Dirk Koetter fired by Buccaneers, who'll hire fifth coach in 10 years; Jameis Winston's future up in the air

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wrapped up a disappointing season on Sunday at home against the Falcons and made a move that's felt inevitable really the entire season, firing coach Dirk Koetter. 

CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora confirms the firing. Koetter, hired to replace Lovie Smith before the 2016 season, finished his Buccaneers career 19-29 after a disappointing five-win season in 2018. 

Last year it was widely believed Koetter would be relieved of his duties before this season began, but both he and GM Jason Lichte ended up sticking around for 2018. There was reason to be hopeful for the Bucs this year, but the season felt derailed before it began when Jameis Winston was suspended for an off-field incident that the NFL spent the offseason investigating. 

"We sincerely appreciate the hard work and commitment shown by Dirk over the past several years," the Bucs said in a statement. "Working with Dirk has been a pleasure and we wish him and his family all the best in the future. Our search for a new head coach will begin immediately and will be conducted by General Manager Jason Licht."

Tampa surprisingly jumped out to a 2-1 record with Ryan Fitzpatrick working his magic and slinging the ball around. But when the Fitzmagic Party Bus crashed into a wall against the Bears and Winston was plugged into the lineup, Tampa spent the rest of the season vacillating between the two quarterbacks and never finding any rhythm. 

At one point the Bucs climbed back into the fringe of the playoff race, and looked like they might upset the Saints and make a run, leading New Orleans by two touchdowns in a game at home that could have flipped the season. But the Saints blasted them in the second half and Tampa limped to the finish line, losing its final four games.

The effort was there: the Bucs gave the Ravens and Cowboys tough games and had the Falcons beat in Week 17, leading 17-0. But they couldn't close as the defense was unable to stop Matt Ryan from moving down the field and putting the Falcons in position for a game-winning field goal. 

Koetter was forced to fire defensive coordinator Mike Smith in the middle of the season, hinting he would likely end up being fired himself without a deep run. Koetter hinted after Sunday's loss that he might not be back in 2019, noting that it's been a pleasure to work as Tampa's coach but when talking about an 11 a.m. meeting with players on Monday, said only "maybe I'll be there."

The Bucs apparently will be keeping Winston next year. The former first-overall pick has a fifth-year option for 2019 that makes him a logical quarterback to keep on the roster. Dumping him and letting someone else try to cultivate his talent is a tough sell for a fanbase, even if everyone is tired of his on- and off-field actions. 

Whoever is brought in to replace Koetter will almost certainly be charged with developing Winston and finding out if he's the answer long term. It's a tricky situation. 

And the Bucs job isn't an easy one. Since Jon Gruden was fired in 2008, the Bucs have churned through coaches. Raheem Morris lasted less than three years. Greg Schiano was a two-year disaster. Lovie Smith didn't last long either and was fired so the Bucs could end up going with Koetter. Koetter getting a full three years represents a surprising amount of restraint for the Glazer family in terms of hiring and firing. 

Whoever is next will not have a much easier time taking over a roster with a lot of question marks. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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