I'll admit, I thought this was a dumb idea when a friend of mine mentioned this to me a couple weeks ago. Really, you're going to fire Lovie Smith, but not bring in another legit coach to replace him? How does that even fix anything?
In essence, it might fix a lot. It's also the only way you can guarantee Dirk Koetter remains with the organization for the long-term.
There's a lot to this, so bear with me.
Let's start with attitude. We're annoyed with Lovie Smith's drawn out, clichéd, and boring press conferences. What's even worse is watching some of his postgame speeches to the team and realize it's not much better behind closed doors.
This organization needs an injection of life and passion for winning. Anyone that has had an opportunity to watch any Dirk Koetter press conference this year understands the personality he brings.
"The only thing people give a shit about is winning," Koetter said on Wednesday.
I love the passion and blunt honesty Koetter brings. I think his offensive players appreciate it as well. As a coordinator though, he is limited in the effect his personality could have on the entire team. If promoted to head coach, perhaps this energetic personality could flow much more freely.
Rebuilding the Defense
I've heard a lot of folks say that Lovie needs a chance to get his players on defense. It is a valid point, since the Bucs have spent all but one draft pick on offense over the past two seasons.
That's not to say that Lovie hasn't tried to improve his defense.
Remember, Lovie signed off on this strategy since he has final say in the roster, so he agreed to draft picks on offense and free agents on defense. Unfortunately, misses on Michael Johnson, Alterraun Verner, Mike Jenkins, Bruce Carter, Chris Conte, Major Wright, and others have led Lovie to saying he hasn't gotten his guys on defense yet. As I pointed out earlier this week, if HIS free agent signings work out, he's not saying that.
So, should we continue to stay patient with Lovie Smith and let him draft his defensive players?
This is interesting. With a record of 8-24 (or 9-23) over his first two seasons, you'd have to imagine Lovie Smith would be on a short leash moving forward. To say that rookie defensive players will come in and fix Lovie's defense immediately is laughable. Lovie Smith has been here for 2 years already and there are still veterans on the defense making mistakes because it's a "complicated" defense to understand. If Lovie's defense fails in 2016, he's definitely gone, so should we wait to see if his defense is fixed by rookies or pull the cord now? If you wait, you may be stuck with players drafted for Lovie Smith's scheme and not the defensive scheme the Bucs may be running once he's gone.
By firing Lovie Smith and the entire defensive staff, the Bucs put themselves in position to bring in an established defensive coordinator in the same mold Dirk Koetter was on offense (Jim Schwartz?), and allow that defensive coordinator to bring in the personnel that fits this new philosophy and scheme...no matter what it is. There would be a gigantic mess if the Bucs invest their first 3 rounds of 2016 draft picks in defensive players that fit Lovie Smith's defensive scheme, but then switch to a different scheme or philosophy that doesn't fit those players' traits. There's a big difference between a Lovie Smith type corner or defensive lineman compared to a hybrid pass rusher or press man corner used in other schemes.
If there wasn't, perhaps Darrelle Revis would still be a Buccaneer.
Stability in the Organization
This is all I keep hearing when it comes to the defense of Lovie Smith. It's rare that you'll find someone that will call Lovie Smith a great head coach. The thing you most hear is that the Bucs need to keep Lovie Smith so they're not changing head coaches every 2-3 years. If the one reason you have to keep a coach is stability, you have a problem.
The only way to counter this potential stability issue is to keep things the same, at least on one side of the ball. We all know the investment has been on the offensive side of the ball when it's come to draft picks over the past 2 years. The offensive side is the stable side as your core nucleus is there for years to come. To prevent any disruption in that growth, you promote the offensive head coach in Dirk Koetter to head coach of the entire team. You ensure Koetter does not leave for a head coaching job with another organization, and you keep the same offensive scheme in place for years to come.
Why is stability important to the defensive side anyways? All indications point to a major overhaul on defense coming through the draft and free agency, so does it really matter what scheme these new players are learning? The worst thing that could happen is if these new players fit Lovie's scheme and learn Lovie's scheme, but then Lovie gets fired next season because his team underachieves...again. Then you'd have Lovie's guys to fit into a brand new, and probably different, scheme.
While I believe Jason Licht and the Bucs scouting department have done amazing things when it's come to the draft over the past two years, many fans maybe don't realize that Lovie Smith has final say in the roster and must write off on any moves the team makes. Oh, and you better believe that Lovie Smith has been the one calling the shots on which defensive players have been brought in during free agency. I'm pretty sure it wasn't Jason Licht's idea to grab every former Bears and Cowboys defensive player available.
If Lovie Smith was fired and Dirk Koetter was promoted to head coach, I believe Jason Licht could then take over as a true NFL General Manager. Licht would end up with final say in personnel decisions and not be pigeon-holed into former "Tampa 2" defenders to fit Lovie's defensive scheme...even though he doesn't run the "Tampa 2" all the time...right?
Jason Licht has been around winning franchises like the Patriots, Eagles (pre Chip Kelly), and the Cardinals. He has worked with some of the brightest NFL evaluators and assisted them in building championship teams. Why does he need Lovie's blessing on every little move he makes? Let Licht run the organization and let Koetter run the team. Koetter would then trust the fact that Licht's goal is building a champion and the moves he makes will reflect that.
While Dirk Koetter has never been an NFL head coach, he has led three differnet teams to top 10 offenses. The last head coaching job Koetter had was at Arizona State from 2001-06, and he was at Boise State as their head coach for 3 years before that. even though Koetter hasn't nailed down an NFL head coaching job yet, he did interview with the Chiefs, Eagles, and Browns during the 2013 off-season.
Before the Bucs possibly lose their most important piece other than Jameis Winston, perhaps they can lock in Koetter for the long term with a promotion that is well deserved.
What will happen?
I'm not holding my breath for anything to happen when it comes to Lovie Smith. I think the Glazers are scared to death to make another move at head coach right now, but you can't play scared if you're running an NFL franchise. If they're telling themselves that they'll give Lovie Smith one more year to prove himself, isn't there a pretty good chance he'll fail? History has proven that Lovie Smith's pattern as head coach is not a pretty one that usually falters in November and December.
I was against any idea that included firing Lovie Smith to promote Dirk Koetter. If you're going to fire your head coach, you might as well rip the entire band-aid off and start again, but the more I think about the idea, the more I'm open to it. Actually, I'm starting to think this is the best move the franchise could make to catapult them into an off-season of eliminating that "loser mentality" from the building for good.
Why not do it with a coach that says, "The only thing people give a shit about is winning."
The time might be now to finally start giving a shit.