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Bucs should shop around before hiring Dirk Koetter as coach

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The question is not whether the Tampa Bay Bucs will promote offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to head coach.

It’s should they?

From the moment Lovie Smith’s phone rang Wednesday night – “unemployment calling” – the assumption has been that Koetter would quickly replace him. The move itself seemed like one to protect the franchise from losing Koetter, even at the expense of losing Smith.

But perhaps the organization – and the rest of us – should take a breath and think about this.

Yeah, yeah, I like Koetter, too. He added direction to a wayward offense. He blossomed the kid quarterback. He rediscovered the running game. And while points were still hard to come by, his team’s yardage rose from 30th to fifth. Yes, Koetter deserves a raise. But does he deserve a promotion?

Being a head coach is a different animal in the NFL than being an assistant. There is more responsibility, more widespread tasks such as free agency and the media and assembling a staff. Koetter hasn’t headed up any of those yet. He was on a staff that was fired in Jacksonville and one that was fired in Atlanta.

Granted, you could see positives in Koetter’s unit as opposed to Lovie’s. The team looked as if it was going somewhere. Still, seven games with fewer than 20 points isn’t good.

Then there is this: Koetter would be the third coach of the last four to take the Bucs’ job with no NFL coaching experience. That at least forces Jason Licht to attempt to project how he would do. Of course, the same holds true of Arizona’s Harold Goodwin and Carolina’s Sean McDermott, other candidates who have made it into the Bucs’ conversation. For Licht, this is a career-defining hire. For the Glazers, it’s hoped, it will be a franchise-changing one.

Yes, Koetter gets along well with quarterback Jameis Winston. But if Winston’s happiness was all that mattered, the Bucs would be chasing FSU coach Jimbo Fisher as hard as they could. Which, by the way, isn’t a bad phone call for the Bucs to make.

Again, just a word of caution. Bill Callahan was going to be a great coach with the Raiders, right? Steve Spurrier was going to be good with the Redskins. Chip Kelly needed a bigger scoreboard with the Eagles. And so on. Some coaches sound great coming in, but not so good going out.

For the Bucs, Koetter may eventually be the next place this franchise turns.

First, however, the team should shop around.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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