The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2017 season came to an end on Sunday with a thrilling 31-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium. After the game, Head Coach Dirk Koetter discussed the uplifting nature of the win but also said he and his staff would quickly be turning their attention to the 2018 season.
Koetter will be returning for his third season at the team's helm, a report that was confirmed on Friday and first discussed with the coach after Sunday's game.
"It took a lot of courage for the Glazer family to bring me back, bring the staff back, with the record what it is," said Koetter. "I really appreciate that, and we'll start the evaluation process tomorrow. We'll send these guys off on their vacation and we'll start working on 2018."
View photos of the Buccaneers' Week 17 game against the Saints.
Koetter is the 11th head coach in franchise history, taking over in 2016 after one year as the Buccaneers' offensive coordinator. Tampa Bay compiled a 9-7 record in his first season at the helm, including a 6-2 mark in the season's second half. That led to high expectations for the 2017 but a series of close losses – the Buccaneers were 1-4 in games decided by three points or less and 3-7 in games decided by seven points or less – sent the team to a 5-11 finish.
Still, a season-capping victory over the division-winning Saints and a team that refused to quit down the stretch even as the possibility of a postseason berth was eliminated have Koetter confident in where the team stands. The NFC South, which will send three teams to the playoffs this year, is famously competitive and known for quick turnarounds.
"New Orleans is a perfect example of that," said Koetter. "They win our division, and they deserve to. They're really a fantastic football team, a well-coached football team, a good football team. This is a really tough division. New Orleans has had two or three losing seasons in a row and here they are winning our division. They made a couple changes, they hit on a couple draft picks, and here they are. We're sitting here 1-5 in our division – other than the game at New Orleans we were right there in every division games. I believed all along that we're not that far off, but your record is what your record is and we've got to start rebuilding that, starting in a day or two here."