The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a hugely successful hire with Dirk Koetter in 2015. A year later, they believe they've done so again.
On Friday, the Buccaneers announced that Koetter, the team's offensive coordinator in 2015, will become the 11th head coach in franchise history. Koetter succeeds Lovie Smith, who was dismissed nine days earlier, and will be formally introduced during a press conference at One Buccaneer Place on Friday at 2:00 p.m. ET.
Photos of Dirk Koetter from his 2015 season with the Buccaneers.
"We are excited to announce that Dirk Koetter will lead the Buccaneers as our new head coach," said Buccaneers Co-Chairman Joel Glazer. "Dirk has established himself as one of the top offensive coaches in our game while enjoying success at every stop during his college and NFL career. His success with our offense last season, along with his familiarity with our players and our organization, makes Dirk the right man to lead our team moving forward."
In his first season with the Buccaneers, Koetter brought instant vitality to an offense that had struggled for years. Tampa Bay set team records for total net yards (6,014) and yards per play (5.9) and succeeded both on the ground and through the air. The team's per-game averages of 135.1 rushing yards and 240.8 passing yards both ranked as the second-best single-season marks in franchise history. Overall, the Buccaneers finished fifth in the NFL in total offense, their highest placement on that list in 40 seasons of play.
The Buccaneers' offense did all this despite relying on a host of very young players, including 21-year-old rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, who started all 16 games. Koetter's development of Winston – and what that continued development could mean for the future of the franchise – was surely a significant factor in the Buccaneers' decision to hand him the reins.
Still, the Buccaneers conducted a thorough search for their new head coach, a process overseen by General Manager Jason Licht. In the end, they returned to the man that Licht referred to as a "very strong candidate" during a press conference on January 7.
"When I started this search for a new head coach, the focus was on finding someone that could be a strong leader as well as a consummate teacher, and Dirk is both," said Licht. "He brings the passion and drive that will re-energize our organization and help us establish the winning culture that will help us become the championship-caliber team that our fans deserve."
Even beyond 2015, Koetter brings a very strong resume to his first NFL head coaching position. He was a head coach on the collegiate level for nine years at Boise State and Arizona State, and he guided the Broncos and Sun Devils to a combined six bowl games. When he made his move to the NFL he jumped in immediately as an offensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007, and he's maintained that role for nearly a decade in Jacksonville, Atlanta and Tampa Bay.
Overall, Koetter brings more than three decades of coaching experience to his first NFL head coaching job. In the NFL, he has helped coax Pro Bowl seasons out of the likes of Matt Ryan, David Garrard, Doug Martin, Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Taylor, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. Koetter's work in Jacksonville and Atlanta highlighted his versatility and keen offensive mind as his teams succeeded through a variety of different approaches. With the Jaguars, with Jones-Drew and Taylor at his disposal, he guided an offense that ranked third in the NFL in rushing yards during his five seasons in Jacksonville (2007-11). In Atlanta, Koetter relied on Ryan and a group of talented pass-catchers to produce an offense that, from 2012-14, cumulatively ranked second in the NFL in completion percentage (67.4), fourth in passing yards (277.2 per game), ninth in passing touchdowns (86) and ninth in passer rating (93.9).
In Koetter's first season with the Jaguars, the team set franchise records for points (25.7 per game) and yards (357.0 per game) on the way to a postseason berth. Garrard improved his passer rating from 80.5 in 2006 to a team-record 102.2 and threw an NFL-low three interceptions in 12 starts.
Koetter's first season in Atlanta was just as successful, as he helped the 2012 Falcons compile a 13-3 record and the NFC's top playoff seed. Ryan went to the Pro Bowl following the best season of his outstanding career, as he set franchise records for passing yards (4,719), completion percentage (68.6) and passing touchdowns (32). In his three years in Koetter's offense, Ryan averaged 4,643 passing yards and 29 TD passes per season and compiled a cumulative passer rating of 94.1.
In 2015, it was Winston's turn to benefit from working with Koetter. The first-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Winston gave ample credence to the Buccaneers' belief that he would develop into a franchise quarterback, becoming just the third rookie in NFL history to surpass 4,000 passing yards. Winston's 4,042 yards were the second-highest single-season total in franchise history, and he also accounted for 28 total touchdowns (22 passing, six rushing). That combined TD total tied for the third-most by a rookie in league annals. Koetter and Winston, along with Quarterbacks Coach Mike Bajakian, worked well together to eliminate the anticipated rookie struggles in Winston's game; for instance, after tossing seven interceptions in his first four NFL games, the rookie passer was picked off just eight more times in the remaining 12 contests.
There were serious improvements throughout the Buccaneers' offense under Koetter. An offensive line that had been a significant weakness in 2014 became a strength in 2015 despite starting two rookies (Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet) and two players not added until August or later (Gosder Cherilus, Joe Hawley). Tampa Bay tied for the fourth-fewest sacks allowed in the NFL in 2015 while sporting the league's fifth-best rushing attack. The Bucs' 4.75 yards per carry ranked second in the NFL.
After two less-productive seasons, running back Doug Martin also returned to his Pro Bowl rookie form, finishing second in the NFL with 1,402 rushing yards. Backfield mate Charles Sims was one of just two players in the NFL to surpass 500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards, and he led the league's running backs with 6.9 yards per scrimmage touch.
Koetter served as both the head coach and offensive coordinator during his tenure at Arizona State, guiding a Sun Devil attack that averaged almost 30 points per game in that span. His ASU offenses ranked among the nation's top 20 in five of his six seasons at the helm. His three-year run at Boise State was marked by a 26-10 overall record, two bowl victories and two Big West Coach of the Year awards.
A Pocatello, Idaho native, Koetter played at Idaho State and later coached the Highland (ID) High School football team to a state championship. His college coaching stops also included San Francisco State, UTEP, Missouri, Boston College and Oregon. Koetter and his wife, Kim, have two daughters, Kaylee and Kendra, and two sons, Derek and Davis.