Bucs part ways with Koetter following 3 seasons

TAMPA, Fla. — After three trying seasons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have relieved coach Dirk Koetter of his duties, the team announced Sunday.

Koetter finished his stint with Tampa Bay with a 19-29 record, going 5-11 this season, including Sunday’s 34-32 loss to the Falcons.

“We sincerely appreciate the hard work and commitment shown by Dirk over the past several years,” Buccaneers owner/co-chairman Joel Glazer said in a statement. “Working with Dirk has been a pleasure and we wish him and his family all the best in the future. Our search for a new head coach will begin immediately and will be conducted by General Manager Jason Licht.”

Licht will spearhead the team’s coaching search along with Jed Hughes of the search firm Korn-Ferry, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Korn-Ferry has worked with the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars on recent coaching searches.

The Buccaneers started 2-0 this season with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick leading them to wins over the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. But the Bucs would endure three stretches with at least three straight losses as the team bounced back and forth between Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston as the starting quarterback.

“There’s no ‘deserve’; there’s no such thing as ‘deserve’ in the NFL,” Koetter said Sunday before news of his dismissal. “Numbers are nice, but this is a winning league. I’ve been fired before and I’ve been hired before, and I know this: If you look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and know you did everything you could, then I’ve got no problem holding my head up.”

In 2016, Koetter’s first year in Tampa Bay, he led the Bucs to a 9-7 record — their first winning season since 2010 — which included a five-game win streak with the team narrowly missing the playoffs.

The Bucs went 5-11 in 2017, but ownership felt that Winston’s shoulder injury and players showing resolve through several one-score games were enough to warrant Koetter’s return.

In his first season with the Bucs as offensive coordinator under Lovie Smith in 2015, Koetter helped Tampa Bay to a top-five offensive ranking. At the time, the organization had concerns that Koetter, who had drawn interest as a head-coaching candidate, would be lured away.

They had been pleased with his development of Winston, the first overall draft pick in 2015. That ultimately earned Koetter a promotion to head coach after Smith was fired, despite Smith’s defense earning a top-10 ranking in several statistical categories and improving from 2-14 to 6-10.

Despite the franchise’s well-documented history of losing (the Bucs are 260-415-1 all time), the Glazer family has shown little patience for it. The previous two head coaches — Smith and Greg Schiano — were both fired after two seasons, and Raheem Morris was out after three.

Jon Gruden, who went 7-9 and 5-11 in 2003 and 2004 — just after the Bucs’ only Super Bowl win in 2002 — is the only coach to have been retained by the Glazers despite back-to-back losing seasons.

Earlier this season, the Bucs fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith after the defense surrendered more than 400 yards for the 20th time in 37 games.

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