanced Tampa Bay offense. The Bucs had a 1,000-yard wide receiver in second-year pro Mike Evans and an All-Pro running back in Doug Martin, whose 1,402 rushing yards were second in the league behind Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.
The offensive line included two rookie starters (left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet) and two veteran starters (center Joe Hawley and right tackle Gosder Cherilus) who were signed off the street after the start of training camp.
“I’ve been watching Drk Koetter for a long time and I’m a big Dirk guy,” ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski told The Tribune on Thursday. “He’s got a very creative mind, going back to his college days at Boise State. He’s run a pro-style offense, a college-style offense and he drives defenses crazy with different formations.
“His work with the Bucs this year speaks for itself. He and Jameis Winston are now joined at the hip and I think the Bucs made a very smart hire.’’
Koetter’s attack, however, was far from dominant. Though it ranked fifth in the league in yardage at 375.9 per game, it ranked only 20th in scoring at 21.4 points per game.
Koetter previously engineered top-10 offenses with the Atlanta Falcons in 2012 and 2014 and the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011.
Coaching the Bucs will bring challenges. The team produced a winning record just once in its past seven seasons — 10-6 under Morris in 2010 — and changed coaches four times during that span.
Smith’s dismissal came as a surprise.
“When you have eight wins in two years and three home wins in two years, I think they’ve been patient enough,’’ Licht said last week of the Glazer family that owns the team. “It does take time, but I think while you’re building a good football team you can compete.”
While promoting Koetter would assure consistency on offense, the defense will need to be addressed. Tampa Bay ranked 11th in the league in total yards at 340.4 per game, but allowed 26.1 points per game, 26th in the league.
All but two of the defensive assistants on Smith’s staff — line coach Joe Cullen and linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson — were fired or let go, so a defensive coordinator to replace Leslie Frazier will need to be chosen.
The entire offensive staff was retained.
Licht said at the beginning of his search that it would be extensive, but the team confirmed only two other interviews: Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.