The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will retain coach Dirk Koetter, a source confirmed to ESPN's Adam Schefter, despite a disappointing season that started with high expectations.
In his first season as an NFL head coach, Koetter led the Buccaneers to a 9-7 record in 2016, which included a five-game winning streak late in the season. The Buccaneers fell short of making the playoffs by one game, but it was their first winning season since 2010.
Tampa Bay's 2016 season substantially raised expectations for 2017, especially with an upgraded roster on both sides of the ball and quarterback Jameis Winston having one more year of experience. The team garnered national attention by appearing on HBO's "Hard Knocks" during training camp.
But the season has been marred by injuries, including Winston missing three games with a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder. Running back Doug Martin and the ground game have been stuck in neutral, and last season's best defense on third down ranks as the NFL's worst in 2017.
The Buccaneers have tumbled to a 4-11 record, but lost the past four weeks either in overtime or by three points.
Koetter's return in 2018, as first reported by the Tampa Bay Times, is surprising because several league sources believed he would be on his way out and that the team would be poised to make a run at the Bucs' only Super Bowl-winning coach, Jon Gruden, an ESPN Monday Night Football analyst.
Ownership believes the organization and Winston need stability, even with reports that surfaced of a rift between the quarterback and coach -- an issue Winston has denied.
"I think he has taught me a lot, especially just me playing quarterback," Winston said Thursday. "You just don't understand that relationship in that quarterback room. We spend so much time together -- me, him, Coach Mike Bajakian [and] those other quarterbacks -- it's like a family. Everybody has their different characteristics, but at the end of the day we all love each other."
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy also voiced his support for Koetter earlier this week.
"Coach Koetter and Coach [Bob] Stoops are on the same level to me for guys that I've played for," said McCoy, who played at Oklahoma before entering the NFL. "Just for who they are and what they've been to me and just how they are as coaches. I love Coach Koetter."
Koetter will be the first Buccaneers coach to reach a third season since Raheem Morris in 2011. Lovie Smith, who led the Buccaneers to an 8-24 record in 2014-15, and Greg Schiano, who went 11-21 in 2012-13, were fired after two seasons.