While gamblers who have bet the over for games involving Tampa Bay have been enjoying a season of futility, Bucs fans and the front office were not. Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith on Monday, with designs on stopping the team’s weekly bleeding.

MIke Smith
In an effort to triage a struggling defense, Tampa Bay fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith after the team allowed 173 points in five games. (Image: Getty)

The Buccaneers are 2-3 this season, and are trying to curtail a three-game losing streak that has upended a promising start to 2018.

Smith and Koetter have been friends for years, and when Smith was head coach at Atlanta, Koetter was his offensive coordinator. Koetter called letting Smith go one of the hardest decisions he has ever had to make.

“I have the utmost respect for Mike Smith as a man and as a football coach,” Koetter said in a release. “These decisions are always difficult, but our top priority here is to ensure that we do everything possible to help this team succeed. We all understand that this is a result-based profession and our results to this point have not met our standards.”

Koetter, whose on job has been under scrutiny, said 65-year-old linebackers coach Mark Duffner will replace Smith as defensive coordinator. He will continue to also coach linebackers.

No Defense for Poor Performance

The evidence of a need to tune up the defense went back to last year. Smith, who had been the defensive coordinator since 2016, had the league’s worst last season in total yardage. This season, Tampa Bay was allowing 34.6 points a game, the highest of any team, and is on pace to allow the most points in NFL history.

They have allowed 173 points in five games and the over has hit every time. The team has had trouble stopping anyone in the red zone. Of the 16 trips by opponents inside the 20-yard line, 15 have ended with touchdowns. In 48 total red-zone plays this season, the Bucs have no sacks and no interceptions.

The secondary has been one of the biggest problems, but the pass rush has been anemic as well.

“We have to cover better and part of covering better is getting pressure on the quarterback,” Koetter said. “Now the last two teams we played have gone to a lot of seven-man protection. I think we are getting some pressure with the four-man rush. But you know, we’re just giving up too many chunk plays.”

Motivated Move

Some were questioning why the decision to fire Smith wasn’t made earlier, especially after the fourth game of the season was an embarrassing 48-10 loss to the Chicago Bears, Koetter lashed out following the team’s second consecutive loss.

“We were horrific in all aspects of football, all aspects,” Koetter said. “Based on that game today, we couldn’t make enough changes. We should fire every person that was on that field today, starting with me. That was horrific.”

The team had a bye week following that loss two weeks ago, and Smith was rumored to be on the way out, but Koetter said a day after the Chicago loss, that it wasn’t the right move.

“We fire Mike Smith. Okay, then what would the next move be?” Koetter asked. “Changing one person when we had things go wrong at all levels yesterday, as I said yesterday, we as coaches have got to coach better and that starts with me. But Mike Smith didn’t miss any tackles. He didn’t not rush the passer. He didn’t blow any coverages. He didn’t have any communication errors.”

Apparently, though, last Sunday’s 34-29 loss to the Atlanta Falcons was the deciding factor. With two of the Falcons starting receivers not playing, quarterback Matt Ryan still passed for 354 yards and three touchdowns.