This isn’t supposed to be happening. This isn’t where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are supposed to be.
New coach Dirk Koetter (Highland High/Idaho State/Boise State) is concerned about turnovers — and the overall culture of the franchise.
Star running back Doug Martin (No. 22, Boise State) is just trying to get on the field.
At the quarter pole of the NFL season, the Bucs feel more than a quarter of the way underwater. They won their season opener but have lost three straight since and are in last place in the NFC South — where they have finished for five consecutive years.
Now a 1-4 start is lurking with a Monday night date at defending NFC champion Carolina.
With Koetter in charge of quarterback Jameis Winston, and Martin healthy at the beginning of the season, there was so much hope that this could finally be the year the Bucs ended a string of losing seasons.
But just a month into the season, it feels like all the optimistic predictions must be revised and the expectations must be lowered.
What the heck happened?
“We’re hurting ourselves,” Koetter said. “We’re just not playing good complementary football, and being minus-nine on the turnover ratio for the season is killing us right now.”
Since the opener, not much has gone right for Tampa Bay. That includes three losses, two of which weren’t even close.
Winston has thrown four touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Martin, who had 85 yards and no touchdowns on 25 carries before getting hurt, has a bad hamstring. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson has been invisible. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been arrested and released. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has gotten hurt.
Koetter, in his debut season as an NFL head coach, has said some things that have been brutally honest, extremely critical, yet absolutely true about his team.
He said something is missing in the Bucs’ culture. Yes, there is.
He doubted that his offense last Sunday against the Denver Broncos was good enough to convert a fourth-and-7. It probably couldn’t have.
He lamented how Winston has not gotten past his penchant for turning over the ball. Winston hasn’t, and Koetter now admits he’s “very concerned” about his QB.
Koetter even called his team unprofessional for how it ended last Sunday’s game, pushing and shoving after a game-ending kneel-down play by the Broncos. He’s right again. It was unprofessional.
It’s never too late to turn around a season. And maybe we can’t judge the rest of the season based on a mere four games.
But the first four games have revealed major concerns, trends that are often difficult to buck.
Tampa Bay’s turnover differential is minus-9. Only the 1-3 Jets are worse at minus-11. Same with giveaways. Only the Jets’ 13 are worse than the Bucs’ 11.
Tampa Bay is giving up an average 32 points a game. Only 1-3 New Orleans is giving up more and only by a mere half-point.
Meantime, the Bucs are 25th in points, averaging only 19.5 per game.
Hmm, they are giving up a bunch of points and not scoring a whole lot of points. That pretty much adds up to a bad quarter of a football season that suggests more pessimism than optimism.
A poll at bucsnation .com asked readers to grade Koetter’s performance so far this season. With 1,141 votes, 49 percent gave him a C.
Then again, as the NFL season is shaping up, it took only a quarter of the season for the entire league to go off the rails.
Before the season started, did you see the Vikings going 4-0 with Teddy Bridgewater and without Adrian Peterson?
Did you see the Broncos starting 4-0 with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch at quarterback?
Did you see the Cowboys going 3-1 without Tony Romo and the Patriots going 3-1 without Tom Brady?
Did you see the Falcons going 3-0 after losing the opener the way they did to the Bucs?
Or how about the other way?
The Panthers are 1-3. The Cardinals are 1-3. Andrew Luck and the Colts are 1-3.
You never know what the league will give you. You never know what you’re going to get. You never know what’s going to happen next.
The unexpected has become the expected.
Just ask Koetter, Martin and the Bucs.
Koetter to enter ISU Hall of Fame
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award and be inducted into the Idaho State Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 22.
The 1981 graduate played for the Bengals from 1977 to 1981. He earned a bachelor’s in physical education (1981) and a master’s in athletic administration (1982).
Additional inductees include Corky Federico (football, 1987 graduate), Nick Whitworth (football, 2000), Paul Litchfield (track and field, 2004) and Story Hurst Holston (tennis, 1991).