TAMPA — It was a brutal year. That's how general manager Jason Licht views the Bucs' 2017 season.
Start with Hard Knocks and the surrounding expectations, some he embraced and others he "cringed at." They all went unfulfilled, mostly due to injuries, including the right shoulder sprain suffered by quarterback Jameis Winston.
Monday dawned with the Titans and coach Mike Mularkey mutually agreeing to part ways two days after losing to the Patriots 35-14 in an AFC division playoff game. An hour or so later, Licht defended the Bucs' decision to keep coach Dirk Koetter and his entire staff following a 5-11 mess....
TAMPA — Jon Gruden will be re-introduced as the Raiders head coach at a press conference today in Oakland. He's going to bring energy. He's going to bring excitement. He's going to say things that will be memorable.
>"I'll tell ya what, man, the future is so bright, I gotta wear two eye-patches.">
But Bucs fans are left repeating the same question: Why did Gruden chose the Raiders over the Bucs?...
TAMPA — Jameis Winston will be the biggest story for the Bucs this off-season, but once again, it has absolutely no relationship to what he can do on a football field.
It does raise the question as to when we might see Winston playing in an NFL regular season game again.
The league is investigating a female Uber driver's allegation that Winston groped her during a stop at the drive-through of a Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona, March 13, 2016....
TAMPA — Jameis Winston needs to get better at throwing the long ball. Nobody knows this better than WR DeSean Jackson, who consistently ran past defenders but did not have a deep impact on the Bucs offense this season.
"DeSean Jackson is a really good football player. His track record shows that, and if you just had an (isolation) camera on DeSean Jackson when he was on the field this year, DeSean Jackson wins most of the time," coach Dirk Koetter said. "When he is trying to get behind the defense, he can get behind the defense. We did not do a good job of getting him the ball in positions that he is used to getting it, which is over the top."...
TAMPA — Remember the last pass that Jameis Winston threw in 2017. Remember it for all its beauty, falling like an egg into Chris Godwin's hands for a winning 39-yard touchdown with nine seconds left to beat the New Orleans Saints. Remember it for its improbability to complete a 95-yard drive with no timeouts in 1:39 against the NFC South champions.
Also, remember it for its sheer stupidity....
TAMPA — When it was finally over, when this Bucs season filled with more pain than promise elapsed and the clock struck 0:00, there were smiles and hugs and fist pumps to celebrate the 31-24 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Quarterback Jameis Winston, whose game-winning, 39-yard touchdown pass to rookie Chris Godwin for a touchdown with nine seconds left capped an improbable 95-yard drive, raised his index finger as he ran into the tunnel at Raymond James Stadium, Joe Namath style....
TAMPA — The Bucs have had five head coaches in the past 10 years, a remarkable record of either impatience or incompetence for an organization that by all outward appearances seems dedicated to winning.
So the decision to give Dirk Koetter a third season despite a 13-18 record and no playoff appearances is not the norm for the Glazer family.
But in the NFL, with the draft and free agency, the system will work for those teams that stay the course and can identify talent....
For the past three years, Jameis Winston has had a lot of people in his ear. Family, friends, fans — they all have taken turns telling him what they thought he needed to hear. But the voice the Bucs quarterback has had to trust the most belongs to Dirk Koetter.
Koetter was the team's offensive coordinator when Winston came to the NFL in 2015. As head coach, Koetter still is the play-caller and mentor entrusted to develop the franchise quarterback and fulfill his promise as a No. 1 overall pick....
TAMPA — Based on five straight losses and the 4-11 record, Dirk Koetter had every reason to suspect he may be coaching his last game for the Bucs on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
After all, the Glazer family, which owns the team, has averaged the firing (and hiring) of a head coach every two years for the past decade.
But Friday afternoon, general manager Jason Licht walked into Koetter's office to personally deliver the kind of news from the team's owners that Koetter can celebrate on New Year's Eve, win or lose: The Bucs are sticking with their head coach for 2018....
TAMPA — Bucs QB Jameis Winston said Thursday he overreacted to officials awarding a fumble he thought he had recovered to the Panthers in Sunday's 22-19 loss.
On the Bucs' last possession of the game, Winston fumbled when he was hit by DT Kawaan Short. The officials ruled that Carolina's Julius Peppers recovered it.
Winston then had one of his biggest outbursts in his three years with the Bucs. First, he had to be restrained on the field by WR Chris Godwin and several other teammates....
TAMPA — Let's give it up to the Bucs for not giving up.
Nobody loves a quitter, and the Bucs have more than enough reasons to have adopted a devil-may-care attitude about this season a long, long time ago.
The quarterback has been hurt. The ball has bounced the wrong way for them. Referees keep dropping the yellow flag. But the Bucs never have waved the white one.
No, sir. They've impressively pressed on, which might be the best reason the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, has for retaining coach Dirk Koetter....
TAMPA — He hears it. He reads it. It bothers him. How could it not?
Black Monday in the NFL is fast approaching Jan. 1, and Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, with his team 4-11 entering Sunday's season finale against the Saints, knows he may not have a very Happy New Year.
The Bucs are in the midst of their second five-game losing streak this season and are trying to avoid going winless in the NFC South....
TAMPA — An ugly screaming match that erupted into a scuffle between teammates in the locker room after the Bucs' 22-19 loss at Carolina on Sunday involved a costly late enroachment penalty by DT Chris Baker.
Apparently, several Bucs players took issue with Baker smiling and his lack of remorse after the game.
During the incident, captured on the postgame radio show, LB Lavonte David is heard yelling to stop QB Jameis Winston from confronting Baker....
TAMPA — Shelton Quarles played linebacker for 10 years in the NFL, and the former Buc never got run over by a quarterback. Not by Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick, Brett Favre or Donovan McNabb.
That was until the waning seconds of the Bucs' 22-19 loss at Carolina on Sunday.
As the Bucs' director of football operations, Quarles was standing on the sideline when quarterback Jameis Winston was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the game. After leaving the field, Winston shot back onto it like he wanted a piece of referee Jerome Boger, and when Quarles tried to stop him, Winston pushed Quarles out of his way....
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bucs coach Dirk Koetter might still have a chance to save his job for 2018, but there is mounting evidence that Jon Gruden is preparing for a return to the sideline, and his preferred choice could be his old job in Tampa Bay.
The phrases that have been used around One Buc Place are "there's still a lot of football to be played" and "let's see what happens," an indicator that the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, wants all the information on the 2017 season before it makes a decision about Koetter's future....