The last four words that Dirk Koetter spoke at his introductory press conference on Friday summed up what had been a surprisingly emotional 30 minutes in the auditorium at One Buccaneer Place.
"I'm a football coach," said Koetter.
After an opening statement by Tampa Bay Buccaneers Co-Chairman Joel Glazer, General Manager Jason Licht introduced Koetter as the 11th head coach in franchise history. Koetter was Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator last season and he's held that same position for nine years across three NFL locations, so he is certainly a known commodity in the NFL. But a head coaching position brings a far more intense spotlight, and more curiosity about a man's past and what makes him tick. Licht started that himself with an introduction that revealed how coaching had come to be so ingrained in Koetter.
"He's got over 30 years of NFL and college experience in coaching," said Licht. "Coaching's in his blood. He told us in the interview process that one of his goals in life was to be his father, who was a very, very successful high school coach [and] went on to coach college as well. He wanted to be a coach since he was six years old. Coaching is definitely in his blood and the competitiveness is in his family with their sports background."
Photos of Dirk Koetter from his 2015 season with the Buccaneers.
During Koetter's first season with the Buccaneers, his weekly offensive coordinator press conferences grew increasingly popular due to his straightforward, blunt and often humorous style. Those who attended his first press conference as a head coach saw a different side of Koetter, as emotions came close to overwhelming him on several occasions. In fact, he joked near the end of his time at the podium that he was actually quite a bit tougher than he was coming off during that half hour. Still, it was clear that his love for coaching was inspired by his parents, for which he is still dearly grateful.
"I've got to thank my parents, Jim and Barb, Pocatello, Idaho. I know they're probably watching right now," said Koetter, his voice breaking. "Man, if you only know the things that they instilled in me along the way that led up to today. It's an amazing journey, it really is."
Koetter had been a head coach previously on the college level, for a total of nine years at Boise State and Arizona State. On the NFL level, he had definitely found his niche as an offensive coordinator, in part because he always produced good results and in part because forming offensive strategy had always been his favorite part of coaching. As recently as a couple months ago, he told one member of the local press that being an NFL head coach 'wasn't on his bucket list.'
But the situation changed and the Buccaneers, after dismissing Head Coach Lovie Smith, weren't the only team to begin showing interest in Koetter for their head job. He was content to excel as a coordinator, but he couldn't ignore the opportunities that that good work created for him. Once again, he remembered the words of his mother and father.
"I spoke from the heart when I [said] that," said Koetter regarding the 'bucket list' response. "I had the greatest job in the world, and through the powers that be it got bumped up a little bit. My parents always told me, 'You do a great job where you're at, you do a great job in the role you're in. You play your role, do what you're supposed to do and the rest works itself out. There are 32 of these jobs in the world and I know I can do the job."
Licht clearly believes the same thing, and he said as much in his recommendation of Koetter to team ownership. Licht listed many of Koetter's strengths but pointed to a few as being most important, calling him authentic, passionate and very, very intelligent. As a coach and a teacher, Koetter is the complete package, and that package has been a long time in the making.
"I would describe myself as a football coach," he said. "As Jason mentioned in his introduction, I grew up wanting to be my dad from the time I was very little. My dad coached every sport – football, basketball, track. I saw what that was like from the time I was tiny. In those days, that meant lining the fields, cutting the grass, fixing the helmets, washing the uniforms; 16-millimeter film on the kitchen table; long, hard days; JV games, varsity games; weight room, teaching guys how to squat; buried in a basement, playbooks, notepads, napkins, plays all over the place. Every coaching book ever written was in our basement. I'm a football coach."