Bucs' win an important step for Dirk Koetter renewing trust in locker room

From ESPN - November 13, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter made his way around the outside of the locker room to defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, then to linebackers Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David and Kendell Beckwith. He patted them on the back and hugged them, one by one.

It was the first time Koetter, a second-year head coach whose Bucs went 9-7 last year and are just 3-6 this season, had smiled during postgame in well over a month. A five-game losing streak will do that.

Koetter is mostly known for being a straight-shooter. So when a reporter asked him Friday if his players were confident, he volunteered this: "What happens when a team loses is sometimes they are not confident in the coach, or the scheme, or the other side of the ball or their teammates. Thats human nature. That happens in every aspect of life. Do I think there is possibly some of that going on? Yeah, there probably is. The easiest way to fix it is [to] play good team football and get a win.

They did that Sunday, beating the New York Jets at home, 15-10, a victory punctuated by strong defense that included two takeaways and six sacks, efficient quarterback play from Ryan Fitzpatrick and a steady kicking game from Patrick Murray. It was the first step in trying to regain what has been, thus far, a lost season. It was also an important step for Koetter and the coaching staff to get a grip on the locker room, to renew trust that may have been waning.

Losing a few games on the field is one thing. Losing the support of a locker room? That's completely damning for a head coach, and there's no coming back from it. Players had been adamant that it had not happened. But eight total sacks in eight games? Scoring just one offensive touchdown in two games against divisional foes? The costly penalties from the offensive line? The scuffle on the sideline against New Orleans that resulted in a suspension for Mike Evans? None of those things paint a pretty picture.

"It's us as players, man," offensive tackle Demar Dotson said last week. "I think coach is doing a good job of putting us in position to be successful, but it's us that have to go play, and we are the ones not doing it. Unfortunately when the s--- goes downhill, it starts at the top. But it's not the coaches, man."

When McCoy was asked after the Saints game if he was concerned about Koetter's job status, he said, "We are ai not worried about that. We are gonna keep playing. That's what people say. We are not worried about that."

But the looks on faces throughout the building this week told a different story. Coaches and front office members know that they are fighting for their jobs. Players could feel that too. They'd grown tired of answering the same questions from the media week after week, so much so that they'd hide out during open locker room.


Continue reading at ESPN »