The Buccaneers won't be giving the quick hook to a second consecutive head coach after only two seasons.
Dirk Koetter, amid a 4-11 campaign, will return in 2018, the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud first reported on Friday. The news that Koetter is coming back once again puts a halt to the rumors connecting Jon Gruden, the only coach to lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl, returning to Tampa.
Koetter's survival likely is tied directly to the second-half improvements of Jameis Winston. The 2015 first overall pick's development is the main reason Koetter replaced Lovie Smith prior to last season, and amid rumblings of a fractured relationship between the coach and quarterback, Winston has authored arguably the best four-game stretch of his career since returning in Week 13 from a right shoulder injury.
Though Tampa is 0-4 over the stretch, Winston has tossed eight touchdowns against just two interceptions, tallying a passer rating north of 112.7 in three of the past four games. The recent surge has elevated his overall rating (96.5), completion percentage (65.0) and yards per attempt (8.0) to easily the highest marks in his three NFL seasons.
That doesn't mean Koetter won't have potential hurdles to clear in 2018, including an ongoing NFL investigation into Winston's alleged sexual misconduct and potential impending divorces with high-profile offensive stars DeSean Jackson and Doug Martin.
Jackson is under criminal investigation for a one-car accident on Christmas Eve, when an abandoned automobile registered in Jackson's name was found by authorities to have marijuana and two hollow-point bullets inside.
Martin was suspended by the team for a rule violation two weeks ago and is nearing the end of another disappointing season, in which he's averaging merely 3.0 yards per carry, that began with a drug suspension.
But, just two years removed from a 9-7 record in his first season as a head coach, Koetter gets a reprieve from the Glazer family, which has been known to make rash coaching decisions in the past. It'll be interesting to see what happens with the Bucs 'D' under coordinator Mike Smith after it's been one of the NFL's more disappointing units, ranked last in sack percentage, 31st in yardage and 24th in points allowed.
It'll also be fascinating to see what types of changes Koetter has in store for an offense that's been predictable at times and has struggled to sustain drives and score points consistently. The Bucs have some young playmakers we'd expect to be featured more next season, including wideout Chris Godwin, tight end O.J. Howard and running back Peyton Barber. Along with a young offensive line and quarterback who's finally showing increased consistency, the internal belief is likely that maintaining continuity with Koetter can produce a quick turnaround after a season that began with playoff aspirations will end with at least a four-win regression.