After finishing 9-7 last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaaneers were expected to take the next step in 2017. They were expected to contend for an NFC South title and, at the very least, make the playoffs.

Well, that didn’t happen. Tampa Bay is 4-11 with one game to go (at home against New Orleans this Sunday).

Head coach Dirk Koetter is reportedly on the hot seat, and Jon Gruden is reportedly a potential candidate to replace him.

Ultimately, who will coach the Bucs in 2018?

“That’s a great question,” former Buccaneers All-Pro and current NFL analyst Ronde Barber said on Tiki and Tierney. “Look, I’ll tell you this: our ownership has fired three coaches since 2011. Raheem (Morris), Lovie Smith, Greg Schiano and then hired Dirk. Now, those other ones, there was poor performance at the end of the season. We lost ugly with Gruden at the end. We lost ugly with Raheem at the end. Schiano went out on a pretty bad manner as well, and they fired all of them at the end of the season. The difference with this team and those teams? They’re playing hard.”

 

 

Indeed, they are. The Buccaneers have lost five straight, but the last four losses have come by a combined 15 points, including three straight by a field goal.

“They only have one starter that’s played the entire season, and that’s left tackle Donovan Smith,” Barber said. “Nobody would have known that. So in defense of Dirk, he’s done a pretty good job developing Jameis Winston as a quarterback and dealing with a lot of adversity.”

To clarify, Smith wasn’t the only healthy starter on the offensive line. He was the only healthy starter on the team.

“Put that in context,” Barber said. “And look at the last four games: close with Green Bay, close with New Orleans, close with Atlanta on Monday night, close with Carolina. I mean, they found a way to lose those games, (but) I don’t know if Jon Gruden is an option. That probably largely depends on Jon Gruden. Who knows what he’s going to do with Monday Night Football? He’s great at his job now. He was a great coach, but he was fired seven years ago. So I don’t know.”

There’s no denying Gruden would invigorate Tampa Bay.

“He’s invigorating no matter what,” Barber said. “He’s invigorating driving his car to work every day. That’s just who he is. He’s a personality. He’s a great character for the game.”

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